Food Porn: Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards

My opposite-sex-partner-for-life XFE and I don’t really celebrate an anniversary per se. We met, we started dating, but I never really remember exactly when, and I don’t know which date we should commemorate: when we met, or when we had our first date, or when we had our first kiss? I know we met in October, fairly close to Halloween. But we’re not a stickler for the “love” holidays – we don’t really do Valentine’s Day, or even New Year’s Eve (which, to me at least, seems like a “couples” kinda holiday as well), and we don’t do anniversaries.

What we do every year, however, is celebrate Fall Fun Day. It’s in honor of one of our first dates, which was a drive out to a couple of Virginia wineries. Again, I don’t remember the exact date or the names of the wineries we visited that particular year, but I do remember it was a beautiful fall day and my stomach was full of butterflies I was so excited to be sitting next to this amazing person on our way out to a day of who-knows-what.

So we replicate that day every year. Usually in the fall. But this year, since our fall is getting pretty busy, we kinda did Fall Fun Day a bit early. And, we focused on just one place instead of the 3-4 we usually go to.

We first went to Barboursville Vineyards in January on our way to an amazing restaurant in Chilhowie, Virginia, which turns out, is a hell of a long way from DC. So we broke up the trip and stayed a night in Charlottesville. And we went to a few wineries along the way.

Barboursville blew us away. It’s a gorgeous setting, but lots of wineries have that. Since it was January and there was a ton of snow on the ground, we were pretty much the only folks in the place which meant we got a lot of individual attention. And the tastings were very generous. There must have been about 15 wines and the tasting price was only $5. Most importantly, the wines were amazing. We bought a ton.

And, we got the low down on their Italian owners, Zonin Wines. That lead to a visit to the Zonin headquarters and museum when we went to northern Italy this past March, and for me at least, it was one of the highlights of the trip. We were treated like rock stars by the folks at Zonin. So we definitely have a soft spot for Barboursville at this point.

This trip to Barboursville was a bit different because we were going for a tasting (which was much more crowded and less personal), sure, but we were also going for lunch at their restaurant, Palladio. We had heard great things about the restaurant, but on our first visit, we were still full from an earlier meal, so we had to skip it. This time, we made sure we’d be hungry for our 12:30 lunch reservation for a four course tasting menu and wine flight.

The dining room at Palladio is a bit old fashioned, not much to look at. The service was great, very friendly and attentive without being overbearing or pretentious. The chef, Melissa Close Hart, has been named one of the 25 best chefs in the mid-Atlantic region by the James Beard Foundation, so we had pretty high expectations and were not disappointed.

The wine flight was 3 of Barboursville’s Reserve wines – Nebbiolo 2008, Cabernet Franc 2008 and Octagon 2006, which the winery is justifiably famous for. This is a wine that was served at the president’s inauguration lunch. And it is really, really good.

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XFE started with a house-made charcuterie plate that had duck prosciutto, bresaola with an olive tapenade, and a house-made salami with cheese. I started with a warm goat cheese flan with a beet puree and golden beets. I go back and forth on beets – sometimes they’re just too earthy for my taste. Both starters were very good, the flan was just the right texture, the duck prosciutto was very gamey but delicious.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the next course, XFE had gnocchi with peaches, speck, a bourbon reduction and basil. It the dish I had my eye on, but considering our main course choices (he went with veal and I had fish), it made the most sense that he take the lighter second course. I went big and heavy with a risotto with braised rabbit, rosemary, tomatoes, and cipollini onions. It was amazing. Both dishes were great and we ended up swapping plates a number of times.

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As I said, XFE had the veal chop for his main and it was awesome. It came with fingerling potatoes, Swiss chard, mushrooms and most awesome of all – house-made bacon lardons. That’s big chunks of smoky delicious bacon for those uninitiated into this bacon greatness. My fish dish was lovely, if not quite the showstopper of XFE’s veal. I had cobia and polenta. I’d never heard of cobia, but it was great. It’s a firm flesh white fish, very buttery. It stood up well to the herbed polenta (perfect crispy nuttiness) and the pickled fennel salad, which I was less in love with. I just don’t eat fennel enough to know if it was great or not.

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For dessert, XFE was again the winner with his trio of chocolate a warm tart with dark chocolate sauce, white and chocolate Bavarese (basically, semi-soft discs) with a raspberry sauce and chocolate-almond “salami” that was pretty fun and very delicious. My tiramisu was very good, but it’s hard to beat chocolate-almond salami!

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It was a great meal, very pleasurable, no real misses. The pacing was perfect, the service smooth. The price was fantastic – four-course lunch was $52. We upgraded to the reserve wine flight for another $20.

Which left us plenty of money to buy a case of Barboursville’s wine, including an entirely unnecessary magnum of Octagon 2005. Petunia would have preferred a case of Whisker Lickins.

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“What do you mean you didn’t bring me anything? Now you’re gonna get the bitchface!”
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