13.5% Wine Bar makes a mean chocolate tart; shies from large portions

By Alex Barbera , GEORGINA RUPP and GEORGINA RUPP and ALEXANDRA BARBERA | March 14, 2013

When in the midst of Hopkins’s midterms, we firmly believe that one great meal off campus is as essential to your survival as the copious large black coffees that we swear by on campus. So, we elected to treat ourselves to 13.5% Wine Bar in Hampden. 13.5%. Not 13.1%! THIS IS NOT A HALF MARATHON! Although running one before your meal might help you work up a healthy appetite. (Kidding! Be forewarned: the portions are small.) By the end of the night we even heard our neighbors calling it “13.wine percent!”

13.5% Wine Bar is exactly the “comfortable lounge” they advertise it to be. Most tables have swiveling, cushioned chairs with armrests, making it an extraordinary environment to eat as much food as you possibly can (that is, after all, what we do best). There is also the option of sitting at the bar, which is more casual and social than the individual tables. No matter where you sit in the restaurant, you are bound to catch a glimpse of the impressive wine wall, which is there to constantly remind customers that if there is not wine on the table, your meal is not complete. All of our neighbors took advantage of 13.5%’s extensive collection and had (at least) one glass of wine per guest on the table.

But moving on to more important things: the grub that we foodies live for.

After some recommendations from our knowledgeable waiter, Harold, we decided to share the snack-portioned Roasted Cauliflower, the Roasted Mushroom Pizza and the Cod entrée. To our surprise, each dish came to the table at the same time. Ordinarily, we would be rather disoriented by this unusual order of things, but the cauliflower, pizza and cod were very interesting to compare simultaneously. Every flavor was fresh in our minds so that our comparisons were honest and not affected by our faulty memories.

The purple and white cauliflower, prepared with grana padano, lemon zest and parsley, was true to snack size and came in a small ceramic cup. The flavors of cauliflower were matched well, but do note that it was lightly cooked, so your enjoyment of the dish really depends on your personal preferences. We both enjoyed this small appetizer, but were not blown away.

The roasted mushroom pizza, prepared with ricotta cheese and arugula pistou (arugula spread), was a bit smaller and thinner crusted than we anticipated. While the presentation was very gourmet, the taste seemed lackluster. The textures were all there but we expected the flavor of the mushrooms to be much stronger.

The cod, which came on a bed of spinach, potatoes and shrimp, was exactly the type of dish we ventured to Hampden for. The fish was so tender and was perfectly complemented by the ingredients supporting it. After we each finished our halves, we found ourselves wanting more! This dish, like the others, was also on the smaller side, but this one was packed with flavor.

Following our meal, we, of course saved room for dessert — who wouldn’t?! We swear that secret dessert compartment that our moms always told us we had when we were little really exists.... A word to the wise: always leave room for dessert when you’re dining with Georgina and Alex!

We poured over the menu for a few moments but were able to pick our poison fairly quickly.

We immediately decided on the Dark Chocolate Tart with milk caramel and a toasted almond crust. We knew that dense chocolate was what we were craving. But we struggled to decide on our second dessert, so we asked Harold to advise between the Oatmeal Stout Cake with red pear butter and whipped cream and the Sweet Potato Cake served with cinnamon ice cream and bourbon caramel. Harold recommended the Oatmeal Stout Cake, a more unique and flavorful option, he said.

We ordered the tart and the stout cake to share between the two of us, partly because we couldn’t decide but partly because we were still hungry after our dainty entrée portions. When Harold appeared later, dish in hand, we were thrilled and then disappointed to notice he had brought only the stout cake. Maybe he’s bringing them in two parts, we assured ourselves as we demolished the cake. The cake was packed with oats, lending it rich flavor but making it very dense. A small bite of the cake paired with a dollop of the red pear butter was good, but overall the cake was slightly too chewy for us.

That said, we seemed to have no problem cleaning our plate. By this time, to our dismay, our tart had not been delivered.

“But Harold, we ordered two desserts, not one! @#$%&!” We cried.

Fortunately he quickly returned with the chocolate tart in hand, and we’re glad he did because this tart was pheNOMenal! The crust was flavorful, buttery, and crumbly, a graham cracker crust consistency. The filling was thick and rich with a heavenly fudge consistency.

As our momentum slowed, we began to enter a blissful food coma, yet we were determined to eat all that was left of this chocolate dream on a fork. As we ate our last few bites of pure decadence, we chatted with our friends Schmalex and Schmorschmeena at the table next to ours.

They assured us that the chocolate tart, as good as it is on its own, is even better with a wine from 13.5%’s wide selection. They, too, had enjoyed this Dark Chocolate delight moments earlier. Schmalex had paired it with a sparkling white dessert wine, and Schmorschmeena had sipped the Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley, Washington between morsels of tart.

All in all, be aware of the small portions, ask about the specials, and we truly insist that you ORDER THE CHOCOLATE TART-- IT’S DIVINE.

 

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