WORLD ON A PLATE — Cedar Crossing Tavern & Wine Bar is the kind of place you would expect to run across on some breezy road in southern France. The kind of place where the owner welcomes you in as if you were family, then serves you wine and food that is so good that you spend the rest of your trip trying to replicate the experience. Cedar Crossing Wine Bar is that kind a place, only it isn’t located on a breezy road in southern France; it’s just footsteps west of the Takoma Park Metro station.
My party and I arrived rather early — 4:30 p.m., so I was surprised to see a small crowd gathered around the cherry wood bar. The interior aesthetic matches the restaurant’s Mediterranean culinary aspirations–warm earth toned walls offset by rich cherry wood floors and bar. Our waiter, Miguel, engaged us immediately with a warm, natural smile and suggested we start with wine, beer or one of their handmade specialty cocktails. I went with his suggestion, a glass of 2007 Bodegas Carchelo wine. A powerhouse, the wine was deep garnet in color, almost inky, with flavors of rich cherry and lavish chocolate on the palette. With wine this good, I really don’t need food.
The wine menu is compact yet diverse. For instance, you can select from a whopping twenty-three different wines by the glass that range in region from Hungary to Argentina to South Africa. The prices by the glass range from $7 to $12, though the vast majority are in the $7 to $8 range. Likewise, the draft beer choices are limited but well thought out. One of my friends tried the Brigand Belgium ale; a full bodied, high octane drink that you would be hard pressed to find on tap
anywhere in the D.C. metro area. But watch out, this one will go straight to your head.
I was enjoying the wine so much that I was having a hard time considering food. And besides, what food could hold up to such a robust wine? Miguel suggested we start with the Fromagerie Plate, (French for mixed cheese plate. Cost is $13 and highly recommended.) The “plate” turned out to be a rather large cutting board stuffed with five cheeses: Humbolt Fog, Drunken Goat, Roaring 40’s Blue Cheese, Greek sheep’s milk and Swiss. In the center of the tray was a stack of thinly sliced raisin bread and a small ramekin of fruit puree. After a few bites of cheese, bread and puree the mission becomes clear, the food at Cedar Crossing is really about supporting and expanding the wine drinking experience.
Cedar Crossing Wine Bar changes its menu every night. And the choices are limited but the flavors are outstanding. On the night we dined I counted a cheese plate, a meat plate, a soup, and six small plates which range from $7-$13. But like I said before, the food is really about enhancing the wine experience. For instance I tried the Sirloin Skewer with horseradish mayo and arugula and tomato salad ($10.) The sirloin was cooked perfectly to my liking and had good flavor. The horseradish mayo had a slight bite but was not overpowering, and the arugula and tomato salad added an acidic zip that cleansed your palette. And while it was very good, the wine was the big winner of the meal.
Miguel cleared our plates and handed us dessert menus. Three deserts were listed: Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake, Dulce de Leche Cake and Raspberry-Chocolate Cheesecake. The deserts certainly sounded enticing but what really caught my eye was the list of Ports, fine Sherries and aged Madeira. In the end we went with all three deserts and I decided on the seven year old Broadbent Madeira Reserve. The desserts were amazing but they didn’t hold a candle to the Madeira which was as thick as syrup and as chocolaty as the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake.
In the end, if you are looking for big portions and a menu that offers the old standards Cedar Crossing Wine Bar is not your restaurant. But if you looking for a Provençal type experience, enjoy great wine at reasonable prices and food that supports the wine beautifully, if not artfully, then Cedar Crossing Wine Bar is your place.
As a side note: Cedar Crossing Wine Bar offers an excellent happy hour. Selected wines are only $4:00 dollars a glass. Also during this time you can have six randomly picked bottles of beer for $20:00.
Cedar Crossing Wine Bar is located one block from the Takoma Park Metro station, at 341 Cedar Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20012. Phone is 202-882-8999. Hours of operation are 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mon-Tues, 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Wed -Thurs, 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. Fri-Sat, and 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
— by Will Marshall
photos by Eric Bond