Linger Longer

Where do you catch up over brunch with a lifetime friend? The Patio at Vino.

By Jan Walsh

My restaurant reviews and personal life continue to meld together. Although the food is paramount, there is also so much more to a meal. Time spent at my favorite places with the chefs, restauranteurs, staff, and most especially those at my table become a page in the diary of my life.

Thus, I am turning the page, reserving larger tables, and reconnecting with old friends. Today’s catch up is with Judy White over Saturday brunch at Vino and Gallery Bar. My Grandmother Copeland and Judy’s mother, Ruby Hood were best friends. And until my grandmother died, when I was four, Judy looked after me like a big sis. Fast forward 40 years, we became neighbors in Oneonta. And our children grew up together, making a third generation of our families’ relationship. Today we toast, “no more” with a sparkling French rosé… No more letting our busy lives and even a pandemic interfere with just getting together.

Vino’s restauranteur, Al Rabiee treats us to a beautiful board of hummus, olives, fruit, veggies, and pita chips to share. And the variety of juicy fruits, crunchy veggies, and chips centered around Vino’s incredible house made hummus is a conversation starter in itself. Also, as starters we order our favorite Vino apps: Fresh Crab Claws, Potato Latkes, and Bang Bang Cauliflower Kung Pao. We nibble the succulent claws with house cocktail sauce, enjoy the golden latkes with a touch of sour cream, and Judy is wowed by the cauliflower, asking how it was made. Coming from a family of Southern home cooks, bakers, and even a bakery, she knows real food. So, her interest and approval are significant. Yet for years this has been one of my favorites here. No meal would be complete without this spicy, crunchy veggie. As we finish our starters, Al surprises us again with a treat of Crème Brûlée French Toast served with fresh fruit. The thick, light, moist, creamy toast, which also brought praise from us all, is enhanced by a drizzle of fig infused maple syrup. As always at Vino, the fruit is beautifully presented and bursting with freshness. So thankful that Al did not let us miss this deliciousness.

Kev is torn between the Duroc Pork Scallopini and Hanger and Egg as his entree. So, he asks Al’s advice, who then describes the process of preparation of the hanger steak, which involves cutting out the silver membrane and extra fat, resulting in a more tender steak. The steak it is! I decide on their famous Grouper Bowl. And Judy dittos my entrée order. Kev’s grilled steak is served with his choice of sunny side up eggs, with Catalan spinach, tomato, and hash browns. On first cut the orange yolk drizzles onto the steak making for marvelous bites of the two proteins. The golden, crisp and comforting potatoes add starch, and the tomatoes add a touch of acidity and pulpiness to the dish. In the bowls of grouper is a beautiful catch, served in generous portions of bite sized pieces. This bowl has it all: fish, salad, pasta, vegetable, and fruit, as the fish is mixed with baby farfalle, blistered tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and fresh baby spinach. Highly recommended!

Just as I ask Kev and Judy if they want dessert, our server informs, “Oh, we have something special for you.” Next, a tray of three desserts: Classic Tiramisu, Apple Fritters, and Brownie Kahlua Trifle, are presented in threes so that we each have all three desserts. After tasting and swooning over them, we are asked to pick favorites. Kev and Judy name the tiramisu. It is old world wonderful! Creamy, tall layers are juxtaposed with espresso and a sprinkling of cocoa powder in this delicate dessert.

But it is the chocolate dessert for me. Think eating Kahlua and cream, rather than drinking it, and meld a brownie in the middle of this marvelous trifle. And the apple fritters are famous here. If you can’t hold them, take them home for tomorrow’s breakfast.

We linger until closing time. And as we part ways, decide next time… dinner and a spend the night party!

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