Cork Wine Pub

Cork Wine Pub – Pleasant Ridge, Michigan

April 2011

Two leisurely hours, five inspired courses, and a couple glasses of unique wines were enough to convince my friend Julie and me that we found something quite special. The staff was warm and knowledgeable, patient in spite of being peppered by questions about the menu or requests for suggestions. The atmosphere was hip and bustling, even for a Tuesday night. Make reservations if you go!

The menu is broken down into five categories…literally “first, second, third, fourth, fifth.”

The first section is “snacks.” Of course, it’s a pub! And yes, the cocktail menu is ridiculous. But, we stuck to wines. We’ll do cocktails another time.

After hemming and hawing over what we wanted to start with, our server suggested the Sylvan Ave Spreads, which was her personal daily choice for dinner. House-made breads and crackers were divine with the herbed goat cheese, white bean spread, and eggplant pate. I’m not normally a fan of eggplant, I’ve tried it many times prepared in a variety of ways, but never could develop an appreciation for it. I’m glad I am the kind of gal to never give up on a food. This stuff was delicious! Tangy and sweet, it was fantastic smeared onto the bread with the goat cheese.

Jules and I shared a Brick Roll for the second course. I wish she would have gotten her own because this was the best thing we ordered all night. Finely chopped wild mushrooms mixed with goat cheese (for the record, I believe goat cheese can save the world) and sweet caramelized onions are wrapped in a crispy shell and served with a mustard sauce. This dish will single-handedly bring me back to Cork.

As for the wines we had with the first courses, Jules had the Delille “Doyenne” rousanne which neither of us had ever tried and was absolutely mouthwatering. With a bit of trepidation I ordered the Stuhlmuller chardonnay from California because our server highly recommended it. I’m not fond the overly oaky aroma and taste of some California chardonnays, but this one was perfectly balanced for me. It was wonderful, especially with the Brick Roll.

Next came the salad course, and since we couldn’t make a choice, we got two to share. Our goal was to venture outside the norm, so we decided to forgo the traditional “green” salads and go with funkier options. I ordered the roasted beets and she the smoked fish.

The beet salad was served with blue cheese crumbles, garlic, and browned butter vinaigrette. The proportion of heavy salad over a token amount of spinach underneath was way off. The salad would have been better if there was more of the green and less of the beets and blue cheese. The vinaigrette was too heavy on fat; it needed a little more acidity. I love the earthy…okay, dirt…and sweet taste of beets, and pungent blue cheese, but this dish was too much of a good thing.

The smoked fish salad, topped with pickled fennel and served with super thin sesame crackers was the better salad. Pickled fennel was lovely and unexpected. We assumed it was the chef’s twist on the staple pickled ginger with sushi garnish. The arugula added a nice freshness necessary against the smoky flavor of the fish.

You would think after three courses, we would be ready to call for the bill. Not us! We soldiered on; confident we could take on the fourth, main, course and have plenty of room for dessert.

Here is where we really parted ways, as diners that is. I knew from the time I got the menu in my hands I was going to get the duck. Jules was torn between two loves…pork and salmon. In the end she went with the pork. She is a phenomenal cook, salmon being one of her specialties, so she would save that for dinner at home.

Duck Devonshire, crispy-skinned and perfectly pink inside, was served with roasted carrots and parsnips over quinoa and date chutney. The vegetables were perfectly tender but still had a fresh bite to them and were nicely glazed. Quinoa is one of my favorite side dishes. But, on its own it is bland. It needs something to jazz it up. The quinoa under my duck was unadorned, unseasoned, and resting on top of the chutney creating a barrier between the meat and the sauce. The taste was fine eaten all together, but it was unappealing to look at. I enjoyed the Chateau d’Angudet margaux from France with the duck.

Across the table, Jules was having what she affectionately referred to as a “pork experience.” Her pork tenderloin was sensational! Nicely pink inside and served with beautiful braised red cabbage and tiny, crispy spatzel on a mustard sauce. Wonderful! Jules went with the Domaine Daulny sancerre and was quite happy with the combination.

Dessert. We had come too far to skip it now.

I read somewhere that said their butterscotch pudding was a signature dish; they actually put Scotch in the recipe, so I definitely had to have that. It was served in a coffee mug with a bitter toffee sauce on top and a small gingerbread cake on the side. Looks simple on the plate, but the flavor is complex and grown-up. I had the café gourmande, organic Sumatra dark roast coffee and was sufficiently awake by the bottom of the cup!

Jules, because she said she was feeling “nutty,” went with the maple cashew tart. The curry anglaise was an interesting addition to the tender little pastry as was the smooth honey-cinnamon ganache. An eclectic mix of flavors that worked remarkably well together.

I look forward to bringing more of my food-crazed friends with me to Cork so they can experience the innovative food, the extensive wine list, and the warm atmosphere of this new little neighborhood gem. And I will start all over, ordering five dishes from the menu I haven’t tried yet.
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