Café Vino of Fort Collins Provides A Culinary Adventure and a Roller Coaster Ride for the Taste Buds
Updated: Sep 22, 2019
I had the pleasure of dining with my assistant, Lizzy Friday at Cafe Vino, Fort Collins. While the restaurant caters to everyone, those who make reservations for this unique wine bar is in for a culinary adventure. From the service and farm to table dishes, what you'll find here is nothing less than a Tour de force where patrons can revel in world-class food. You'll also have the pleasure learning about wine and handcrafted dishes while feeling like you're in your own living room. Not to mention your taste buds will enjoy a rollercoaster ride of flavors. Read on to find out what's happening at this fantastic Northern Colorado bistro.
When Lizzy and I first arrived at the old house we couldn't help but notice the urban farm décor. The previous layout gave a coffee shop vibe and not a wine bar. The renovations were a nice upgrade from the prior cumbersome, glass pie case where you no longer find yourself dooming calories. The interior has an intimate design lending to a comfortable experience. From brick fireplaces to cushy couches, you can see why people become regulars feeling right at home. Not to mention, the staff creates a welcoming atmosphere lending to the ambiance.
Our hostess sat us right away and set the pace for the 5-fork service we were about to receive. We were impressed with the attention all the way around, but little did we know we were in for a treat with our next maître d.
The master of festivities, Ryan Meredith, describes his title as director of wine and facilitator of ferments. On the contrary, I would term him a culinary encyclopedia and a terrific ambassador. With a 10-year tenure at Café Vino, Mr. Meredith is a veteran guide more than a server and was about to navigate us on our quest for excellent cuisine. I explained we came for the total experience and not just to taste some food. Our guiding spirit seemingly became very enthusiastic about catering to us when we told him we were at his mercy. From the beginning of our visit we found Ryan to be full of grace and knowledge with every description.
Our meal began with a fantastic appetizer of tiger shrimp cakes. The tapas includes a spicy Cajun remoulade creating quite a buzz for the palate. Our server extraordinaire recommends pairing this light dish with Getariako Txakolina, which is a Spanish wine from a tranquil region where growing the grapes on the side of a mountain is necessary for preventing rot. Also, humidity can play a significant role for healthy maturation of the wine. The higher altitude is lacking additional moisture creating the optimum environment for growing premium vines. Regardless of terrain, the vino is meant to stimulate the senses for the main entrée. With a crisp flavor and slightly sweet, the champion grape was the perfect start on the right path of our journey.
Before we knew it, Ryan was serving the next dish introducing yet another wine. During this visit, Chef, Isaac prepared a Mayan recipe made with a creamy Mexican dip made of pumpkin seed dust, garlic, and water. Otherwise known as 'sikil pak' (Pronounced 'POCK'). The dip was drizzled over a healthy and artful portion of purple and orange heirloom carrots then garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds. There was plenty of crunch and vibrant flavor. We were tasting hints of cumin, paprika, coriander, and clove. Not to mention the spices blending well with a fabulous dill, each bite presented a celebration of seasoning. We had the pleasure washing down the flavorful veggies with the house Rosé. Known as Paccamora Nero D'avo, this Sicilian wine is a smooth red, packed with flavorful hints of plums and red cherries. There's also a peppery aftertaste giving the right amount of heat and bringing the carrots to a whole new level. But, after a few enjoyable bites, it was on to the next surprise.
One thing to note, the executive chefs, including Isaac Magaña, hand-select their herbs, and vegetables from local farmers creating a different menu throughout the seasons. You may not have the same meal as a result. However, you can be certain whatever they serve is special and well thought out.
While our next dish was being prepared, we did a bit of interviewing our 'Grand Puba,' asking Ryan what type of customers frequent Café Vino. His genuine and warm reply, "We welcome bicyclists, to people wearing suits and a tie. It's really everyone's living room here." Judging by the clientele, there's no dress code and everyone seems to be relaxing in nearly every corner. We also felt like family, but that's beside the point. Now back to the next course.
Red and marigold beets, with burrata mozzarella and candied pistachios were a huge hit! The cheese was more like a sweet whip cream and super smooth. The blend of ingredients seems more of a dessert than an innovative way to serve plants! I give this plate a 5-fork rating as it felt like my senses were morphing into a supernatural taste machine. I'll admit, this was my FAVORITE serving out of the entire spread. We also had the pleasure to wash it down with my wine of choice, a delicious Malbec. However, the vineyard this wine comes from has an interesting backstory.
The Bodega Colomé is one of the world's highest wineries above sea level. The Piattellii family made their way to the high altitude mountains in Argentina where they produce some of the smoothest medium-bodied Malbec around the globe. The selection of grape was the perfect match for the burrata cheese. While I highly favor the cloying fare, the biggest surprise was yet to come.
At this point, Mr. Meredith explained his selection for the Malbec which he specifically chose to highlight the next plate. Ryan enlightened us before placing the setting on our table. His description explains a homemade pasta where the chef uses squid ink, causing the noodles to be black in color without manipulating the taste. However, simple the introduction Lizzy and I were in shock when the bowl was placed in front of us. We weren't expecting the appearance of little black worms (the pasta) swimming in broth. As you can imagine, this was quite a charge leaving a HUGE impression. Although this noodle is unusual with it's weird appeal, the taste is just the opposite.
The recipe includes a hearty broth encompassing peas, grilled potatoes, zucchini, and jalapenos making a delightful medley which takes your attention away from the funky looking black pasta. I enjoyed each bite regardless of the presentation.
Now introducing our main entrée, where the chef graced us with Tocino Pork Chops. The recipe originates from the Philippines which is generally fried till crunchy. However, these pork fatbacks were super-tender and not overwhelming with the texture or taste. Unlike most pork dishes where you might expect a smoky flavor and rough texture, this meat was nothing of the sort. Featured here was a delicate savory meat you can cut with a butter knife. Who could ask for a better cut than what's described here?
At this point, we were heading for the grand finale with a Nebbiolo Piedmont full-bodied white wine which made a memorable impression pairing with a 3-layered carrot cake. The chef tops this dessert with real honeycomb, white chocolate dirt, and a side of dark caramel ice cream. The handcrafted sorbet washed down nicely with the beautiful Riesling. By the way I searched for the right word to describe this wine, and the best I could come up with is 'bright.' With every sip you could almost taste a shining light on the tip of your tongue. Nonetheless, each swallow was the perfect signature saying, "You have arrived at your final destination."
From a variety of fresh hand picked veggies to tender meats and delectable cheeses, there's no doubt Café Vino guides your epicurean travels. Besides, the harvest of farm produce the selection of wines have their place creating a culinary adventure, and one everybody should want to explore. You'll love the knowledge and professionalism of the staff as well as the living room ambiance. I would highly recommend Café Vino, whether you live in the area or are just visiting Fort Collins.
For more information about Café Vino, please contact the establishment directly. If you'd like your restaurant to be featured in one of our articles, contact Eve Grzadzinski.