Proverbial & Penelope The Toast of the Town – June 2, 2022

Driving into the busy shopping center at the corner of Airline and Antioch, I was wrapped with anticipation for this meal. Walking into Proverbial Wine Bistro, you first experience its modern yet comfortable atmosphere. I sat at the bar and sipped on their lovely happy hour white. It was an Italian Chardonnay, Friulan 2020 Frico Bianco by Scarpetta Friuli-Venezia is characterized by a bright, fruity berry with a crisp finish. I sat and decompressed for a while, watching the busy staff pay close attention to each table, accommodating last-minute changes to large parties while still ingratiating the regulars. Unspoken orders were fulfilled, and stories of what had happened in the short period of absence were shared. I love when customer service is efficient, thoughtful, and engaging.

I learned about Proverbial from a chance encounter with someone in the management group as he was excitingly recounting his role in opening the new concept. Back in the gap, Spanish Moon’s Star 80, 80s night was all the rage due to the musical stylings of one, DJ Bird. This was the Thursday night event to build your social calendar, and teased hair abounded. I bring this up because Bird and I are brought back together nearly a decade later around our mutual love for food! I feel his influence on the style and innate coolness of the space. I reached out to the restaurant beforehand with the intent to collaborate on a tasting meal. I would love to say this was a co-curation, but it was not. Chef Rory & General Manager George’s dishes and pairings were just so delicious, imaginative, and well-balanced that I happily acquiesced.

They opened the dinner and our pallets with an aperitif, a scintillating nectarous medley of fresh oak and smoke. This beautiful concoction of angostura bitters, Gomme syrup, brown raw sugar, and bourbon with your choice of flavored smokes to finish the beverage. I chose cherry. The star of the cocktail was the Penelope Bourbon Barrel Strength. I had read in Forbes that this bottle was selected best in class: Small Batch Bourbon – Up to 5 years. The warm spice undertones, stone fruit, and smooth caramel flavors paired perfectly with the smoke that tamped down the sweetness considerably. I looked forward to this innovative cocktail, and it did not disappoint. George waxed poetic about the history of using the sap of two acacia trees to develop the emulsifier gum arabic, its popularity in shelf-stabilizing simple syrup, and how he prefers this cocktail – An engineer’s brain trained on imbibing perfection.

Soon after falling in love with this cocktail, I was reminded there was so much deliciousness to come. Chef Rory presented the opening course: masala spiced glazed carrots with herbed yogurt, celery root, and feta cheese. The locally sourced rainbow of carrots was perfectly cooked, with a subtle glaze, tender still firm to the tooth, and a char that matched the smokiness of the cocktail. Anyone who has read my articles knows I have an affinity for Indian spices. To open this meal with a bold masala presence, the oh-so-underutilized turnip-like celeriac, and then introducing the salinity and tang of feta marks this as an imaginative dish. Our fish course was paired with an incredibly accessible fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, the Signature Series Ant Moore.

The Fish Oscar was a fresh take on the traditional dish. Visually a mountain of flaky gulf redfish surrounding succulent crab meat, thick cuts of grilled asparagus, toasted capers, and brown butter, all topped with a little forest of microgreens. The ‘land’ consisted of a corn maque choux with the delightful surprise of peppers and pickled okra with a delta of delicate buttery beurre blanc sauce.

Our main course was an incredibly generous pork steak, pepperoncini peppers, and basil with a generous drizzle of horseradish honey mustard. The complexity of flavors made this outstanding dish more dynamic than the sum of its parts. Each flavor married and shone through; each bite highlighted a new way it made the pork sing. Coupled with buttery rosemary fingerling potatoes, this dish on its own is worthy of a standing ovation. This course was complemented by a 2019 Legacy Collection Peju Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, featuring a floral nose, soft tannins, and exceptional taste.

There is nothing like homemade ice cream :: Period. Full stop::. It thrusts you into days of summers spent with your country cousins when supper is concluded with rich, velvety ice cream. During the simple yet decadent dessert of homemade ice cream crowned by rum caramel, basil, and fresh fruit, I lost myself in memory. The drink pairing could not be more aptly named “Hot Summer Night”: an enticing creation of blueberry-infused vodka with homemade grenadine, lemon juice, and topped with NOLA Brewing’s Blackberry Squeeze. It was citrusy, berry-forward, and surprisingly refreshing.

My compliments to every element of that meal, every hand that brought it to fruition, and every ingredient that created this incredibly piquant experience. I hope you take the time to experience this excellent restaurant and just a few of its offerings.

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