Eat Up- Greg Mees
From the moment I walked into CafÃ© Vino, I had a gut feeling I was going to have the same Spanish tapas experience that I fell in love with while in Madrid, but it was going to have FoCo flare.
There is something about Spanish food culture that I love, especially the tapas culture of bringing good food, friends and family together for a meal. So I got excited to finally try out one of the restaurants in Fort Collins that serves tapas among other delicacies.
There is a sophistication to the restaurant, but at the same time, it feels like laid-back Fort Collins. The bike and New Belgium art let you know that youâ€™re still in the Fort, but the dim lights, wood flooring and the dark booths make it feel like an elegant European bar.
I was immediately impressed with how informed our waitress was about the food and wine
selections. She recommended the bacon wrapped dates, saying they were so light they could act as an appetizer or a dessert.
And she could not be more right. The combination of the smoky bacon with the sweetness of the dates melds so deliciously with the chunks of bleu cheese and the balsamic reduction that it just melts in your mouth. I do have to send out one word of caution: Theyâ€™re bite size so you could end up wanting to order endless amounts.
But there are plenty of other things worthy of trying on the menu. The Italian meatballs were anything but light, and packed a mouthful of meaty flavor. They had a surprising kick that I didnâ€™t expect, but that spice and fresh basil garnish was a perfect balance. They were drowned in marinara and accompanied by fresh bread that had the perfect crunchy crust and soft center to mop up the extra sauce.
Then of course I had to try the Spanish classics. When I saw Tortilla EspaÃ±ola on the menu, I just about jumped out of my seat with excitement. Itâ€™s basically a Spanish omelette consisting of eggs, potatoes and fresh herbs. Sometimes there are variations with jamÃ³n or other meats, but classically itâ€™s kept simple and is one of my favorite things to eat.
You canâ€™t find it at very many places, and CafÃ© Vino makes a solid effort. The potatoes were a little undercooked, making it tougher to eat than I would have preferred, but the light salad and olive oil drizzle on the top with the sauce made me almost forget about the inconsistency of how it was cooked.
To finish, we had Spanish chicken skewers that were spicy, tangy and all-around a great way to end the meal.
Tapas are the perfect afternoon snack or make for a great meal depending on what youâ€™re looking for. I left the restaurant feeling satisfied, and not stuffed. Itâ€™s a great place with an extensive menu, so I will definitely have to head back for more.
Drink Up- Erin Udell
I donâ€™t know if it was the wine or the cute water boy, but Cafe Vino just landed on my list of favorite Fort Collins eateries.
Despite being right across from campus, neither Greg nor I had ever made it to Vino, a restaurant that boasts an extensive menu and even more impressive wine and beer list.
Greg wanted some real food, and I needed a glass of wine, so it was only a matter of time before we made the arduous trek to one of FoCoâ€™s best.
Looking at my wine options, I started to feel a little overwhelmed. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I love wine â€“â€“ especially of the boxed variety. And while all of the zinfandels and merlots sounded good, two half-glasses cost more than one box of my precious Franzia.
The server quickly eased my fears, however, throwing around words like â€œsweetâ€ and â€œsavoryâ€ before recommending the Chilensis pinot noir, a sweet and fruity little number that helped me transition into â€œfancy pantsâ€ wine, as I like to call it.
I quickly got through the pinot noir, slamming down a half-glass before even getting to look around the entire restaurant.
The atmosphere in Vino was warm and inviting, with lighting so dim I couldnâ€™t help but wonder if people thought Greg and I were on a date. Looking across the booth, watching my foodie friend literally stuff bacon-wrapped dates into his mouth, I held onto the slim chance that they thought we were just work friends who like to go on fancy mid-afternoon trips to upscale cafes.
By the time Gregâ€™s Spanish chicken skewers came around, I was on glass number two, a 2007 redemption zinfandel, described as a bold, black and blueberry taste following by vanilla and white pepper.
The server warned me, I believe she even used the word â€œdangerous,â€ but I refused to listen. I was in a wine world, and after half a glass of something other than â€œSunset Blush,â€ I thought I could handle the spicy little devil.
After one whiff, I knew I had overstepped but continued to choke it down.
So, while the zinfandel may have been a little too adventurous for my first serious wine outing, it felt good to go from little baby steps to drinking something that stung my nostrils and tasted like straight up pepper. After all, isnâ€™t that the point of college â€“â€“ to experiment with different â€¦ wines?
_Visual Managing Editor Greg Mees and News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _