You may have heard these names mentioned among your fellow foodies and winos. Now you owe it to yourself to find out what this whole Menage a Trois/Wine Deli business is all about.
More than three months have passed since Fernando Elizande opened Adobe Wine Deli and Menage a Trois restaurant. This cozy little establishment is tucked away in the corner of St. Phillip's Plaza, just off Campbell Avenue. His new wine and deli concept is a welcome addition to Northwest Tucson.
The wine deli side of things is simple: A large deli case is filled with more than 30 cheeses. There are daily selections of specialty salads and desserts for take out. One wall of the deli is covered in wine corks and shelved with gourmet goodies like dried spices, spreads and crackers. Connecting the deli and restaurant is a little glass room packed with wine from floor to ceiling. I was informed that all of the wines are available for retail, and can also be purchased then opened in the restaurant for a 15 percent corkage fee. All of the wines are pretty reasonably priced, so the corkage fee won't set you back much.
In the next room, you'll find Menage a Trois, a tiny restaurant with maybe six tables inside and a small bar top where you can eat and drink. There is also seating available on their patio if you're looking to impress your date by sweating all night. When the place is packed (and it does get packed), it's a fun wine buzz atmosphere. And when there are only two other people in the restaurant, it's even better: You have plenty of time to talk wine with Christof, one of the servers in the wine bar. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about wines. I know that smelling the cork won't tell you much about the wine, and that white zinfandel is neither white nor zinfandel. But Christof really blew us away. He knows the vineyards and the winemakers, and most of all, he's honest. If there is a wine that he believes you'll like even more than what you order, he doesn't hesitate to let you try it.
On our first visit, we started the evening with glasses of the Testarossa chardonnay ($11.50) and the Steele chardonnay ($9.75). Both wines paired nicely with the smoked salmon appetizer ($5.95). It was a small portion of smoked salmon drizzled with crème fraiche, topped with capers and sweet red onions and served with tiny toasts. It was your typical smoked salmon appetizer. The venison pate ($6.95), however, had a little more pizzazz due to the spicy mustards served alongside the pate with sweet baby pickles.
These starters went quickly, so we decided to sample the cheese plate. Listed on the back of the menu is a full page of cheeses to choose from. They vary in price from $8.95-$16.95, and this allows you to create your own plate. We opted for a rich and veiny Spanish blue cheese and complimented it with another Spanish cheese, manchego. The cheese was a cross between parmesan and sharp cheddar and it was perfectly paired with an Australian, Cassegrain sauvignon blanc.
At this point, there was just no room for entrées, yet we managed to choke down a couple more glasses of wine. The Rombauer zinfandel ($12.75) was sweet and spicy enough to serve as dessert, and the David Bruce pinot noir ($8.75) was a light and juicy finish to the meal. We left the restaurant that night anxious to return.
About two weeks later, we were able to make it back for entrées. I was a bit disappointed to find that Christof was not our server that night, but I wasn't going to let it ruin the evening. Maggie was pleasant and attentive throughout our dinner. Our plans of returning only for entrées were quickly changed when she informed us of the smoked trout appetizer ($5.95). Two decent-sized pieces of smoked trout were served with a whipped pear mascarpone cheese, definitely a unique pair of flavors. We couldn't stop there so we decided to split the spinach salad ($6.45). It was an overall disappointment with wilted spinach and a tasteless dressing. The cranberry English cheese was the best part, with only a minimal amount of that to be found. Of course, I couldn't let a little wilted spinach bring me down; we were looking forward to the entrées that we came for.
I ordered the New York steak ($20.95) topped with habanero cheese and roasted bell peppers. It came out looking pretty plain, accompanied by green beans (minus the salt) and black beans with a bit of crème fraiche. The steak proved to be very flavorful and tender; it was cooked perfectly medium rare. The creamy habanero cheese that was melted on top added a hint of spice to every bite. Jeff's swordfish (before anyone freaks out, it's not the endangered kind) was delicious. The swordfish ($18.95) was topped with a fresh, chunky jicama salsa and a zesty cilantro cream sauce. I was pleased to find the fish perfectly cooked, still moist and delicious. It was served with sautéed spinach (minus the salt) and sundried tomato mashed potatoes. A little more seasoning would have helped both plates.
Overall, everything that evening was wonderful, but just to be sure, I had to sample a piece of their chocolate chip cheesecake. It was a large piece sprinkled with Oreo cookie crumbs. A little dry for my taste, but it did the trick. It was another successful visit to the Adobe Wine Deli and Menage a Trois.
"Bravo!" to Fernando. You've got a good thing going. As for Christof and Maggie, keep up the good work. And to those of you who have yet to visit Menage a Trois, give it a shot. It's always fun to try something new.