Ahhh, the birthday dinner at the expensive tapas restaurant. You want to be a good friend and participate, but you know – you just KNOW – you’re getting fucked on the bill. Woe is the friend who arrives a little late to the event, orders a glass of wine and an entree, and then when the bill comes some schmuck at the table has the temerity to say “let’s just divide this up equally, OK?” Suddenly you’re thinking you should have had the Beluga-stuffed coelacanth glazed in real gold. Confession: this time, I was the schmuck. We’ve been to enough of these events that we brace ourselves for the bill and make sure that since we’re getting reamed on the bill anyway we might as well lube up and enjoy the ride. The wine flights are a unique treat – trios of wine served in two ounce glasses. The choices are lovely and I had a hard time choosing from many tempting combos. Some years ago my father introduced me to the virtues of the Rhone Rangers, so I went with flight 14, Wines of the Rhone Valley. For $24 this was an outstanding choice. There was an outrageously bold wine that apparently is the closest thing you can get to a chataeneuf de pape for less than a house. My wife had the World of Whites which featured an Austrian wine that was incredibly savory and peppery. Smelled weird, but was one of the most unique whites we’ve ever had. We were cautioned against the polenta, but the square that came with the pulled pork was super tasty though a little too buttery. The pork, however, was pretty much the best pig candy ever. The fig poppers were delicious but a little rich. Share this one amongst your table. My one real complaint is over the cheese plate. A sampling of domestic cheeses. Totally not worth it. The chevre wasn’t nearly bold enough, the cheddar tasted like something from Albertsons, and the blue didn’t burn one whit. Remember, “domestic cheese” is just another way of saying “American cheese”, a substance lacking in both flavor, culture, and taste, homogenized to death. Vertical Wine Bistro understands the best wine comes from surrender monkeys, they should look east for the cheese, too. It’s a fun experience, but if you go with a group make sure you order a lot so when the bill does arrive you can at least feel like you got your Benjamin’s worth.
(626) 795-3999, 70 N Raymond Ave, Pasadena (upstairs)