Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Into the Fire: Mio Vino Wine Bar & Bistro

I spent the afternoon of a half-rainy Saturday in Thacher State Park with my friend Cookie, hiking all over the place, eating hazelnuts we stole from the squirrels, and munching on pears fallen from long forgotten trees. We were feeling sustainable and green, which of course modern superpowers do ALL THE TIME.

And though our feet don't get cold and we don't wear out and we don't fall on slippery rocks and actually admit it, I was sure my mortal friend Cookie was tired and hungry so I suggested we go to Mio Vino Wine Bar & Bistro in nearby Altamont for an early dinner. I offered to send a telepathic message but instead she used her mobile to text Stretch, who met us at the bar just after 5:00. We couldn't get a table, since we didn't have a reservation, but that was fine. The bar area was very comfortable and it wasn't being used as an overcrowded holding pen for people waiting for a regular table. Warm and cozy.

Mio Vino is located on the corner of Main and Maple, across from the old train station in this picturesque rural upstate NY town sited just below the Helderbergs. Really charming. Opened in late 2011, Mio Vino is the only place in Altamont where you can go out and buy a drink.

And the neighbors noticed. This was a yuppie crowd - no beer in sight, a few cocktails, and WINE on every table. I looked through a few walls into the adjoining small dining areas and the same was true throughout. Voted "Best Wine List" in the Capital Region in 2013, Mio Vino has an upscale menu with a sophisticated following away from the low hum of downtown Albany.

When we arrived I noticed the street had the sweet smell of wood smoke - it made me feel really joyful, because I am the Goddess of Fire. I know, whatever. Anyway, their delightful offerings include wood fired pizzas, build your own or order one of the half dozen or so combos, some of which I tried last spring on a Friday night when it's FREE pizza at the bar from 400 to 600 p.m.

We felt relaxed after our afternoon of raw food, ready for something less virtuous. And a drink! Our server introduced himself and so did we - he was very sweet, professional and charming all at once. He messed up my name the first time but I told him he could call me Zena, Goddess of Fire, if that was easier to remember. We ordered a bottle of 2010 Belasco Llama Malbec from Argentina, but were served a 2012 Old Vine, also by Belasco. When I pointed out the difference our server told us that the vintages are subject to change by the purveyors, but I still think patrons should be forewarned. Anyway, the wine was delicious - heady, smooth and fruity. Not much of a deal by the bottle, however - $9/glass or $34/bottle saves you maybe $2 - but nothing to get all fired up about, I guess. We ended up ordering a second bottle of wine between the three of us. A lovely bottle for sure.

The menu isn't long but has a nice range of choices, including small plates, salads, fish, carne (the only part of the menu in Italian, which was kinda funny), sandwiches and pizza. The variety means that just about anyone can get what they want, even just a burger for you burger fans out there. The small plates included Seared Tuna Tacos, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, as well as Danish Pork Ribs and Risotto Cakes. I decided for my main meal to order the mussels ($12) from the small plates section of the menu. They were prepared with garlic, Pinot Grigio, pancetta, fresh basil and tomato in a light cream spinach pesto sauce. This with a few slices of sourdough was, for me, a perfect repast. The mussels (a full pound, I'm guessing) were sweet, incredibly tender (even soft!), garlicky and served nice and hot. Delicious. Not part of our official Doing Dishes tasting series but they could have been. Definitely a contender.

The garlic knots served in the bread basket were divine - warm, cheesy, greasy and truly addictive. By this time I had forgotten about the nuts in the park and concentrated instead on my nutty friends.

Stretch and Cookie both ordered sandwiches, served with a side salad. Stretch had the Curry Chicken Sandwich ($11), a masala spiced chicken with celery, raisins and walnuts in a curried mango chutney mayo between warm naan. She said it was good,  not too spicy (could have been spicier but assumed it was milder to hit more mainstream tastes). The chicken salad, however, was cold - which wasn't bad, it just wasn't expected to be. The menu didn't say anything. Not cool.

Cookie enjoyed the Seared Ahi Tuna Sandwich ($14), made with hoisin-glazed tuna encrusted with black and white sesame seeds on a brioche bun. The bun was dark like a pretzel, shiny, and delicious; the tuna was perfectly seared, still nicely pinky-red in the center, tender and tasty. 

She had been here earlier in the week and ordered a beet salad served with poached pears, gorgonzola and candied walnuts, with the dressing on the side. She and her buddy both thought the salad had a musty taste, and even though they deconstructed the elements and tasted each they couldn't figure out where the funny flavors were coming from. Tonight, the ladies each had a side of Mio Salad (mixed green), served with a house dressing. OK, simple, and guess what? YES, it still tasted musty to both me and Cookie, but Stretch didn't seem to mind the taste. We were wondering if there was some herb in the mesclun mix that wasn't complimenting the flavors overall. Although I am a superpower I apparently am missing some small ability to taste cilantro, so to me it tastes soapy. The mystery remains unsolved on the salad.

By 630 the restaurant was full, including the bar. Some folks were eating, some just having a mixed drink or a glass of wine. The setting is low light (too dark at the bar, though, to read the menu - we used the flashlight apps on our mobile phones to see by [well, I could see it because of my incredible superpowers but my mortal friends needed a bit of illumination and I was happy to use the latest technology to help out]). Open T, W, R, Sunday 500 to 900 pm and F, Sat 500 to 1000 pm this is not a place to rock the night away. The kitchen and staff are focused only on offering a good dinner and a nice glass of wine in a comfortable,welcoming environment and, I think, they have succeeded nicely.

We stayed for a couple of hours and definitely plan to return. Dinner for three was $130 including tax and tip, most of which was wine money well spent. And the waiter even remembered my name (see above ) - very impressive!

Zena Goddess of Fire

PS: Why is there a TV on in the bathroom???? That was definitely weird.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't a chicken salad be cold? That seems kind of obvious to me...