I have written about this restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor before, but we were meeting some friends for dinner and this was a half way point for both of us. The Earle is in the basement of a building just off of the main drag and it is known for its food and for its wine selection. I would venture to say if a restaurant would like to be known, these are two factors that they would be pleased to be proud of.
We got there early, thinking that perhaps we would have a glass of wine during the happy hour, but our friends were already there in the bar area and they had just taken advantage of that. So we sat down and joined them and they each were enjoying a glass of Venta Morales Tempranillo 2010. It was a very purple inky wine, and my Bride and I tried a sip from their glasses, my Bride wanted a glass of it as well, but I thought it was a little light for the varietal, so I looked at the wine list for the happy hour selection in the bar. I decided to try Jeff Cohn’s JC Cellars “The Imposter” 2009. I asked to see the bottle as well and it just had a California appellation, but since I had ordered it, I decided to try it. It reminded me of a Rhone wine, even though it was a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier. In fact we were all so happy with the wines that we were drinking, we never ordered a bottle of wine.
We were having such a good time in the bar area, and we liked our server, so we decided not to have dinner in the dining room, but they had a small room off from the bar which was lined with corks on the walls, and a large array of empty wine bottles. During one of the lulls between courses, I got inquisitive and checked out the empty bottles, and they would have made any wine drinker very happy with the past offerings that were from the wine lists of yore.
My Bride and the other couple all started with an order of Mussels, while I ordered a roasted garlic bulb with appropriate garnishments. Our friends then split a Caesar Salad, while my Bride and I split an Antipasto platter of Sopressata and finocchiona salami served with provolone, marinated mushrooms and olives. My friend’s wife ordered fresh fillet of salmon rubbed with Dijon mustard and wrapped in puff pastry with a mushroom duxelle served with a tarragon cream sauce, while he ordered Veal scallops sautéed with mushrooms, shallots and garlic with mozzarella and Prosciutto wrapped asparagus with Marsala deglaze, served with orzo. My Bride ordered fillet of whitefish coated with ground hazelnuts and breadcrumbs, sautéed and sauced with a chive Beurre blanc on a bed of sautéed spinach. Then I was the proverbial pain for our poor waitress. There was a duck platter being offered, but it was done with Brandy, peaches and currants, and I am not that fond of such sweets and asked if the chef could do a duck dish with garlic, and I was informed that yes, he could and that he would also wrap it in Prosciutto. So I was a happy camper as well. Then we finished the dinner with coffee, tiramisu and some chocolate mousse.
As always, we enjoy this other couples company, and through the years he has called me from many locations for my consultation of which wine he should select in a restaurant if he was not sure. He also reminded me of some of the occasions that I had even forgotten about, but that he had not. It was a wonderful evening for dinner and drinks and we look forward to having dinner with them again soon.