Dining Divas Swirl & Taste at Cellar 422

Cellar 422 Cheese and Meat Platter

Cellar 422 Cheese and Meat Platter

When Cellar 422 Wine Bar opened in September 2015 the owners/sisters, Michelle Wise & Marla Milner, wanted to offer something they felt was lacking in downtown Lafayette; a comfortable place to meet, enjoy a good glass of wine, and purchase a bottle to take home. Since then the menu has matured to include local and craft beers, appetizers and entrees, seasonal specials, and international cuisine.

For Michelle and Marla, the business is a real family effort. Ethan Wise, Michelle’s son, is the Cellar’s chef, trained in Santa Barbara at City College Culinary Program. The eclectic vintage décor and natural wood wine bar were influenced by Michelle and Marla’s parents and give the restaurant a familiar cozy feel.

Cellar 422 Diving Divas Group 2Best for small groups; the Wine Bar can seat 30, while the patio accommodates another 10 during warmer months. We chose to sit on the patio during our October visit. The exterior arched brick doorway and overhead string lights give an added charm to the space.

Our server, Colton, started us out with a large appetizer board that easily served our group of seven (Divas plus husbands Dan, Dick and Jeff). We combined the large cheese board with four cheeses, apple slices & green grapes, crackers and fig jam: $20, with the charcuterie board adding three meats and olives: $10.

  • Cheeses:

White cheddar, not too sharp; Gorgonzola camazole from Germany, with a smooth creamy blue cheese flavor; Gruyere from Wisconsin; and Butterkase from Germany, Bev’s favorite – smooth, highly pleasant cheese, soft, creamy and delish.

  • Meats:

Delaware fireball, definitely has a peppery kick said Jeff; Gin and juice (lamb persimmon orange), delightful taste, you can definitely pick up the orange; Sopressatta, a great basic next to the other two stronger flavored options.

DIning Diving Gigondas WineAfter taking Dan’s beer order, Colton lead us through an extensive wine menu offered both by the glass and bottle. It felt like a travel show with red and white wines from all over the world.

The four red wine members of our group selected one of Colton’s favorites: Fernandez Gomez (Crianza) 2013 from Rioja, Spain with red fruit, baking spices, soft tannin, balanced acidity and not overly dry. A very drinkable choice and good for a new red wine drinker. It was a great value at $20/bottle.

Our second shared bottle of red was The Ned, a New Zealand, Southern Valley, pinot noir, 2014. Bev reminisced about Eddard Stark (Ned) from Game of Thrones so she was biased to like it but it really was a good bottle of wine. Colton pointed out its flavors of “ripe cherries, and a reasonable amount of backgrounds of earth like a forest floor, kind of mushroomy and quite smooth.” Another good value at $28/bottle.

The white wine drinkers selected a South African Sauvignon Blanc- Rustenberg, “It’s a perfect drink for a warm night on the patio,” said Kay at $8/glass. Dick had the California Greystone Cellars Chardonnay at $7/glass. It was an incredible value for the experience, fairly dry and a generous pour!

With our appetizer plate emptied, we selected one last bottle of red wine to enjoy with our dinner order. Colton suggested one of their best, Gigondas, a French Rhone Valley blend, very potent, dry, with concentrated flavors at $42/bottle. This wine is slightly sweeter. “It’s a subtle, smooth and satisfying sip,” says Jeff. “I don’t like the French, but this is good,” added Brit Dick.

Salad, shrimp and tomatoes

Blackened Shrimp Salad

For dinner, Bev chose the blackened shrimp salad made up of arugula, roasted sweet corn, cherry tomato, bacon, shallots and sage dressing (gluten free) for $12. “I love the dressing– it’s inventive and refreshing,” she said.

Jo ordered the salsa verde swordfish with tomatillo salsa and sweet corn sofrito, roasted Anaheim chilies, poblano cream and toasted pumpkin seeds for $21. “It’s a beautiful presentation with the fish perfectly done,” Jo said, “and the pepper and pumpkin seeds and sauce are perfect for this dish.”

Salsa verde swordfish

Salsa verde swordfish

Dick ordered up the spicy shrimp mac & cheese which featured blackened seasoned shrimp, cavatappi, white cheddar Moran sauce, with panko crust for $12. “I don’t usually like mac and cheese but I love theirs. It’s spicy and fun to eat,” Dick said. “I’m not really keen on blackened things but it’s well done with tons of shrimp.”

Mac N Cheese

Mac N Cheese

Kay ordered the smoked salmon plate served with sliced cucumbers & cherry tomatoes, capers, garlic hummus, dill goat cheese and artisan crackers for $14. This is part of the appetizer menu but works well as an entree. The salmon is mild and tender and delicious. There are two spreads– a garlic hummus and dill goat cheese– both are good.  “That’s a hunka hunka salmon,” said Jeff.

