Time to Un-Wine(d) & Dine at this Top Restaurant in Rochester, NY

Do not let the location of this restaurant fool you. Set on the corner of a building along Monroe Ave in Rochester, NY, Avvino is simply jaw-dropping the second you walk in. Dim the lights, light the candles, cue the endless wall of wine bottles and prepare yourself for the best night out in Rochester that you have had in a while. Oh, you think I’m exaggerating? Well….take a look for yourself:

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The main dining room, accentuated by beautiful drawings, warm lighting, wine bottles and elegant dinnerware.

I am the type of person that is captivated by the “vibe” of a place from the start. A warm, comforting and friendly environment upon arriving immediately left me knowing that I would enjoy Avvino in almost every sense. And then, I saw it: The Wall of Wine. Say no more, Avvino. You have my heart.

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Avvino comes from the wine term “Avvinare,” the traditional European practice of priming stemware and decanters for proper wine service.

Avvino, which opened in 2013 is owned by Janine Wasley, who has worked in the restaurant/food & wine business for many years. With a wide variety of contemporary American cuisine and remarkable comfort food with Italian and French inspiration, this restaurant entails an impressive menu under the cooking of Chef Tim Caschette.

Many of the dishes showcase the restaurant’s relations with many local farmers and purveyors. Take my starter for example:

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Jodi’s Farm Fresh Egg – Soft Poached Egg, Turkey Liver Pate, Red Wine & Cherry Caramelized Onions, Sourdough Crisps

As a breakfast enthusiast myself, a farm fresh poached egg appetizer was basically like having dessert before the main course. This item on the menu varies daily, depending on how Chef Caschette decides to prepare the market fresh egg for the day.

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This starter could not have been more perfect in terms of flavor combinations. The turkey liver pate dipped in the poached egg yolk was rich with savory accents and accompanied by the sweet taste of cherry and red wine caramelized onions. I was immediately enticed to know what was to follow.

Now, I shall note that Bex LOVES a spicy flavor to just about anything. So, this next starter just about kicked it out of the ballpark:

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Fried Oysters – Vindaloo Mayo, Cilantro chutney, black sesame

The first time I had oysters, believe it or not, was this past summer at an oyster bar in Washington, D.C. But a fried oyster? With a spicy vindaloo mayo and cilantro chutney? You must be kidding. If you are up for a fiercely flavorful appetizer, you will not regret ordering this bad boy for one second.

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I guess it was just so good that I had to take a pic of it on Avvino’s beautiful china as well. Colorful paisley designs truly seem to embody Avvino’s unique essence. I mean, just look at that appetizer plate?

Now, my waiter, Zach, wasn’t sure if I would have mush-room left for all the dishes they had lined up for the evening but I assured him that I was determined to eat every last bite. One of my biggest pet peeves is leaving food on a plate, thus I always finish everything. But perhaps this evening would prove to be a different situation…

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Mushroom Tart-Wild Mushrooms, Swiss Chard, Gruyere, Gem Lettuce

The next starter was yet again, unbelievable. This warm mushroom tart was rich with a deep cheesy taste and is the perfect-size for a table of two. Split it in half atop some fresh greens and beets, and pair with a glass of wine from Janine’s carefully chosen list with over 200 selections. Your night will be off to a great start.

The next starter for the evening was one that I was the most excited about:

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Charred Octopus – Greek Yogurt Polenta, Artichoke, Squid Ink Crumble

I mentioned to Janine over email prior to meeting her in person that I love being adventurous when it comes to cuisine and that I am also the least picky eater on this planet. So, when I arrived to the restaurant and was told that she already planned out the evening courses for me…I was pretty eager to see what she chose from the online menu that I took a glance at.

Drumroll please for the next dish of the evening, Avvino’s house made pasta:

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Spinach Lasagna – Braised Short Rib, Black Truffle, Foie Bechamel, Parmesan

I have to admit that if I had my pick, I rarely choose a pasta dish off of a menu. But this spinach lasagna may have changed that Bex tendency. Moist braised short rib with sultry foie bechamel and parmesan and…no…you can’t be serious…black truffle?! This combination of flavors, seasonings and textures is too good to be true. If you don’t think you are a huge fan of lasagna or pasta now…just wait until you try this dish of heaven.

So by now, Bex’s stomach was thinking, Man, I am pretty satisfied right now, my friend thus you should probably chill out. But, could I eat more? Yes. Have I even reached the main courses yet? No. Am I prepared to lay on the couch in a food coma as soon as I get home? Yes. 

The first main course really exceeded my expectations:

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Fried 1/2 Chicken – Boneless Beau Teed Farms Organic Chicken, Sorghum Glaze, Creamy Grits, Cabbage Slaw

I am not one to really dive into fried foods very often but it only took one bite in for me to realize that this organic chicken was fried to perfection and simply to die for. I cannot explain how this dish was unlike any other “fried” dish I have ever had, but it was just exquisite. The chicken was extremely fresh and the way that Chef Caschette prepared it was light and simple with a cabbage slaw and creamy grits drizzled with sorghum glaze. If you are looking for a larger and filling dish then this is definitely a winner.

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Next up for the evening…wait a minute…am I still eating dinner? Because Bex spies an egg…on top of…a doughnut? Get out of town, Avvino. You really know how to knock my socks off.

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The Maker – House Brined & Smoked Ham, Gruyere Cheese, Whole Grain Mustard & Fried Egg on Maker’s Studio Doughnut

Nothing really sounds any better than a freshly baked doughnut, right? And who would think to pair the sweet soft pastry with warm smoked ham and a whole grain mustard with just the right kick to it? None other than Chef Caschette himself. What a combo. If you are in the mood for an incredible breakfast for dinner, then prepare to really “meet your maker.”

I think Zach must have been joking when he asked me if I had room for dessert. Of course, I did not have room for dessert…but that didn’t stop me from inquiring what the options were and then struggling to decide which to choose, as if it even made logical sense for me to eat more food after what I had already eaten.

After choosing what sounded like the perfect choice to me- the almond meal cake – I was able to go back into the kitchen and watch as they prepared this delightful treat.

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To start, Sean took two pieces of almond loaf and with a circular cookie cutter, cut the pieces for a more sophisticated presentation.
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Ooo! Fancy!
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Next up comes warm bosc pear & ground cherry compote carefully spooned along the almond meal cake.
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A cardamom yogurt whipped cream and some toffee brittle on the side and here we have a great presentation to say the least.
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Almond Meal Cake – Bosc Pear & Ground Cherry Compote, Cardamom Yogurt Whipped Cream

I hope your eyes are hungry right now because I am surely reliving this night while writing this blog post. Give yourself, your friends and your family an early Christmas gift and pop over to Avvino for an extraordinary evening. After all, tomorrow marks December 1st and the “25 Days of Christmas Countdown” shall begin. What better way to start off the best month of the year, eh? 

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