Wine 5 Cafe, A Kenyan retreat in Vegas

Wine 5 Cafe
Wine selection at Wine 5 Cafe

Wine selection at Wine 5 Cafe (courtesy of Wine 5 Cafe)

It was Thursday and we were looking for something different for dinner.  Wine of course needed to be a part of this.  A while ago we had stopped for breakfast at a little café called Wine 5 Café.  It is in an unassuming shopping mall out off of Cheyenne near a Target.  Doesn’t look like much out front, but inside the restaurant is dressed to feel like a French Bistro and the wait staff is very attentive.  We had a nice breakfast and…they had a great dinner menu and we figured we would stop back some time to try it.


Well tonight was the night.  The owner is from Nairobi and has infused the menu with South African flavors.  But…. if you are less adventurous, never fear, there are more accessible items on the menu and they are beautifully done. They have a nice wine list and have a range of South African wines also.  Michael ordered the salmon filet and I went with the Taste of Nairobi, a Chicken Curry and Chapati.  We both ordered a dinner salad which came beautifully arranged with all the extras around the greens on the side, giving a beautiful visual presentation and allowing you to choose what you wanted included you’re your salad.  This was an occasion when the dinner salad came out and it made you sit up and take notice.  Michael’s salmon came beautifully nested on a bed of mashed potatoes and with vegetables cooked a perfect al dente.  The Curry came in a large bowl with 2 full chicken legs in it.  It was delicious and filling and I had enough to take home with me for lunch the next day.  We both opted to pair our dinners with South African wines.  Michael chose a South African Moscato and I went with a Pinotage.  Both were delicious.


Wine 5 Cafe.  Dressed like a charming French Bistro.

Wine 5 Cafe. Dressed like a charming French Bistro.
(courtesy of Wine 5 Cafe)

In addition to being delicious it was incredible affordable.  Entrees run $12 to $20 and wines are around $8 per glass.  The stunningly beautiful dinner salads were only an additional $2 each.  We were so full we skipped dessert, but I want to go back and try Chef Eli’s Signature dessert creation “Papa Nick’s French Nutella”.  This hidden gem is worth the trip!  You can find it at 3250 N. Tenaya Way and they are open at 7 am for breakfast on the weekends.


The Poppy Den – Angelo Sosa’s Eclectic and Amazing Creation

Poppy Den Booth

We are Top Chef watchers here.  Kinda fans of the show.  Enough so that when Kristen was knocked off this past season we went online to complain.  We were not giant fans of Angelo Sosa when he was on top chef in Season 7.  So….going into his restaurant, he did not have a free pass.  We left with a whole new respect for the man.

A friend of mine had recommended the new restaurant “Poppy Den” at Tivoli a month or so ago.  Michael and I actually dropped by to see the menu after our lunch at the View earlier this month. Today, we went back for a late lunch to try it out.

First the hosted was friendly and asked a few more questions than I was used to.  She asked where we would like to sit, booth or table, my first name, my last name…and then walked us to our booth.

Poppy Den Architecture

Poppy Den Architecture

The restaurant is eclectic and beautiful.

White walls with white washed beams, I-beams on the outside walls with spray painted orange and factory numbers, tufted curved booths with lovely white and gray upholstery, clean dark brown wooden tables, mismatched china on the table, painted white branchy chandeliers…orange, dark brown (almost black), with greys and various tones of white….very hip and very well thought out.  So, atmosphere from the top was pretty good.  Then I listened to the music…this could really be my Pandora channel..Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons…I was feeling at home.

April was the afternoon bartender who was doubling as our waitress.  We ordered the PuPu platter which included the Sweet pea soup, Jarred Tuna, Watermelon Salad, Meatballs and fish fritters.  Then we added the Tuna Deviled Eggs and the Tabouleh lettuce wrap with sesame dressing.  Michael ordered the Lunatic White Blend and I was trying to decide between the Justin Sauvignon Blanc and the Zaca Mesa Chardonnay.  April was so kind as to bring me a sample of each so that I could decide.  I went with the Zaca Mesa Chardonnay.  It had just the right amount of oak, balanced with perfect acid.