Risotto

Pesto Orzo & Meatballs

Jeff opted for the pesto orzo & meatballs with artichoke hearts, parmesan, pine nuts and arugula for $18. “Anyone can make a meatball but these are a cut above,” said Jeff. With a crisp exterior and moist inside, Jeff was pleased by its hearty flavor. “The dish is balanced beautifully by the pesto orzo, and tender artichoke heart, with a nice crunch from the pine nuts. It’s delightful.”

Dan decided on the ginger pork gyoza featuring ginger marinated pork wonton dumplings, steamed napa cabbage and ponzu for $8. “Very tasty,” Dan said between bites. “The light noodles with the ginger sauce makes for a nice flavor. It’s excellent.”

Margy opted for the risotto alla mulligatawny including Granny Smith apples, curried, red lentils, parmesan and toasted almonds for $14. “Incredible,” Margy reports, “There is a little sweetness because of the apples but it’s also savory. The chef was not timid with the spice.” A new favorite for Margy!

“Did anyone leave room for dessert?” Colton smiled. We soon learned all the desserts are house made and include a truffle board, cheesecake of the day, and crème brulee. In the end we shared a slice of dark chocolate peanut butter cheesecake for $6. “Wonderfully creamy” said Jo. “The dark chocolate and peanut butter mix is just awesome on a very thin crust. It’s not overly sweet.  It’s fabulous.”

Dessert!

Dessert!

Altogether, it was a delightful experience. Everything was very well prepared and presented. The food prices were reasonable and in line with other restaurants in town. Our final impression? Wonderful, but next time, dessert first!

Kay Conner, photographer, seafood superstar
Margy Deverall, author of Lafayette articles, dedicated vegetarian
Beverly Shaw, author of West Lafayette articles, bring on the beef (or chicken or pork)
Jo Wade, founder of this food blog, very veggie

Out To Lunch Diving Divas Explore Peppercorns Kitchen

 

Shimp and walnuts

Shimp and walnuts

The Dining Divas can’t decide if Austin (our server) or the Walnut Shrimp was the hit of the day on our recent trip to Peppercorns Kitchen! Both were wonderful.  Peppercorns Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant specializing in Szechuan Cuisine, is the latest addition to Wabash Landing at 360 East State Street in West Lafayette and is much more spacious than you might guess from the front—and very attractive inside too.

Jo, Margy & BevTypically, Chinese meals are shared but half the divas have dietary restrictions so we headed down four separate paths all ending up in a happy place. Kay is still blissing out about that Walnut Shrimp. It’s listed under the Chef’s Special for $16.99* and as she says, “Boy, was it!”  She’s had excellent Walnut Shrimp and really not excellent Walnut Shrimp before and was anxious to see how this chef stacked up. We have a winner! This was a generous portion of large shrimp cooked perfectly in a very light sauce with toasted walnuts. In order to get your greens in, Kay suggests ordering this and a more vegetable based dish and then share both with friends. She’s not sure she can ever go back there again and not have a whole order of Walnut Shrimp all to herself. Better order your own if you’re dining with her!

Margy had the Salted Crispy Tofu for $10.50 and the tofu was cooked to perfection. The outside was genuinely crispy and the inside was tender as butter. It came with a small amount of sautéed peppers and onion and Margy would have liked it even more with a few dipping sauces. Bev skeptically tried it, never having gotten on the tofu train because of the consistency of the stuff, and was really pleased with it too!

Crispy tofu

Crispy tofu

Jo said the Eggplant Tofu ($9.99) was delicious! The eggplant and tofu were tender and cooked just right and it was blended with a tasty sauce. This was noted on the huge menu as not being a spicy dish but they were more than willing to accommodate Jo’s spicy desires, in the dish or on the side. She opted for on the side and received two different spicy sauces both of which made lunch even tastier.

Eggplant and tofu

Eggplant and tofu

Pork stir fry Bevs mealBev enjoyed the Beef with Mixed Vegetables ($13.95) with oh-so-tender beef and crisp sautéed veggies. In retrospect this was a really tame order. The menu includes Frog with Luffa, Pork Intestine, Blood and Ox Maw, Stir Fried Pork Lip, Dry Pot Rabbit and Entrails of Sheep Soup. Maybe next time! For now, she and the rest of the Dining Divas were happy with plentiful portion sizes, the obvious skill in the kitchen and the décor.

Peppercorns Kitchen has three private rooms (no charge) of varying sizes (10-30 people) with lazy susans on each table to facilitate sharing. They hope to have a full bar ready soon. In a VIP room, Bev, server, Margy & Jo

But back to Austin, our waiter. He’s been there since they opened and has tried just about everything on the menu, from pigs’ feet to organs. He patiently answered all of our many questions, knew or found out about tricky ones regarding dietary restrictions and was, just generally, a riot!

