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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar

     At the age of 22, Chef Adrianne Calvo opened this diminutive speck in the culinary sky, in an unlikely strip mall, in a totally non-commercial suburb of Miami. You could say the odds of achieving success were not the best. But talent knows nothing of odds, and Chef Adrianne has a refined gastronomic talent, no question about that. Nine years later, the restaurant is in the same place, and it's always packed to bursting, whether for lunch or dinner. I'd say she beat those odds fair and square.

     We begin with two different types of sangria, a white wine with passion fruit, and a red wine with pomegranate. Both have been added to the very exclusive list of my favorite alcoholic drinks. I expected the white wine version to be honey-sweet, and yet it had a hint of citrus that tempered the sweetness. I expected the pomegranate to give the red wine version a tart aftertaste, but instead I was gifted with a bright wine gently touched by a fruity finish. It's been a few days since our visit, and I still sigh at the memory.

     The tender veal and prosciutto meatballs with whipped ricotta and white truffle delight the palate, and they come swaddled in the most robust and luscious marinara sauce. My first tiptoe into the world of tartar is a happy one. Three amuse-bouche-sized crispy wontons topped with yellow fin tuna and shallot caper cream are light yet full of flavor. My only lament is that I only got three. I could eat a tray of these without an ounce of regret.
     The free range chicken braised in wine was tender, and the sauce naturally enhanced the flavor of the bed of mashed potatoes that held the chicken, carrots and leeks. John's filet mignon tips au poivre (pepper steak) was served with a cognac dijon and crispy onions. This meat was also tender and flavorful, although the cognac dijon was a little too subtle. It was velvety and pleasant, but I wanted that cognac bite, and hard as I tried, I couldn't find it. And John also searched in vain for the peppercorns. This dish, I noticed, also came on a bed of mashed potatoes. I wondered why the chef would design two out of three dishes on the short Miami Spice prix fixe menu using the same accessory. I asked our server what the side was on the third option, a brown sugar crusted salmon, and the answer was... guess- potatoes! That felt a bit lazy to me. A nice risotto, some roasted vegetables, maybe a little polenta... so many ideas come to mind to give each dish a little more individuality.
     Dessert was an easy decision. The only choice on the menu was a dark chocolate Nutella croissant bread pudding served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate ganache. So many things are lovely in that description, but the angels in heaven sang so loud when I read Nutella, I didn't notice anything else. Again, the cute little bowl that was delivered contained a rich mixture of beloved flavors. Every bite was like hugging a puppy. That's the best way I can describe it. Hubby liked it too, but spent the rest of the day pouting over the small size of the bowl and its contents.
     Before we left, we took a peek at the regular menu and found some items were priced equally to other comparable restaurants, but some were downright overpriced. The service was exemplary, the food of high quality and expertly prepared without a doubt, but nothing was unique or stood out enough to warrant the inflated prices. John and I love the location because it's but a stone's throw from home, and while we would love to make Chef Adrianne a regular in our weekend rotation of eateries, we couldn't justify the cost. But I will gladly return... some day.

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