Daily Archives: September 28, 2013

It’s All About Wine! Va di Vie!

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One of the best parts of our recent California vacation, was the food.  We did have some remarkable dining experiences….and Va di Vie in Walnut Creek was one of them.  (I borrowed this photo from the restaurant’s website, because it was better than the one that I took myself.  this is a view of the front and side of the place.)  Had to go a couple of times to taste all of the veggie offerings on their menu.  Va de Vi translates to “It’s all about wine!” in Catalan.  However, at this place, it’s all about food, too!  In this case, small plates, or tapas.  Executive Chef Andy Phillips enables diners to explore and share a variety of eclectic, international small plate portions that are out of this world!  A warm, casual elegance defines the ambiance. Outdoors, diners can take advantage of an ancient oak tree or do as we did, and grab a table in the picturesque interior.

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The rustic Califorina/Spanish decor was warm and inviting….but the service could have been a little better.  There were many empty tables, but it took a long time for us to be seated, as the hostess with the most-ess was chatting on her iPhone.  The staff at this place stood around a lot.  sigh…  However, the food made up for it.

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We started off the show with a cocktail, a mushroom soup shooter and a small cheese plate and pomme frits.

The cocktail was called a Watermelon Crawl, consisting of watermelon-infused vodka, basil simple syrup and fresh lime juice.  It arrived at my table almost room temperature.  Should have been colder, and I wasn’t happy with it at all.  Sounded light and refreshing.  Tasted cloyingly sweet and heavy.  I’ll stick to wine the next time I go…

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The pommes frites were Kennebec potatoes tossed with olive oil, garlic and parsley.  They were light and crispy….but again, fried, so I only had a couple.  Loved the aioli dipping sauce, though.  Very tangy and tasty.   The Burrata cheese plate was delightful!  It was served with fresh, organic berries, grilled bread, crisps, aged balsamic vinegar and sea salt.  Fabulous!  The shooter of mushroom soup was to die for!    It was just a taste…topped with a liquid goat cheese and fresh chives.  So delicious!

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We split the Farro, which is an ancient Egyptian grain.  It was done in roasted cipollini onions, soffritto and  vin cotto, which is a is a dark, sweet dense condiment produced artisanally in the Apulia region of southeastern Italy.  It is made by the slow cooking and reduction over many hours of non-fermented grape must until it has been reduced to about one fifth of its original volume and the sugars present have caramelized. It can be made from a number of varieties of local red wine grapes including  PrimitivoNegroamaro and Malvasia Nera, collected after being allowed to wither naturally on the vine for about 30 days.  One tiny taste sends a bright, cool sensation all through the tongue.  It is fantastic!  A perfectly balanced combination!

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The potato-based gnocci was simply prepared, drizzled with basil pesto and grana padano, one of the most popular cheeses in Italy.  The name comes from the noun grana (‘grain’), which refers to the distinctively grainy texture of the cheese, and the adjective Padano, which refers to the valley Pianura Padana. (The reason this cheese is called “Grana Padano” and not “Grana Padana” is because in this case the Italian word grana is the masculine noun, il grana, describing this specific cheese, and not the feminine noun la grana, which means “grain”).  I have always loved this cheese, and Va di Vie uses it liberally in a number of their small plates.  The gnocci was one of my favorite dishes here.  Just a couple of bites….but oh, so good!

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My all-time favorite dish was the fried squash blossoms.  This dish consisted of ricotta stuffed blossoms topped with pickled shallots and drizzled with a tasty calabrian chili aioli.  Yum-o!  Delightful!  The saltiness of the cheese-stuffed blossoms was perfectly countered by the sweetness of the pickled shallots and the heat of the aioli.  So good!

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The creamed corn is a dish I have already prepared twice since we at at Va di Vie.  It is one of the most delicious dishes ever!   It is prepared by slowly roasting fresh Brentwood corn on the cob.  The corn is scraped from the cob and mixed with diced jalapeno peppers and a tiny touch of whole cream.  Wow.  The flavor is incredible!  Smoky…sweet…hot…All the tastes that I love .

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The chilled chiogga beet salad was another favorite.  The picture above is not one that I took of the salad.  I just wanted you to see what chiogga beets look like.  The one from Va di Vie was pale pink in color and served with grilled fennel, endive, blue cheese and a cider vinegar dressing.  It was light and refreshing and I loved every bit of it!

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This is a picture of Treviso.   We sampled Va di Vie’s Triviso risotto, which was a creamy risotto, grilled Treviso,  caramelized onions, more of the grand padano, and a dirzzel of  white truffle oil.  The complexities of the various flavors harmonized perfectly to create a soothing, comfort food that was beyond belief!  Delicious…but very filling, so we could only handle a couple of bites.  Seemed more like a winter food, but was totally satisfying in every way.  The flavors were just incredible!

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All in all, our dining experiences at Va di Vie were positive.    We tried their  Late Harvest wine, a Williams Selyem, “vista verde vineyard,” gewürztraminer from San Benito County (2011)  and a sparkling wine, the name of which escapes me…it was French, light, delicous, and finally, the Passito, 2002 La Roncaia, Verduzzo from Ramandolo, Italy.  All of the wines were exceptional.  I loved the sparkling wine best, so wouldn’t you know, that would be the one I’d forget?  sigh….

Va di Vie is very expensive….but it is good.   The service?  eh!  Not so great…but with food this good, it doesn’t matter that much.  I do have to say, that bussers who cleared the dishes and brought water were fantastic….always on top of their jobs….but the wait staff seemed a little preoccupied with standing in the corners gossiping or talking on their iPhones, and I felt they were a little snooty…which was amusing, considering they were WAITERS.  ha ha.

Nice place.  Beautiful atmosphere.  Great food…even better wine.  I recommend it!