We had an occasion to celebrate, and knowing my love of wine, I was taken to Divino’s for an evening of indulgence. Not having ever been there before, I did not know what to expect.
After being greeted and escorted to a small table in a cozy corner, we were presented with no less than 5 separate menus: available cheeses; daily food specials; wine available by the glass along with assorted scotch, highballs and the like; wine available by the bottle; and a food menu. As most of you know, a typical set of menus would consist of a page or 2 of wine, and a multi- page food menu. As I looked at the menus, there were about 30 wines to be had by the glass; 15 or so very nice scotch offerings; about 10 appetizers, 15 main courses (both on one page); 15-20 cheese offerings from around the world; and no less that 30 pages of available wines. These were broken down first by white, red and sparkling. Then by region, then by size. I laughed at the descriptions: Small Bottles (375ml); Big Bottles (1500ml); and Really Big Bottles (3000ml). I glanced at the pricing: A 6oz glass would run from about $8 to $35. A small bottle from $50 to $475, a big bottle from $400 to $1500, and a really big from $500 to $1000.
We had only briefly opened the cheese listing when our waiter appeared and introduced himself to us. After the pleasantries, he asked if there were any questions. I asked him how their wine and cheese pairings are designed. His response left me a bit disappointed in that guests are to select a plate of either 3 of 5 cheeses (max $25 per choice) and then choose the wine that one desires. The menu also notes a “Chef’s Selection”. I enquired what that was and was informed that the chef could also do the cheese selection for you. Quietly, I thought to myself, this is strange. They have a selection of interesting cheese from all over the world, and a wine list to match. Surely they don’t expect all guests to know what wine goes with what cheese! How would I make my selections?
I decided to be bold, and to see how accommodating they would be.
I told the waiter that, in my experience, it is most enjoyable to have a flight of 4-5 wines and the same number of cheeses presented that complement each other. This way one can sample each cheese with each wine and savour the flavors that each bring to the other. Is it possible for such a presentation to be delivered? To my delight, he smiled and assured us that indeed, they could present such an offering. After a short discussion on quantities and amounts and such, he went away to prepare our request.
We sat in the most pleasant surroundings and chatted for perhaps 15 minutes, then a waitress appeared with a wooden platter containing 5 cheeses, and another with 2 small loaves of bread. After showing us which cheese had been brought, she said that the wine would arrive momentarily. Our waiter arrived with 4 glasses of white wine containing about 1 1/2 oz each for Diane, along with a sparkling dark rose and explained what each one was. He then went and returned with a sherry and a white wine for me, then 2 more glasses of red. I was offered the same explanation. Each of mine were about 1 oz. The white I was told, was a Layette(?) and not on the menu yet, as it had only been acquired the day before. We sat for a bit simply testing the nose of each. Hmmmmmmm. After cutting a small piece of each cheese, we began to do the sampling. I found that most of the wine that we were presented with went quite well with the cheeses which ranged from a beautiful Gouda to a Goats milk Blue. One Sauvignon Blanc/Muscat blend did not go well with anything, and the sherry did not go either. When the waiter returned, I told him that the sherry was not appropriate for the cheese that were sent, and he then brought me another glass of red at no charge. My favourite was the Amarone, by far. The Pinot, while a very nice wine was lost to the heavier cheese, and the Malbec went with all but the light buttery cheese.
So, we sat and talked and sampled, and ate. Then suddenly it was gone! Sigh !
Our waiter returned to enquire our thoughts. We assured him that it was most enjoyable, although a couple wine selections could be improved upon. He was most gracious, and apologetic that there was something amiss. He then asked if we would like to see the food menu. ( we had them all taken away earlier ) We agreed that that would be most welcome.
So as not to bore the reader, suffice to say that the meal offerings were both imaginative, interesting, and a very difficult choice as so many sounded absolutely wonderful. Appetizers ranged in to 15-25 dollar range, and mains in the 25-40 dollar range. We started with Mussels Frite. A large bowl of fresh mussels in a lovely broth with some peppers, capers and onion. These were served with a side dish of fries and Reggiano cheese. A glass of Sauvignon Blanc each went along with it. For the main course, Diane ordered the haddock and clams, and I had the roast duck. Again the waiter asked about beverages, and I asked for a red for the duck. ( Diane still was enjoying her glass). The meals were beautifully presented, deliciously seasoned and extremely tasty.
I neglected to take a picture after it was presented, as my mouth was watering from smelling the heavenly aromas wafting from my plate. The wine that was brought was a Pinot Noir. When the waiter appeared after the first few bites, he set another glass down at my plate, and I looked at him curiously. He explained that as I was obviously there to have a tasting experience, and he realized after serving it, that the Pinot was not adequate, he was providing me with a glass of Cote Du Rhone, which again was not yet on the menu, at no charge, as it would compliment the duck better. He apologized, wished us bon appetite, and left us to our meal.
We declined dessert, but I was sorely tempted. The menu had some very tasty sounding items.
As we finished our wine, and paid the bill, we happened to look at the time. Oh my! We had been there over 3 1/2 hours! It was a very relaxed evening. No pressure from the waiter, excellent timing with our various courses, and all around pleasant.
Some thoughts in summary:
- It was very nice that they were flexible in how the wine and cheese could be presented.
- The wines were fabulous, but some selections were a bit lacking in the pairing.
- The overall experience was wonderful, but don’t expect a fast, or inexpensive night. Like all things in life, you get what you pay for. I for one would definitely return to try more offerings.