Poppy Den Devil Tuna & Tabouleh lettuce wrap

Devil Tuna & Tabouleh lettuce wrap

April brought a small dish of kimchi pickles as a gift from the chef to begin.  They were crisp and spicy without being too hot. Then the Tabouleh lettuce wrap with green apple, bean sprouts and bulgar arrived with the Tuna Deviled eggs with scallions, paprika oil and cilantro.  The tabouleh lettuce wrap had the perfect dressing.  The oil was subtle, making the dish softer without adding any heaviness, the acid was low and Michael’s Lunatic white blend paired perfectly.  The Tuna Deviled Eggs was really lovely, chopped raw tuna along side chopped egg whites.  Perfectly seasoned this was stunning with the Chardonnay.

Poppy Den Pupu Platter

Poppy Den Pupu Platter

Then the towering PuPu Platter arrived on a three-tiered tea-tray stand.  The top held two portions each of the sweet pea soup with edamame and basil chilled, and the watermelon salad with goat cheese.  The next level held  2 portions of the Jarred tuna with celery, red onions, scallion and sriracha served with a toasted slice of baguette and the bottom level held two dishes, one with 4 of the Aunt Armen’s fish fritters in a kimchi relish with dill and lemon and the “meatballs and tomato “my style” with basil and parmesan cheese.    The presentation was lovely and we started with the warm dishes before they got cold.

Aunt Carmen’s fish fritters were lovely and paired wonderfully with the Chardonnay.  The levels of aroma’s that opened in my mouth just kept going.  The Meatballs were wonderful with the Lunatic blend, the sweetness paired nicely with the spice in the meatballs.  We moved onto the sweet pea soup, which was wonderful and cooling after the heat of the meatballs.  It paired wonderfully with the Lunatic blend.

Watermelon & Pea Soup

Watermelon & Pea Soup

The Watermelon salad was simple and sublime and went wonderfully with the Lunatic also.  The Jarred tuna was really glorious with both wines in different ways.  Each wine pulled up something different in the dish and highlighted it!

April came back with the desert menu and suggested her favorite the Chips and Ice cream.  She suggested the lemon poppy-seed ice cream.  She had not steered us wrong yet, so we said, of course.  The dish came out and she warned us that the potato chips were hot, right out of the fryer.  Dipping into the lemon poppy-seed ice cream with the warm salty handmade chips was the perfect blend of sweet and salty and was delightful.

Poppy Den Dessert

Poppy Den Dessert

April was finishing downstairs and was heading up to do a second shift at the upstairs bar and invited us up to see it. Up stairs is stunning, with a great 2nd floor view of Tivoli the sun setting, soft sheer drapes on the walls and rich burgundies of the plush rugs the clean crèmes and browns of the other plush seating and a high ceiling the lounge is stunning, the upstairs patio is over the side of the restaurant and with it’s curved seating feels so exclusive.  And they do have a room set up for dinner service upstairs that can be booked for private events.  When we walked upstairs one of the staff members who had passed us downstairs asked how our late lunch was and if now that we were upstairs during happy hour if we would like to have cocktail or sparkling wine?  One of the staff out on the patio said we should see the place on Friday night when the lounge and patio are full and there is a DJ playing.  They were all very proud of the restaurant that they work in.

I have no complaints and you will have to put a hand across my mouth to keep me from gushing.  This was a really wonderful experience, great design, great food and a warm friendly and attentive staff.  If you are in Vegas, don’t miss this place!

Due Forni – So much more than a pizza place

Due Forni Bar

In searching for great places to enjoy wine and food in Vegas you come across plenty of list of “Best Of”.  In a list of “Best Wine Bars” in Vegas I came across a name of an off strip restaurant that I had not heard of.  Due Forni specializes in pizza.  They have 2 special ovens to create Neapolitan and Roman style pizza.  Neapolitan has a soft heavy crust, while Roman is thinner and crisper and cracker like.  So you start with amazing crusts and then add amazing toppings like bufalo mozzarella, prosciutto, black truffle, roasted mushrooms or duck confit…  yeah…this place is awesome.

