Friday, July 29, 2016

Italian Immersion at Vine Brook Tavern

This month I'm taking you to a restaurant where I experienced a wonderful custom Italian food and wine pairing of multiple courses compliments of Tambone Associates and Vine Brook Tavern. Vine Brook Tavern is a hidden gem in the downtown area of Lexington center. It’s an American tavern owned and operated by Marcus Palmer and Brian Lesser with fantastic food prepared by Chef Chris Frothingham. Between the three of them there are over 20+ years of experience within the restaurant business including their previous experience at a number of fine dining establishments and it shows in what the Vine Brook Tavern has to offer.
Marcus Palmer owner of Vine Brook Tavern
Myself on left & Marcus Palmer on right
I was honored to be invited to attend a wine and food pairing dinner at this restaurant hosted by Marcus himself. A very warm and personable host whom offered a tour of the establishment prior to the commencement of the pairings. After experiencing that night it’s a shame that a restaurant like this is tucked away due to its caliber and quality of food that is served at there, but that’s why I’m sharing it with you today so you can all enjoy in the culinary pleasures of this hidden gem.

You can find Vine Brook Tavern nestled on one of the side streets of downtown Lexington, on Waltham Street, in a historical building itself that is the second oldest post office in town. The facade is nothing eye catching on the outside, but once you enter it's character is portrayed throughout the building with each of its four dining rooms and two bars displaying their own personality and charm with plenty of seating. Completed in a wooden architecture with a farmhouse feel and even painted in a “post office blue”, there is more being offered here than just the ambiance. The quality food and wine offered makes this stand out well above your average tavern.
Vine Brook Tavern Lexington, MA
Marcus and his waitstaff were very attentive throughout the meal and the presentation of the food and wine with a brief description of both was a great introduction to such an enjoyable dinner. Below was the mouth-watering dishes and wine pairings that I had the opportunity to experience.

First Course
Wine Pairing: Pieropan Soave Classico (Veneto region)
Food Pairing: Burata with sliced tomato, bruschetta and an aged balsamic vinegar
Bruschetto with Burata and aged balsamic vinegard
Second Course
Wine Pairing: Pio Cesare Cortese di Gavi (Piedmont region)
Food Pairing: Halibut served in a broth with hominy, sausage, kale and corn
Halibut with hominy, sausage, kale and corn
Third Course
Wine Pairing: Santo Stefano Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont region)
Food Pairing: Tortelli stuffed with braised short rib
Tortelli with braised short rib
Fourth Course
Wine Pairing: Allegrini Palazzo della Torre (Veneto region)
Food Pairing: Tenderloin in a brown butter sauce over sweet potatoes
Tenderloin in brown butter sauce
Even though the food at the Vine Brook Tavern is not considered an “Italian restaurant” per se and is more focused on American cuisine, you will find unique items on their menu that are Italian based such as braised rib with marscapone tortelli, tagliatelle bolognese and other menu items with an Italian flair. Plus, they can custom design a wine and food pairing meal such as what I experienced, if arrangements are made in advance. Personally I am looking forward to do this again with my whole family. Vine Brook Tavern will tailor it to whatever you are looking for whether it is Italian food and wine or not.

I found the wine menu to be reasonably priced and I appreciated their Italian wine selections than some of the typical low priced market wines that don't leave much satisfaction to the palate at other restaurants. Of course everyone wants a reasonably priced wine, but it is always a shame when you experience good food and the wine menu doesn't leave much to make an overall satisfying experience. All the Italian wines I enjoyed throughout my meal that night are also wines I know to be very accessible in the Boston wine market so you should be able to seek them out in your favorite wine shops if you enjoy them during your dining experience. Plus, the menu and wine list are changed seasonally leaving you wanting to go back for more. I even noticed on their promotions/specials board that they have monthly wine classes as well and it allows a different learning environment in a restaurant setting with folks that know the food and wine business very well, especially in offering their knowledge of pairings.

Marcus and his team's endeavors have obviously paid off and allowed his journey to bring him to open another restaurant in Littleton, MA called the Great Road Kitchen. Marcus was telling us that this restaurant will have a seafood flair and should be open soon if it's not open by the time this issue is published. In the meantime I hope you get an opportunity to experience the fine cuisine and wines that are offered at the Vine Brook Tavern. Cin cin!

You can find my monthly column, Italy Uncorked, in the Bostoniano magazine, Boston's Italian American voice where you'll find this and many other articles.  We appreciate your subscription and support.