Monday, March 22, 2010

Complimentary Glass of DiWine

41-15 31st Ave, Astoria

I will confess that (perhaps more than occasionally) I sometimes splurge on a good ol' NYC yellow cab or a pseudo-fancy livery town car, rather than traveling with the masses via public transit.  While I honestly do love the subway and its often sordid cast of underground characters, a cruise home to Astoria via the 59th Street Bridge allows me a front row seat to the most famous skyline in the world, and a welcome reminder that I actually live and work in that most incredible city.  Yeh, yeh... so the N/W line travels above ground in Queens, but you can't roll down the windows in a subway car or inquire the MTA driver's favorite restaurants in the area, can you?

Honest-to-goodness true story: I once became so engulfed in conversation with a driver that he popped in an Andrea Bocelli CD, then pulled over and bought me a banana from a street fruit vendor, and muttered through the opening in the plexiglass divider, "here, I want you to have my banana... ami tomake bhalobashi..." (apparently Bengali for "I love you").  Despite the phallic undertones, it was quite flattering until the man was waiting parked outside my apartment at the same time the following day waving a banana at me...  I've since learned it's unwise to hail a cab directly in front of your place of dwelling, unless you prefer stalkers to know your precise address.  If only I could woo other suitors the way I seem to cast cupid's spell on banana-wielding cab drivers...

I digress...

The point is, when you are willing to change up your routine just a tad, taking an alternate path home, for instance, you just might stumble upon some unexpected surprises.  That's how my roommate, David, and I discovered DiWine.

For months, on a late night cab ride home from Manhattan, David had noticed the dramatic lighting and simple, yet tempting wooden entry to DiWine near the corner of 31st Ave and 42nd street.  When it came time to plan an evening with friends, however, it always seemed to slip our minds as an option, until we'd complain on the cab ride home, "awww, man... we shoulda checked out DiWine... next time..."

The evening before David deserted me for a week's vacation in Rome, he asked if maybe we could try something different... and something that wouldn't break the bank, as well.  I checked DiWine's website, and the price point seemed conducive to David saving his Euros for truffled gnocchi and gelato, so we finally decided to check it out.

Upon stepping through the glass doors, you can't help but instantly inhale the somewhat sensuous ambiance, from the banquette of pillows harnessed to a pole on the wall by leather straps and buckles, to the wine selection displayed in gallows, and the more intimate private booths enclosed with sheer curtains.

We grabbed a seat at the bar, and perused an equally sophisticated and sensual libations menu.  Their bar selection boasts an impressive selection of wines: 23 options at $8 a glass or 60 bottles each only $32.  Do you know how liberating it is to finally choose your grape juice for the evening without wondering if one glass is better than another simply because it costs $3 more, or should you be frugal and order a bottle of the house wine rather than the vintage you really want, but it costs $10 more???

DiWine also offers a generous selection of bottled and draft brews, but the cocktails are what really knocked us out.

Ask about the daily drink specials.  We couldn't get enough of the refreshingly delish house-infused cucumber vodka fauxjito (they offer several other infused vodkas, ranging from mango and strawberry to chocolate).  The special of the day, it was only $5... literally a top-shelf blend with a lower-than-well price tag.

My personal favorite is the Marie la Poire, pear-flavored Grey Goose with rosemary and juniper berry infused simple syrup and a splash of fresh lime.  Absolutely incredible, and proof that you don't need too much in a cocktail if a few simple, smart flavors are showcased properly.

When our third roommate, Matty, called to see where we were, David simply answered with the address, exclaiming, "get here now..."  Our friend, Tarina, also checked in to see where we were, and we soon found ourselves scrolling through our contacts to see who else we could invite to come check out this incredible find.

How had we heard practically nothing of this sophisticated and sexy den of drinks?  When we learned that due to limited space, the cold food was prepared downstairs, and all warm dishes were cooked in the brick oven at the back of the main dining room, we thought maybe we'd finally discovered DiWine's achilles heal.  But were we ever wrong...  This places shines from literally every facet.  And the kitchen is open until 2am...

Featuring an eclectic blend from extreme corners of the globe, the chefs have harnessed the limited space and beautifully painted a masterful spread of both tantalizing tapas (almost all under $10) and exquisite entrees.

Toasted crostini with pan-seared foie gras, topped with sweet fig and a port wine glaze.

Kampachi sashimi of ahi tuna with roasted red peppers and soy dressing.

Seared bay scallops over a red pepper relish, with herb pesto and a citrus vinaigrette.

A simply flawless, tender and buttery brick oven roasted filet mignon smothered with bleu cheese, accompanied by a pyramid of scalloped potatoes and string beans.

How can you go wrong with brick oven pizza for only $10?  We built our own pie with grilled steak, ham, and ricotta (ten bucks actually includes your choice of any 3 toppings!)

Sinfully decadent and surprisingly fluffy chocolate mousse cup with raspberry coulis.

* * * * *

Check out DiWine at 41-15 31st Ave. in Astoria tonight, Tuesday, March 23rd for a complimentary wine tasting (2 reds & 2 whites) with hors d'oeuvres pairings.  Sound too good to be true?  That's what I thought, until I attended their last tasting, and had a genuinely fantastic, free (no strings attached) evening.  Believe it or not, these incredible forays into the world of DiWine are held every other Tuesday, so be sure to mark your calendar for the next one if you can't make it tonight (sometimes the wines are paired with DiWine's artisan cheese selection rather than the warm array of tapas).

Just a few of the highlighted nibbles from the last tasting included:

Scrumptious potato pancakes crowned with smoked salmon and creme fraiche...

Freshly-baked miniature beer pretzels...

Crispy mushroom arancini di riso (fried risotto balls)

* * * * *

(DiWine is owned and run by the owner and family of the highly esteemed, environmentally-friendly GiGi Salon & Styling Studio in Astoria.)

DiWine on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious!! Love your blog Brad!! -too bad I didn't get the invite when you were going through your phone :) Can't wait to make it out to Astoria again! -Giovanni

Laughing Stock said...

Hey Brad , DiWine sounds DiVine , Dee's sister lives in Astoria . We're going to pay her a visit and show her how worldly and smart I am by taking to Diwine . I promise to mention the your was the deciding factor for our visit .


nakedbeet said...

DiWine is my go to place for thin crust pizza in Astoria....(can you seriously beat $10/pie..hint hint Rizzo's!)...until I started getting uneven results and now I'm afraid to order from them. When it's good, it's really really lovely, but when they char it or don't put enough of the topping, it's just horrendous. I wish you could rate their pizza workers so they know!

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