And…more than pizza they have amazing salads, appetizers and a mozzerella bar.

And…it gets better.  They have a series of Enomatic wine dispensers so you can get over 40 amazing wines by the glass.

And…the music here is upbeat Italian jazz and they have TVs playing classic “spaghetti westerns”.  There is a patio, dining room and bar and great atmosphere.

So on a cool (I’d say cold but those of you on the east coast would just laugh at me) and cloudy early afternoon, we headed out to give this place a try.

Duck Confit pizza in a Neapolitan style

Duck Confit pizza in a Neapolitan style

We headed straight in and sat at the bar.  I find the bar at lunch the place I am going to get the most information about the wines (and I got to stare at all those bottles in the Enomatic machines.  Then we started the process of staring at the menu.  We settled on the Duck Confit pizza in a Neapolitan style.  This pizza is topped with oven roasted duck, bufala mozzarella, fresh spinach, red onions and an over easy baked egg.  Then we turned to Annie at the bar for advice on pairing.  She suggested the Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2009 and the Cavalchina 2009 Bardolina Chiaretto Rose.  Both of these wines come from the Veneto region of Italy, the home of Amarone.  It was really interesting to try the Valpolicella a deep red wine and the rose with the duck.  The Valpolicella had a lighter mouthfeel than I had expected, but the played nicely with the duck adding a richness.  The Rose was really lovely with it, the acid cutting through the fat of the duck and the egg.  So…both were great pairings!  We finished all of that off and then went back to the menu for more.

Semolina Gnocchi

Semolina Gnocchi

We chose to split the Semolina Gnocchi appetizer with smoked nueske’s bacon, peas and black truffle creme.  Michael looked for a Riesling on the menu (his favorite pairing) and chose the SA Prum Blue Slate Kabinette Riesling 2007 (he got to compare it to the SA Prum Essence he tried the other day).  I opted for the Pricipessa by Banfi Gavi 2011.  Again both paired nicely.  The Pricipessa cut through the fat in the gnocchi without simply cleaning my palate.  It mixed and added to the flavor of the gnocchi.

After that we were stuffed, but I look forward to going back and trying the Mozzarella bar and more of their amazing wines!  They offer tastings on the wines at 20% of the glass price.  They also have a selection of beers and list on the menu the option of buying the cooks a beer for a dollar!

Okay…now to geek out on the wines.

Valpolicella is made in the Veneto region of north-east Italy.  It’s signature tart cherry aroma has caused it to be thought of as Italian Beaujolais.  Typically these wines are light bodied and served at room temperature or slightly chilled and often sit at about 11% alcohol.  If they are labeled Valpolicella Superiore they must be aged for at least one year in oak and reach an alcohol level of 12%.

Valpolicella is made of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes.  Corvina is thought of as the best of these grapes and produces wines with more body than is typical of a Valpolicella, when the grape is grown on warmer, well-drained slopes.



The Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2009 is 80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella and 10% Sangiovese all grown in Sant’Ambrogio di Valpoicella on a southeast facing hill. The soil here is chalky and calcareous and the vines are cordon trained and spur-pruned. There are 5,000 vines per hectare and the yield is 10 tons per hectare.  Hand picked in October the grapes are de-stemmed and macerated for 10 days in stainless steel fermenters (I warned you that I was going to geek out on the wines!).  They age this in Slovinian oak for one year.  While this wine is ready to drink now, you can also age it for a number of years.

Bardolina Chiaretto Rose

Bardolina Chiaretto Rose

The Cavalchina 2009 Bardolina Chiaretto Rose comes from the Cavalchina district.  Originally Chiaretto was the by product of the Bardolino Rosso.  This was the run off after maceration with the skins.  The harvest time for the Rosso was meant to keep the wine low acid, which is not ideal for roses.  Now the wines are made separately, with the grapes for the Chiaretto harvested 2 weeks before the Rosso.  There is a 24 hr maceration period followed by clarification and 15-18 days fermentation.  They avoid malolactic fermentation and leave the wine on it’s lees until it is bottled.  This wine has a lovely salmon color.

