|Hungarian Pick Salami, Tasso Ham, Beef Loin, Coppa|
I finally made it to Lelabar.
This visit required the right amount of synchronicity to occur. On Sunday I met up with a friend before he took a road trip. It also happened to be the day before his birthday so quality face time was in order.
The last few times we'd seen each other, we went out for wine. And every time, I kept mentioning a wine bar in the West Village but I couldn't remember where it was. I knew it began with an "L" but that's all I had. This time around when I was off the clock, I was off the clock. My brain just couldn't remember. As we walked west along Houston St my friend pointed out Burger & Barrel as a possible place for us to go for our fix de vino. We both wondered about the New Yorker-to-tourist ratio and kept moving.
I still had this "L" wine bar on my mind. One, I wanted that atmosphere. Two, I wanted my friend to experience this particular wine bar so he could figure out if it'd be a good place to bring his lady the next time she visits him in New York. He'd recently returned from visiting her in Brussels (Paris included) and was still on cloud nine when we got together. He enlisted my help in deciding where to go, what to do when she gets here...yet I couldn't remember the name of this "L" bar.
We'd hit up Mexican Radio and Cafe Minerva most recently. City Winery is an option for him should he decide to get a room at Trump SoHo. I am witnessing how Saturn in Scorpio, Jupiter in Cancer and the recent Solar Eclipse New Moon in Scorpio is effecting him. Don't get me wrong, I'm going through similar life waves and playing a role in his; it's nice to some someone else going through the transformative flames.
This night we didn't have to drive around too much. I'd remembered the name and got the address on my phone. Lelabar, I'd found you.
A stand-up bass player and siren-sounding guitar-playing, Dida Pelled greeted us with their sound. Then one of the bartenders hit us with such a warm greeting and smile.
My friend was sold on the place instantly. Like seriously, he said out loud, "I like this place. I'm gonna bring her here. I'm sold."
I flipped through the extensive menu scouring for a familiar word -- Cabernet, Sauvignon, Rhône, Malbec, Pinot, Riesling, Saumur, Grüner, Merlot -- as a starting point. I couldn't enlist the help of my friend because he was already talking to someone else at the bar. I was on my own...or was I?
I let the bartender know I wanted a red wine, but I'm not a big fan of the dry (and quite frankly not-delicious) varieties. "Hey, they wanna have a red wine That's all you." he said to the bartender who'd greeted us.
Next thing I knew I was in the capable hands of Jonah. He chose 4 wines for me to taste based on the fact that the only red I actually like is Malbec. German, French, Portuguese (but not a sweet Portuguese) and then an American wine were sipped. They were all very different. I went with a glass of the German wine, Weingut Ziereisen Tschuppen Blauer Spätburgunder.
I wasn't done looking at the menu at that point. There was cheese to be had. Jonah told me that was Adam's forte. After telling him I love Camembert and brie, and wanted a mix of soft, firm and stinky cheeses, Bucheron, Roomano, Fromager d'Affinois and Ale-washed Harbison (which inspired a mac & cheese recipe) were my final selections.
My friend was down with my cheese selections. He reminisced on the way they dined on wine and cheese in Belgium. He continued his conversation with Saul from Brooklyn at the curve of the bar, I spoke with Jonah about his sommelier training and his expertise in whisky and mixology. When he mentioned whisky the content Mona Lisa smile crept onto my face. Even though they don't look alike and I still haven't met him, Jonah reminded me of Al* and learning this extra bit of information about him made the connection to Al even stronger. Al loves whisky. I'd recently bought him a whisky flight. At Lelabar I watched Jonah prepare two wine flights for other bar patrons. I should probably also mention that Al and my friend have the same birthday, Veterans Day. My friend is a Vietnam vet.
A few minutes into our time at Lelabar, my friend asked if I told them what I do. I declined. I let him know that if I divulge that information it's after I've been to an establishment and experienced their treatment. If they know I'm in there scoping them out to determine if I'll bring clients or recommend that clients go there, the treatment will be different. That night, I received the same treatment as Kal Penn, who sat two shoulders away from me. Adam knew who he was, Jonah didn't. The service was still above par, for everyone. Jonah told us he loves the service industry and enjoys sharing his knowledge. It's obvious that he does. "I like you, Jonah," I declared.
|The sparkling red wine treat|
I alternated sips between my second glass of Blauer Spätburgunder (now added to the list of red wines I actually like) and the Italian red Jonah'd silently set in front of me in the stemless glassware. My eyes lit up. When I tasted it, "Sparkling red wine?" It was fruity and refreshing. He told me he knew I should try it because I had a sophisticated palate. Me? OK! It was a new wine they'd just got in that day for a wine tasting. I gave him props for the selection. He admitted it was the owner's idea to order the wine but his idea to give it to me. Good call, Jonah. Much appreciated.
We talked about politicians and American taboos and double-standards and traveling with Saul and Jonah while we ate the Hungarian Pick Salami, Tasso Ham, Beef Loin and Coppa (pictured above. I can't seem to take photos of food before I start eating) I'd ordered without my friend's knowledge. "A trip around the entire barnyard," Adam quipped. "That's a lot of meat," my friend said when it was initially served. "How much is that?" "Don't worry about that; we'll split it. It's our birthdays." "Shit, you right! You want another glass?" We're ardent members of the Treat Yo Self club.
"What do you know about Sheepshead Bay in the 80's?" Saul asked. Saul is a Brooklyn Jew who's come to realization that his NY and the memories of his NY are totally different from most other people. He had no need to leave his South Brooklyn enclave as a kid but now with gentrification spreading throughout all of New York he's going to be forced to leave the city all together soon.
Four hours slipped by us so quickly so we made our exit. My friend is looking forward to wooing his lady in Lelabar when she visits. I told Jonah I'd see him again -- either solo, with clients or with dates cause, you know, I'm a lady who likes to date. Turns out that's a great wine bar for singles... where Jonah and Adam aren't afraid to play matchmaker either. Earlier I mentioned Burger & Barrel--Jonah's lead bartender there, in case you want a drink one day.
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