Review: Bar Divani and the Elk Cove Wine Tasting Dinner

Last night Kealoha and I went to the Elk Cove Wine Tasting Dinner at Bar Divani. Bar Divani is a sophisticated (but not stuffy) restaurant nestled next to Hop Cat and a series of other bars. (This is in Grand Rapids, Michigan in case you're wondering.) Walking in, it feels sort of like you’re walking into a place that’s pro-corduroy. Some people hate corduroy. For me that’s a compliment. I mean, that when you walk in it’s all soft and moody and warm feeling, the way corduroy makes me feel without that vvvvvvp vvvvvvvvp sound when you walk.

 

 

We were seated in the front of the restaurant at a cozy little table and I breathed a sigh of relief. The last wine tasting I went to there was held in a big back room. Everyone sat at round tables. I was on a date at that time (an awkward first date) and with the added awkwardness of eating with strangers, it was an evening that gave me hives. No hives last night though. It was just me and Kealoha, so we could talk about whatever we wanted to without the pressure of sounding smart or sophisticated.

The first wine was the Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, 2010. Generally, I’m not a fan of Rosés. It makes me feel like I’m only pretending to drink wine. Kealoha thought it was okay. I thought it was a good Mom Wine.

Of course, I’m a mom…but I mean…it’s a good wine for people who don’t usually drink wine and would like to give it the old college try. Although, that makes it sound like they’d put the wine in one of those beer hats and chug it. I guess you could. It’s crisp, and light and tastes a little bit of honey. I said that to Kealoha. He said, “It tastes like wine to me.” We’re both right. I mentioned it had good legs and he looked under the table for them. That’s when I stopped trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

 

1ST COURSE

 

The 1st course brought wine AND food. I was giggling happily. 1st course was: swordfish ceviche with red onion, jalapeño, lime juice and cilantro served with Elk Cove’s Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, 2009.

 

I was a little leery of the ceviche. Ceviche is basically raw ‘whatever you want’ served with some sort of acidity. That sounds technical. What I mean is a good cerviche has pieces that are small enough so that the vinegar or citrus actually cooks the seafood a little bit. I’ve had raw ceviche before…but this was lovely. Tiny, succulent pieces of swordfish mixed with diced red onions and lots of lime, served with tortilla chips. A great appetizer. Simple and seductive. If this ceviche was people (you wouldn’t eat it then of course), it would be that quiet person at the bar you don’t notice at first, and then, holy wah! When you put them in your mouth….

Oh. Wait. Sorry. I started writing a romance novel for a moment. Forgive me. Back to the review.

The wine was lovely. My favorite of the evening. What’s nice about a Pinot Gris is it’s similar to a chardonnay but they take out all the wonky attitude. I mean, there’s none of that oaky flavor that makes you feel like the wine was stored in some lady’s closet. MY MOM’S closet maybe. (You know what I’m referencing here.) This pinot gris was as it should be: citrusy, crisp, and oh so easy to drink. (I bought two bottles.)

 

2ND COURSE

 

Then we were on to the second course. I was joking with Kealoha about how (again) he doesn’t annoy me. This is shocking to me. Why doesn’t he annoy me? I mean, I’m sure he will at some point, but we’re committed enough now that if he annoys me, I can tell him so and take some space. In the past, I’d get annoyed pretty easy with men. I just thought that’s the way it was. I thought men were just annoying. Now I see that was my inner gut saying “Dude. Tanya, this guy is not a good fit for you.” Kealoha is a good fit for me. He said that I don’t annoy him either, but then, he tried not to date people who annoyed him in the first place.

He said, “Remember in When Harry Met Sally that Harry wouldn’t date this one woman because she smelled like soup? You don’t smell like soup.”

“Sometimes I smell like soup,” I said.

“Yeah, but only when you cook soup.”

That’s true.

Anyway…2nd course was a pork roulade with chevre and walnuts, roasted fingerlings, rapini and pomegranate jus. Wine was a Pinot Noir. This course was incredible. Great presentation. There was a hint of what I thought was red wine vinegar mixed with a sweet cherry smell. That was the pomegranate jus I guess. I could also smell the slightly caramelized potatoes with rosemary. The roulade was tender and a terrific combination of flavors: creamy, sweet, bitter, acidic, touch of salt. In other words, this dish achieved the umami flavor when everything is balanced. I wasn’t sure what the rapini was. Some sort of cross between spinach and broccoli. Anyway. I ate all of it. I would’ve licked the plate and thought about it, but decided not to. I didn’t want to get a stain on my shirt.

The pinot noir was good. This one had a little more attitude to it. It might have overpowered the roulade a little bit, but I think it’d be terrific with a burger fresh from the grill.

 

3RD COURSE

At this point, I was a little bit buzzed. I admit it. I know this because my notes are a little blurry and misspelled. Third course was roasted veal chops with sweet potato gnocchi and a morel glaze, served with the Big Daddy wine of the evening, another Pinot Noir but from a different vintage…or grape harvest….or whatever. I don’t know this stuff.

This was good, but not the best. I would’ve thought it was a fatty pork chop if I didn’t know it was veal. I thought veal was supposed to be thin and very tender. That might just be my mis-education. The glaze was nice, but a little salty. I liked the gnocchi and the asparagus. But for me, this dish didn’t live up to the other two. I think if you’re a big meat eater aficionado, this one might’ve worked for you, but Kealoha and I we were a little underwhelmed.

FINALLY

To end the evening, they gave us a spoon with a dollop of goat cheese, a single blueberry and pistachio and drizzled with honey. I love the idea of a one-bite dessert. And this was good. Again, I think they were going for a blend of flavors and textures. I like the textures particularly: creamy, crunchy, burst of sweetness. Yum.

It was a great night. Would I recommend Elk Cove Vineyard? Absolutely. And it’s cool that they’re a family company and only have 9 different wines.

And Bar Divani? For sure. I’m not going to give it stars or wine glasses or whatever because I think a place is either good and worth re-visiting, or not. This one is worth re-visiting, and great to take friends or loved ones or even awkward first dates to. Even though the veal wasn’t my favorite, it was still way better than what most restaurants serve. The atmosphere is relaxed, we had a friendly server, good attention from the Wine Dude and the owner (but they weren’t overly obtrusive), and Kealoha and I could talk about smelling like soup and not worry if anyone was listening.

I’ll be looking for another tasting. They’re fun. And next time, I’m hoping to convince some friends to go along with us. (Hint hint. You know who you are.)