I gave you a little background on S.A. Prum with the  A Cloudy afternoon at the View  now Michael was getting to compare the SA Prum Blue Slate Kabinette Riesling 2007 with the SA Prum Essence.  This wine is named for the blue slate soil on the very steep slopes where it is grown.

I have been a Banfi fan for a while.  Several years ago I attended a wine pairing dinner where they served all Banfi wines.  It was a great experience and probably kick started me into the more intense love of wine that I have now.  So when Annie suggested the Principessa Gavia I was anxious to try it!

Castello Banfi has it’s winery in the Brunello region of Tuscany.  The vineyard is family-owned and they have sister estates in Piedmont, Vigne Regali and Principessa Gavi.  A bit of interesting history; the company is named after Teodolinda Banfi who was the first lay person ever to head the pope’s household staff.   Her nephew John Mariani, Sr was born in Connecticut in 1895, his father died when he was nine and he, his mother and siblings returned to live with his mother’s sister, Teodolinda. In 1919 John Mariani, Sr. opened Castello Banfi winehouse in New York.

The Principessa Gavi is 100% Cortese.  Cortese di Gavi is grown in the lower Piedmont region of Italy.

Due Forni is getting ready to open another location in Austin Texas.  Austin just doesn’t know how lucky they are!

A Cloudy afternoon at the View (Winebar not the talk show!)

View Bar Tivioli Village

I spent an afternoon with Joey at the View Wine Bar (420 South Rampart Las Vegas at Tivoli Village) awhile ago and shared with you  in my Adventures in Sauvignon Blanc blog. Well today I took Michael along for lunch at The View.  The weather was about the same, cloudy and a little windy, but the view was better because the fountain was full and working (as opposed to dry and filled with men in yellow vests cleaning it!).  The location is a little hard to find, which is why we are talking about it here and giving you directions.  You will find it above Brio at Tivoli Village. To get there, walk past the entrance to Brio and around the corner and look for LV Market!  Enter there and cross through the downstairs bistro and take the stairs to the 2nd floor. Head to the front of the building and relax in the industrial decadence of the “View”.

View from View Bar

View from View Bar

You can see the fountain out the front windows and the mix of industrial architecture with exposed ceilings and ducts and tufted couches and seats with natural woods and wine bottle light fixtures in plumbing pipes is enchanting in my opinion.  My advice is to go on a weekday mid day and sit at the bar.  Joey will be working and she is full of great advice on food and wine.  If you like a little more action, well then hit it in the evenings when Joey tells me the place is hoppin’!

Michael and I strolled up and had a seat at the bar to enjoy the view.  The menu is full of great small plate items so you can order a bunch and enjoy.  We ordered the risotto cakes (which I enjoyed last time) the tuna tartare tacos, the Tivoli wrapped dates and the Gnocchi Gratin.  Michael started with the S.A. Prum, Essence Riesling from Germany and I started with the Cloudline Pinot Noir.  The S.A. Prum is from Mosel, and the Cloudline is a Willamette Valley Pinot.  We both enjoyed the wines and felt both were good food wines.  We tasted with the Tivoli wrapped dates which are dates stuffed with goat cheese and almonds wrapped in prosciutto and  then set in a balsamic reduction.  We moved on to tasting with the Tuna tartare tacos, which were mini hard shell tacos with raw tuna, avocado, fresh lettuce and a little creme fraiche.  Then the gnocchi gratin, which went surprisingly well with the Pinot! The acid cut through beautifully with the cheese and paired nicely with the risotto cakes which are breaded fried squares of risotto topped with grated parmesan and lemon zest.  The lemon zest added a wonderful fragrance!  Michael moved on to an Italian Pinot Grigio called VOGA which again paired great with the food.  We talked about European wines and how they are meant to pair with food which makes them different from many new world wines that are blended to drink alone.  As we moved on to dessert, we settled on the Dark Chocolate Nutella Cake and paired it with the Condundrum Red (which obviously is a whole lot of Zinfandel and a bit of Petite Sirah) and Joey’s favorite (that she let me taste when we walked in) Earthquake Petite Sirah from Lodi.  The Earthquake was beautiful on it’s own while the Conundrum was a little hot.  When paired with the Chocolate Nutella cake, both were stunning!

