Because my life is such a jet-setting frenzy of travel to international hotspots and hobnobbing with the famous & fabulous, I was recently able, in the course of only a week, to check out not one but two good new wine bars. One is in Manhattan; I took the subway. The other is in Houston; I took JetBlue. Man, am I living the high life or what?
First up, the Blue Ribbon Downing Street Wine Bar, which despite its lengthy name is about the size of your average NY studio apartment. This latest venture from the ever-successful Bromberg brothers continues a mini-trend of tiny restaurants with wood walls (Avec in Chicago, Momofuku Ssäm Bar in NYC), giving it a kind of retro-hip-rec-room feel. The wine list is adventurous and smart, and while it's not exactly inexpensive, if you choose well you won't be too horrified when the check comes your way. Highlights were a brisk 2006 Commanderie de Peyrassol Rosé from Provence ($10) and a lush, biscuity, utterly delicious Charles Ellner Cuvée de Réserve Brut Champagne ($42 for a half-bottle, and worth it). For noshing, get the aptly-named rillettes toast—which is house-made pork rillettes on toast. What's to argue with there? No website yet (grr), but here's the vital info:
Blue Ribbon Downing Street Wine Bar
34 Downing St., New York (btwn Bedford & Varick)
5pm – 2am
OK. After hopping the jet to Houston and renting my fabulous slasher-movie-red Pontiac Sebring from the fine folks at Thrifty Car Rental—James Bond has nothing on me—I headed over to 13 Celsius, a new wine bar in the near reaches of downtown. (In fact, it's located on Caroline St., once home to the only punk club that would let me and my brother's mindbendingly godawful band onto a stage; ah youth, when we sang with the golden throats of angels...). Located in an old dry cleaners, with decor that feels more Williamsburg warehouse than Houston wine bar, this is a great place to have a plate of artisanal salame finochiona and a glass of—well, of an impressive variety of different wines. Say, the '05 Colterenzio Praedium Sauvignon Blanc ($11) from the Alto Adige, or the '05 Lageder Lagrein Rosato ($8), or the '05 Tir Na N'Og Old Vines Grenache ($16) from Australia's McLaren Vale...you get the idea. Cool place, good wines, tasty charcuterie. Well worth checking out.
3000 Caroline, Houston, TX
4pm – 12am