The traditional wine bar has always satisfied my craving for the genteel pleasures of sipping a precocious chardonnay or a brash malbec. But where a wine establishment has always fallen short is in setting the table for a nice, calorific meal. Sure, most wine cafes will lay out a smattering of fruits, cheeses and some sturdy crackers as taste foils for the sampled wine. But as for the rest of the meal -- not happening.
Until now, at least thanks to the two full meals along with various goblets of wine I sampled at Winslow's Wine Cafe and Times Ten Cellars.
Winslow's Wine Cafe
4101 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-546-6843; www.winslowswinecafe.com
Lay of the land: The balmy patio is conducive to convivial gatherings of 20- to 50-somethings sporting everything from floral-print dresses, rep ties and khakis to Chanel shades and serious Rolex wristware. As Sinatra croons on the sound system, patrons gather around tables set with taupe cloths as they chat about lakeside weekends or a recent trip to Malibu.
The food: The main starter was a bountiful cheese board ($22), followed by a wood-fired Jim Bowie pizza ($15) and bacon-wrapped scallops ($15).
The hits: The cheese board's offerings formed a European gastro-tour: One was infused with Guinness, next to an ultra-creamy Port-Salut from France, an even more luxuriant Italian gorgonzola and a pungent Swiss Gruyère. The board's accompanying nuts, white raisins and dried apricots accentuated the tangy cheese flavors. The Jim Bowie pizza crust was perfectly blistered and held up well to a thatch of smoky barbecued chicken and fiery slivers of jalapeño. The bacon-wrapped scallops were mini-pucks of sweet, briny flavor, each taking a lemony-mayonnaise bath.
The miss: Service could be lax at times. To wit: a 10-minute wait for a glass of water. The olives on the cheese board tended toward the overly salty, overpowering the delicate cheeses.
Room for dessert? The apple-pecan bread pudding ($8) is shot through with those great rustic flavors, cinnamon and nutmeg, and was unusually light and flaky.
The noble grape: 2008 Rocland Estate Duck Duck Goose chardonnay, Nuriootpa, Australia ($8 a glass); 2006 Volpaia Borgianni chianti, Tuscany, Italy ($8 a glass). The chardonnay carried a light-fruity fragrance and a slightly dry, melon-peachy taste. Meanwhile, the chianti was not too astringently dry, yet had a complex of alternating tastes: oak, smoke, with a trace of chocolate.
The bill: $76 for two before tax and tip.
Times Ten Cellars
1100 Foch St., Fort Worth, 817-336-9463; www.timestencellars.com.
Lay of the land: The decor is candle-lit intimate. Cellars is divided into several large and small rooms, some resembling an English drawing-room salon done in dark wood paneling, with chandeliers, slick leather executive chairs and plush, red flocked curtains. There is also an attractively appointed outdoor patio.
The food: Appetizers (which are made by nearby Lambert's Steaks, Seafood & Whiskey) included a trio dip of hummus; olive tapenade, cannellini bean and pesto ($11.50); and smoked salmon dip ($11.50). From Nizza Pizza, Pasta & Subs came chicken piccata ($8.95), along with a side salad ($1.75) napped with a house vinaigrette, and garlic bread.
The hits: The dips were all uniformly successful, with the smoked salmon pleasantly creamy and agreeably speckled with dill. Nizza's chicken piccata, on a platform of linguini, arrived tender and suffused with lemon and oregano. It was also studded with just the right amount of capers to lend it a needed spark of salt.
The miss: The delivered tossed salad, with its institutional-packed dressing, was at best pedestrian. And the DIY aspect of having your meal delivered to your sofa can be eccentric or a nuisance.
Room for dessert: Chocolate cheesecake ($7) comes with garnishes of raspberries and blueberries floating in a chocolate puddle. It is one of the best recently sampled examples of the joyous marriage between bittersweet chocolate and fresh fruit. Delish.
The noble grape: 2007 Grenache Paso Robles ($8 a glass), 2008 Lake County rosé ($7 a glass). The Paso Robles lands lightly on the palate, with very little acidic bite, yet leaves a slightly spicy note. The rosé packs a fruitier punch and has a richer finish.
The bill: $55.70 for two before tax and tip.