View Wine Bar Tivioli Village from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.


Click for more Details on the wines


A quick dive into Spanish wines

Julian Serrano at the Aria

I know very little about Spanish wines.  Michael and I concentrate on California wines (heck they are close!) then we venture across the country and sometimes dabble in French, Italian or South American wines.  But Spanish wines?  Well they just don’t often come across my radar.

Last night we were heading out to see a show and as we were going to be at the Aria I decided to look up the fine dining there and see if there was anything we could fit in (both time wise and budget wise).  Well to my happy surprise 3 of the major restaurants at the Aria offer early bird tasting menus with optional wine pairings!  We settled on Julian Serrano and headed in to enjoy some Spanish Tapas.  The tasting menu is a great deal with an appetizer, entrée and desert for $39 with optional wine pairings for $19.  Michael and I both chose the lobster gazpacho for the appetizer that was served with a Marques de Riscal Rueda 2011.

Marques de Riscal Rueda 2011is a verdejo  & viura blend both grown in the town of  Rueda in the province of Valladolid.

Marques de Riscal Rueda 2011

So…time to research this wine!  Marque de Riscal wine cellars and Vegas have something in common and that is the Canadian Architect Frank O. Gehry.  Gehry designed the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, a Cleveland Clinic Alzheimer research center.  Gehry who had never wanted to design for Vegas agreed to do the design only after Ruvo increased the research mandate to include Huntington’s disease that he had long been championing.  In Marques de Riscal they have created the City of Wine designed also by Ghery.  This design encompasses the 43-room luxury hotel and the complex as a whole is devoted to making caring and studying wine.  At the heart of the City of Wine is the cellars of Marque de Riscal dating from 1858.  The entire complex is located in the renowned Vinos de los Herederos del Marques de Riscal’s Vineyard in the medieval village of Elciego.  So much for the place…onto the grapes

Verdejo is an indigenous grape to Spain.  It is native to Rueda in the Northwest part of Spain and is now the country’s principal white grape variety.  In the past verdejo was prone to early oxidation but due to cold fermentation and night harvesting as well as the use of an inert gas blanket this has been for the most part corrected.  It is often compared to ta Sauvignon Blanc (a tart one, for my opinion) or a Pinot Gris.The blending grape viura is often known as Macabeo in Northern Spain.  This is the most popular grape in northern Spain.  They also grow this in southern France mostly Languedoc where it is typically blended with Grenache Blanc.

Julian Serrano lobster gazpacho

Now to the tasting.  For me this wine was very tart, similar to a Sauvignon Blanc.  I got lemons and grass on the nose and on the palate it did have a slight oily viscosity, which took the extra bite out of the acidity.  This paired with the lobster gazpacho.  The gazpacho came with what looked to be a bon bon in the spoon with the lobster claw meat and tiny-diced peppers, cucumbers and micro greens beautifully arranged in the bottom of the bowl.  Our server said the chef suggested eating the bon bon in one bite as it was filled with gazpacho also.  He then poured about one third of the individual carafe of smooth pureed tomato gazpacho over the bowl.  The bon bon (which I think was an infused oil or fat frozen in a ball around the gazpacho) burst in my mouth and was a joyous way to start our meal.  The gazpacho was smooth with the bits of pepper and perfectly cook lobster claw meat.  The carafe allowed me to refill my bowl twice more, making the experience continue.  I found the gazpacho delicious with layered flavors from added infused oils.  The wine was a bit to acidic for me as an accompaniment, but…I am a bit of a wuss with tart wines.

