Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment. Cheers! - Bethany

Saturday, October 25, 2008

BSide myself with joy

"I'll have you know you just made three women roll their eyes in ecstasy. Not too many men can say that."

As suggestive as that sounds, I'm not talking sex, I'm talking food. DIVINE food. After much anticipation, I finally had the chance to visit Derek Benitz's BSide Wine and Small Plates (323 Somerset Street West), a tiny, sleek space snuggled up against its big brother, Benitz Bistro.

White-on-black decor, a handful of tables in the front room and a smaller bunch in a cozy, candlelit nook in the back. Our waiter was all genteel grace from the start, while us girls flirted shamelessly and gossiped at great length, almost to the point of forgetting to order. But never fear. We are a bunch of foodies, after all. We have priorities.

We started off with dense, gamy wild boar meatballs in a zesty tomato jam, but sighed when they were all gone. (A drawback of the "small plates" concept. But hey, you can always order more.) On to the calamari, which was a tad disappointing; the menu described it as "tandoori-spiced" but it didn't taste much different from any other fried squid dish I've had. Still good, though, and a generous portion for the three of us. We gave it a good home nonetheless.

Savoury crostini topped with juicy-fresh bruschetta and melted cheese were the perfect side to miniature helpings of linguine gorgonzola, the dish that created the aforementioned orgasmic experience. Easily the best plate of the night: fresh pasta cooked al dente, slick with a rich sauce that had all the flavour but none of the stinky-foot-ness of gorgonzola, flecked with baby spinach and toasted pine nuts. The sharing size was perfect; we were all able to go back for seconds.

I was impressed with the wine list; lots of selections available by the glass, and in two portion sizes, as well: 3 oz and 6 oz. I started with the Cellier Des Chartreux 2006 Viognier (Pays du Gard, France), a light, refreshing wine with good fruit and enough acid to cut through the weight of the calamari. But the favourite for me was a 2006 McManis Family Vineyards Petite Syrah (California). Blue cheeses like gorg call for something with weight and fruit; this did the job nicely, without the drunken, cologne-soaked come-on you get from typical New World, warm climate shiraz/syrah. Well-balanced tannins, ripe fruit and a campfire smokiness, with a flawless, velvety finish. I couldn't help but order another glass while the last of the crumbs were cleared.

Dessert? Of course. Crème brulée, for the Texture Girl who has a thing against custards. Of course, if the custard is done right - as this one was - then it's all good. A pool of smooth, vanilla bean cream, its delicate golden crust torched to perfection.

They may have been small plates, but we were quite sated in the end, basking in the afterglow of a foodie's fantasy fulfilled.

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