By Ashley Eames
Capital Cooking Contributor
One thing that I’m always in search of is a great wine bar. The combination of a great wine bar and a place with amazing food is hard to come by, but that is exactly what you will find at The Curious Grape in Shirlington.
The menu at Curious Grape features fresh, seasonal dishes. To take the guesswork out of which wine will best compliment your meal, each menu item suggests a set of wines that would best pair with the dish. There are 28 different wines offered by the glass or half glass, plus 8 dessert and port wines. Wines are segmented by type: sparkling, light and crisp whites, medium-bodied whites, full-bodied whites, rosé, light reds, medium-bodied reds, and full-bodied reds. The option to have half glasses means that you can try even more varietals of wine!
The menu highlights items that are currently in season such as citrus, artichokes, snap peas, radishes, fiddle head ferns, spring garlic, asparagus, Meyer lemon and mint. All of these items were prevalent in the dishes on the menu. The Curious Grape sources a number of ingredients locally, which really shines through in the food.
We started with the Crimini Mushroom Soup and Virginia-grown Asparagus. The soup was rich, earthy and made creamy with crème fraiche. Pickled crimini mushrooms added a great textural contrast and a slight tanginess, while toasted sunflower seeds on top gave a nuttiness and crunch to the soup which was an amazing combination. It was one of my favorite dishes. It was paired with a medium-bodied Chenin Blanc that was light and fresh with a slight sweetness.
The Virginia-grown Asparagus was topped with a soft boiled egg and speck. The dish tasted like spring with an abundance of bright, fresh flavors. A lemon vinaigrette adds acidity to the creaminess of the egg and the saltiness of the speck. Everything was perfectly balanced and paired well with a 2010 Semillon from Columbia Valley.
For dinner we had the Pan-Roasted Sea Scallops and the Coffee and Cacao-rubbed Beef Tenderloin. The scallops are said to be one of their signature dishes and I can understand why. The dish was served with black rice which reminded me of quinoa. The rice was cooked in coconut water and had a chewy, hearty texture and tons of flavor. A plum wine beurre blanc tied the dish together with a slightly sweet yet buttery taste, and the scallops were cooked perfectly. The beef tenderloin was coated in a coffee and cacao mixture and cooked to medium rare. This dish was paired with a fruit-forward Cabernet Sauvignon from California. A potato cake accompanied the dish and was topped with fennel. It was a good dish, but the scallops overshadowed it.
Dessert at The Curious Grape features several desserts made from fresh, seasonal fruit. The Strawberry Shortcake was complimented by a white chocolate and almond ice cream, macerated strawberries and a raspberry coulis. None of the desserts were too sweet, and they really let the fruit shine through. To complement the shortcake I had an Ice Wine from Germany that was wonderful. It was thick enough to coat your palate, but still paired well with the desserts. The Dark Chocolate Pots de Crème was quite rich. The coffee flavor overpowered the chocolate, but toasted hazelnuts added a sweet, nutty component to cut through the thickness of the dessert. This was paired with a Chocolate Port-style wine that featured jammy, dark fruit and cherry notes.
The Curious Grape would also be a great place for after dinner wine, coffee or desserts. Or if you’re in a hurry, you can pick up a bottle of wine and cheese to go from their wine shop and café.
The Curious Grape Wine, Dine and Shop, 2900 South Quincy Street, Shirlington Village, Arlington, VA 22206