Hecula 2005 Monastrell

Next on the menu was the entrée.  Michael chose the fish of the day, which was a salmon on a bed of spinach, and I chose the crispy chicken breast roulade with sautéed potatoes pork chorizo and roasted red peppers.  The wine with the main course was 2005 Bodegas Castano Hecula Monastrell Yecla  (yeah could you say that again in English?)  Okay, Mouvedre.  That’s how you say it in French at least.  Monastrell is it’s Spanish version.  This grape is thought to originate in Spain although now it is grown all over.   The wine region here is Yecla, which is a DO within the Murcia province of Spain.  They are surrounded by Almansa to the north, Alicante on the east and the Jumilla DO in the south and west.  Monastrell is traditionally enjoyed young but barrel aged styles are increasing as the importance of quality increases.  This wine received a 90 from Tanzer.  The wine is 100% Monastrell from the valley.  It is fermented in steel tanks with a soft maceration of skins.  It is aged in French and American Barrels for 3 to 6 months after malolactic fermentation.  This is a wine that should age beautifully (thank goodness as this was a 2005!).  It is inky violet with lots of deep dark fruit.  The mouth feel was lighter (felt more like a Pinot in my mouth) Good tannins with a little smoked meat.  We both enjoyed this wine very much on its own.

Julian Serrano Crispy Chicken Roulade

Now with the crispy chicken…first this chicken was the most moist breast meat I have ever had.  It was rich and succulent and it paired gloriously with the Monastrell.  The acid in the wine cut through the fat in the chicken and was heaven in my mouth. (Michael agreed on his forkful).  The dish itself was lovely with the heft of the sautéed potatoes the bright richness of the roasted peppers and the heat and spice of the chorizo under the chicken.  And…it was served with garlic foam.  This was heaven.  I giggled whenever I took a bite of the foam.  The foam explodes in your mouth and you are left with guilty garlic breath.  This dish was sooo good and sooo rich that I only at half and was feeling quite stuffed and concerned about my upcoming desert.

Julian Serrano Molten Chocolate cake with blood orange sorbet

For dessert we both chose the molten chocolate cake with orange jelly and blood orange sorbet.  Okay, I mean regardless of what other heaven is on the desert menu…molten chocolate cake and blood orange sorbet?  How can you pass that up?  No…it’s not very Spanish, but it was simply (as Spanish cuisine likes to be) and delicious.  The pairing for this course was a Taylor Fladgate 10 year old tawny port.

Taylor Fladgate 10 year old Tawny Port

This port is a port blend red and of course while not Spanish it’s from Portugal, which is pretty close by.  To make a Red port wines multiple varieties of grapes are blended together.  What’s the secret, you say?  Tell us the blend, you say.  Well it’s not like they are trying to keep it a secret.  While everyone else was worried about varieties they were just growing grapes and making port!  There are growers in Douro that quite honestly don’t know what is growing in their vineyards.  Call it a field blend! (I am actually a big fan of field blends…maybe I am just picturing myself in a field of wild flowers?…whatever…I like them!).  Now while it says 10-year-old port…that is really just an average.  Each port is a proprietary blend of multiple vintages.  If by chance the bottle you pick up reads reserve or reserve on the label that would tell you that it spent at least 7 years in barrel before they released it.

So…this was a lovely port.  It warmed me up and that overly full feeling from the very rich chicken (which dammit I couldn’t pack up to take home since we were headed for a show.) dissipated.  When the desert arrived it was everything I hoped for. The perfect proportions, small but filling.  When you had a bite of the chocolate cake with a bit of the blood orange sorbet together it was really wonderful.  The richness of the cake with the acid and gentle tartness of the sorbet, and then a sip of the port…yeah, I left there a happy woman.  And…the restaurant is beautiful, it is bright and bold and engaging without being loud.  I especially loved the trees (yes I know…I’m a sucker for trees).  All in all a lovely experience and one I would recommend.  Next we will have to try the tasting menus at Sage and American Fish!