Peppercorns Kitchen is a wonderful addition to the area’s dining scene. Build up an appetite, gauge your sense of adventure and dive in!

Outside shot*There’s a less expensive lunch menu but we were ordering off the dinner menu. The lunch menu features 21 items for $8.95 (one is $9.95) and each comes with a spring roll.

Next up: La Hacienda in West Lafayette!

The Dining Divas; Out to Lunch on the Road Less Traveled consist of:

Kay Conner, photographer, seafood superstar
Margy Deverall, author of Lafayette articles, dedicated vegetarian
Beverly Shaw, author of West Lafayette articles, bring on the beef (or chicken or pork)
Jo Wade, founder of this food blog, very veggie

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Out to Lunch Dining Divas Visit Mi Cabanita

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

We all know not to judge a book by its cover but does that rule apply to a restaurant? In the case of Mi Cabanita the answer is yes.

Our latest lunch outing took the Dining Divas south of Teal Road to Mi Cabanita, Mexican Taqueria Y Restaurante. If you frequent Yelp or other online review sites, you would know before arriving that the humble exterior and lack of “bells and whistles” décor are no indication of the outstanding food and super friendly staff that await you inside.

My curiosity took me on an online translator to learn that “Taqueria Y Restaurante” means a Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos. Kay and Bev, who both had tacos, gave them rave reviews, so read on!

Owners

Owners

Owners Jesus and Maria Macias, our charming and friendly hosts, have been serving authentic Mexican cuisine from their location at 2601 Teal Road for over 10 years. With its cozy dining room, able to seat a couple dozen people, and busy take-out business, Mi Cabanita has quietly made a big impression on first time visitors and loyal regulars alike. One online reviewer wrote;

“…If you are looking for Mexican food to make your tummy happy, this IS the place! …”

Not to be upstaged, here’s what the Divas have to say:

Kay had a combination plate with three different tacos: pescada (fish), lengua (beef tongue), and camaron (shrimp). Ranging in price from 1.79 to 2.35 each, served with cilantro, onion, and a lime wedge. Kay’s review, “Very authentic and the flavor is fabulous. It distinguishes the place to have a tongue taco and it was amazingly good. Tender and well-spiced. They were all good but the lengua was my favorite.”

Kay's meal

Kay’s combination plate

Bev ordered carnitas (roast pork) taco for $1.89 and huevos rancheros. “The taco was great! The hot sauces were truly hot– not diluted. Huevos rancheros is one of my favorite dishes and these were well done in a nice sauce. Everything tastes better in a tortilla in my book– and so did these huevos. It was a treat. The tongue taco Kay had and my carnitas showed off the chef’s cooking ability.”

I chose a gordita with cactus instead of meat, with beans, cilantro and cheese, $2.99 and horchata to drink, which tasted homemade. Everything was very good. I’ve never had cactus before; it was very tasty. I was pleasantly surprised with the bun. It looked like a lot of bread in the photo but was just a little thicker than a tortilla, grilled crispy, which made it delicious.Margys goritas with cactus2

Jo had tacos dorados de papa, fried potato tacos served with cabbage, onion, tomato sauce and special hot sauce for $5.89. “It was good. I loved the potato in a crispy tortilla with the sauces on it. The filling was mild and carried the hot sauces well.” Everyone agreed, all three sauces were great (one came specifically with Jo’s tacos.

Mi Cabanita Mexican Taqueria Y Restaurante has a generous menu selection with prices ranging from $1.79 tacos to $13.75 dinners and includes a kids menu. But true to its name, “specializing in tacos”, your filling choices are impressive and include diced steak, steamed or ground beef, Mexican sausage, grilled or roast pork, pork head, chicken, beef tongue, potato, and tripe.

Jo's Meal - tacos dorados de papa

Jo’s Meal – tacos dorados de papa

“It was a five napkin meal for me,” said Kay referring to her three taco lunch. Translated I think she meant, “Muy bueno!!”

As a footnote to our lunch; I returned for dinner a couple days later to order the flan because they were already out the day we ate lunch. I went with my husband Jerry who ordered the grilled pork dinner served with rice, beans, lettuce, tomato and guacamole on a tortilla. Of course it was just as great, and Jerry thanked me at least three or four times for asking him to go. He made me think of another of the online reviews I saw because it was so honest and simple, just like Mi Cabanita’s outward appearance …

“Visit. You won’t regret it.”

 Next up, Town and Gown Bistro

Kay Conner, photographer, seafood superstar
Margy Deverall, author of Lafayette articles, dedicated vegetarian
Beverly Shaw, author of West Lafayette articles, bring on the beef (or chicken or pork)
Jo Wade, founder of this food blog, very veggie