Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Kid In Town - A Girl's Night out at Bar'Lees

There has been a new round of new restaurants in town and I'm having trouble keeping up.  Some of these places have opened with little to no fanfare and have no websites.  It's hard to dig up any information on them.  I still want to try them all eventually if I can just encourage Sir Pickypants to take a risk and try a  new place.

Bar'Lees, a new wine bar has had a long strange trip to opening.  When the small home furnishings store that was there previously moved into a larger space two years ago (yes, two years ago), I began seeing paper on the windows and signs announcing Montage Wine and Whiskey Bar.  It looked like a nice space for that type of establishment (even though it was a puppy store before it was a furniture store) and I liked the idea of a wine bar in town.  It is located right on the corner of the block where I live.  I could stop by for a glass on the way home from a stressful day.  I could take a visiting friend there.  The small plates would be perfect for those nights when Kevin and I wanted to go out, but didn't want a heavy meal. 

I waited and waited for it to open, but it never did.  The sign came down.  Occasionally I would see new building permits go up, and even see a flyer containing a website (although the site really had nothing on it of value about the place).  Then over a year ago I saw another flyer for Montage on the window.  This time it announced a fall opening and that announcement was crossed out and replaced with a new one that said it would open in the spring.  There were few signs of a spring opening.  I only began to see more movement inside during the summer.  During the weeks I was unemployed I did noticed some workmen in there in the daytime.  Something was happening.

Finally in the fall new signs went up.  They no longer announced Montage, but instead announced Bar'Lees Wine, Whisky, and Food.  I'm told Bar'Lees means "time out" in Australia.  They had few indications they would open any time soon, but at least they began doing things like putting flower pots outside the building during the daytime.

 In the last month I finally began seeing indications of life from behind the shaded windows.  I could see through the glass front door that a bar had been constructed and tables had been delivered.  In the evenings people (presumably the owners) congregated with glasses of wine.

Finally, one day it happened.  They announced their official opening on December 13th.  It went on my list of new places to try in town.  (We're up to three, possibly four right now.  I say possibly four because one of them I'm willing to try, but I'm not sure it looks that great, so I'm not in any hurry to do so.)

I finally had my chance this week.  One of the unfortunate effects of our respective schedules is that Kevin and I are sometimes two ships that pass in the night.  He works very late.  I am often out taking my classes or attending theater group meetings or rehearsals in the evenings.  The nights I'm home I will cook dinner for him, but will sit for a long evening waiting for him to come home and eat it.  I was chatting with my sister-in-law recently about how lonely the evenings can be while I wait for him to come home. She suggested I have dinner with her and my nephew one night so I wouldn't have to wait to eat, I would have company, and I could take home a meal for him so he would still have something to eat when he came home. 

At first I suggested we go to 360 since it's teenager-friendly.  However, my nephew decided he didn't want to be always hanging out with his mother (since they moved into town recently and don't know anyone but Kevin and me and my family, I think she is a bit too reliant on his company) and wanted to just stay home and chill by himself for an evening.  We decided it would be the perfect night to try Bar'Lees.  We invited my mother to join us as well.

When I arrived Mom and SIL were already there and seated.  The owner, Colin, had taken my seat while they waited for me.  He had talked to them for a while about the history of the place.  He came from Australia in the middle of a terrible drought and arrived in New York in time for a nor'easter.  He claims it took so long to open the place because he is a perfectionist and wanted to do it right.  Considering the name change, I suspect there is more to the story than that.  He seems like a very nice guy and it was a nice way to welcome new customers.  The place had been open less than a week, so he said it was the "First Tuesday" for the bar.

Decor is pretty typical of wine bars.  It's very comfortable and lounge-y.

All three of us tried different wines.  I drank a blended white.  Mom drank the strangest Riesling I ever tasted. 

As with most wine bars, the food was somewhat limited.  There was a selection of appetizer/snack foods, salads, and sandwiches.  SIL and I decided to split a cheese plate.  I was a doodyhead and neglected to take a photo of it.  We tried a pecorino, a Humboldt fog goat cheese, and a semi-soft cheese whose name I can't remember.  We had that with slices of pate` de campagne and smoked duck.  Mom had a crab and avocado salad.

We finished the evening by sharing some bourbon bread pudding.  I like the fact that they served it warm.

Eventually Kevin came home (the place is on the way when we walk home from the train station after work).  I flagged him down and dragged him inside to join us. He had a crab and avocado salad and a Riesling  himself.   We must have spent a grand total of 3 hours in the place.  Even though the bar was filling up, no one rushed us out.  It was a very pleasant leisurely evening.

The have a tasting room downstairs.  Colin said he would show it to us, but we never got around to it.  I wish I had been able to get a picture.

This is a great place for a light dinner or just to relax after work with a glass of wine.  I can imagine taking friends here when they visit.

So far Bar'Lees seems like a great addition to the neighborhood.  As a drinking establishment it's a cut above Molly Spillane's.

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