This past weekend started off gloriously, when the hubs took me out for a gourmet dinner at The Birch & Vine at The Birchwood in downtown St. Pete. The award-winning restaurant is considered one of the top eateries in St. Pete. Led by Chef Jason Cline, The Birch & Vine uses organic, locally grown ingredients (there's an edible herb wall in the dining room!) to serve up globally-inspired dishes that are inventive yet approachable. The wine and cocktail selection is just as impressive.
We started out our meal by perusing the drink menu on—what else?—an iPad. Fancy, huh? I chose the Stoli Spritzer, a light, refreshing, slightly fizzy cocktail made with Stoli vodka and St. Germain elderflower liqueur, shaken with grapefruit juice and topped with Italian prosecco. Always a gin man, GT opted for a Hendrick's martini, served with a twist. I gave it a taste and puckered my face in displeasure, while the boy laughed at my unsurprising grimace. How he enjoys drinking that is beyond me. It's like Pine Sol meets gasoline. I prefer my boozy drinks nice and sweet.
For dinner, GT went the manly route and ordered a steak. The Garlic and Peppercorn Charred 12-oz Niman Ranch NY Strip, to be exact, paired with a glass of medium-bodied, easy-drinking Jekel Vineyards Pinot Noir. Blackened and crusty on the outside, but red and tender on the inside, the hubby thoroughly enjoyed his steak, and we both agreed the sauce foyot (a variation on the classic bearnaise sauce) only made it that much more delectable.
I went for the House Made Spinach & Basil Gnocchi and it tasted just as divine as it sounds. Lured, I was, not just by the thought of homemade gnocchi but by all the wonderful ingredients accompanying those little clouds of dough: shaved cauliflower, mixed olives, grape tomatoes, maitake mushrooms, shallot confit, tear drop peppers, shaved romano, lemon-roasted garlic sauce and toasted pinenuts. It was an explosion of colors and flavors and textures. I added grilled salmon, which was delicious but also totally unnecessary. The gnocchi and all its counterparts stand just fine on their own. There was just one problem: I couldn't stop eating it! I was beyond full and yet I couldn't put my fork down. I didn't want to leave one piece of cauliflower, one baby pepper, and most certainly not one bright green fluffy bite of gnocchi behind. Superb. The bright, citrusy Estancia Pinot Grigio (from my home state of California) was a perfect pairing.
We capped off the evening with a sweet treat. When a waiter brings a dessert menu to the table, I am powerless to resist. Especially once my wandering eye caught this: Brûléed Plantain "Foster." The hubs and I adore crème brûlée, it has sort of become "our" dessert, and I am obsessed with banana, well, anything. The layered dessert was creamy and crispy, served alongside swirls of thick caramel and a scoop of tart crème fraîche ice cream. GT wasn't a fan of the ice cream, as it reminded him of icy sour cream, but I thought it was a nice foil to an otherwise entirely sweet dessert.
I'm looking forward to a return visit to try some of the other fantastic offerings on the menu. And next time, we're making sure to get there early to check out the rooftop lounge, The Canopy. Views of a St. Pete sunset with a well-crafted cocktail in hand? Sounds like perfection to me.
Here's hoping you had a wonderful weekend, too!