The Magic in the Menu

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Even though I haven’t been working at this wonderful place for very long, I feel as though I should expand upon the one thing I am asked at least once a day; and that is if we serve food at our store. I can totally see where the customer comes from in asking because; given our name, “Amazing Grapes Wine Store” it wouldn’t be obvious that we have more than just wine. But in the heart of our store, we do in fact serve food! Our kitchen is always open Wednesday through Saturday from 4pm-10pm. But it isn’t “bar” food as many people might assume given that we do have a bar. We have a full menu including appetizers, main courses and of course, delectable desserts. Oh and I forgot, yes we have wine and beer on the menu as well!

What I wanted to do, besides answer the ever-asking question, was to shine a light on what we offer and who is the master-mind behind the food that many of our loyal customers enjoy pairing their drinks with. So, let’s begin with a little background on our wonderful executive chef, Gerri.  She was raised a New York girl which already makes me understand why she has such a passion with the foods she chooses for the menu. Those New Yorkers, they sure know how to cook and they take pride in their ingredients! But her ever-growing experience also comes from the culinary program she completed at Saddleback College. From there she was able to snag an internship at the famous Hanna’s Restaurant, which is also located in RSM.

After she finished her internship she was given the title as Executive Chef at our Amazing Grapes Wine Store and as many will know, she brought our menu up to what it is today; delicious and ever-impressive. She would have to say that her signature dish here is the Figgy Cheese. Along with the variety of concoctions she creates, her ultimate favorite item to cook is soup. Hence our Soup de Jour starter! Gerri realized that as she expanded the menu it attracted more people and she needed extra help. She was able to hire more kitchen staff, and was also given the opportunity to sponsor interns from a couple colleges. Her internship program gave a few people the chance to experience kitchen life in the real world. They were also given the chance to create a special, have it sampled in the menu and be named after them too!

Now let’s go into the magic that is Gerri, the menu of course! I’ll just begin with the “Starters”, that way you can keep coming back to read more on the other menu items in the future. First off is the “Smoky Edamame”. As custom, they are chilled but she created her own smoked salt and yes, it gives a new meaning to Edamame! Her “House Hummus” is just spectacular. She doesn’t like the boring hummus that is usually brought to parties or found in a grocery store with only a spoonful of flavoring. No, she takes it to a new level with this hummus. She has it mixed with roasted red pepper and chipotle for a nice zing. To top it off, its served with warm seasoned naan bread. The “Brie-Apricot Bites” are another hit. The apricot-rosemary compote gives extreme flavor to the baguette slices. To make it even better, the warm brie and chopped pistachios provide it that little extra “umph” that perfects this starter. The “Soup de Jour” always changes and because this is Gerri’s favorite thing to cook, you know you will not be disappointed with her creation of the day!

Oh and the “Tortured Tomato Crostini” has a cool story behind this starter which makes for an even better taste. While Gerri was finishing her program at Saddleback, her professor

 encouraged her to participate in a chicken dish competition. The competition called for a side of vegetables as well. While Gerri was contemplating this idea, her professor told her that her school had never participated in this and that she would be the first if she so chose. Of course she did, so she and her professor were coming up with vegetable ideas, and she ended up choosing tomatoes.

Not just any tomatoes, but ones that were to be blistered on a skillet. While that sounds all fine and dandy she still had to come up with a presentable menu for her dish and a name. With her close friends at hand with the skills of compiling such a menu her friend fell upon the idea of “Tortured Tomatoes”. How perfect! Thus, began the name of this starter. Oh, and she placed third in the competition! Ah yes, I can’t forget to say what is in this starter. She takes warm tomato confit, ricotta cheese and places them artfully on the crostini. She then tops if off with a balsamic reduction and basil. It’s heavenly.

Lastly is the “Figgy Cheese”. This menu item is a customer favorite and like I said earlier, a chef favorite. She uses rosemary-infused goat cheese and tops it with black Mission figs and fig jam. The crackers pair well with the cheese and provide a wonderful taste.

I hope you find these starters to be mouth-watering and that you will have an idea of which one you want to try the next time you are in. I also hope you found it helpful to get to know our chef a little bit because when your dish arrives, it won’t just be a plate of food, it will be a plate of food that was given some major TLC!

Until then, leave with a fun quote of the day, “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul” ~ Dorothy Day