Restaurant Review: Pairings Bistro

I don’t know if I should tell you this or not, since it kind of gives you license to stalk me, but I’m just going to assume that you’re all nice non-internet stalkers out there. I live in Harford County, Maryland. From June 3rd-15th Harford County is having a restaurant week.

In case you live somewhere that doesn’t offer something like this, its an excuse for restaurant owners to get people to their restaurants. They create a specific meal with a fixed rate (many are $20.13 per person in this case) which could easily convince someone to check out a new restaurant because of the discounted price.

Baltimore also has 2 restaurant weeks, I believe. I haven’t attended either since all of the restaurants are downtown and while I appreciate a discounted meal, the purpose is kind of defeated by $15-$30 parking. So when I heard my own county was doing a restaurant week, I was all over that.

I chose Pairings Bistro because my coworker recommended them to me, plus its right up my alley. Pairing food with wine? I’m in. By no means am I food critic, but I did entertain the idea long enough while we were there to actually google “how to become a food critic”. I’m not sure Tom is interested. Ah well.

Anyway, we opted for the 4 course meal with wine pairings. This was $51 a person, regularly $57. In reality, it wasn’t that much of a deal, but hey 12 bucks is $12.

Course 1: 
We both opted for the Maryland Crab Soup with Hawk’s Hill Cheddar Crisp. This was paired with a 2010 Echelon Pinot Noir. 
For Maryland crab soup, I’d say this was pretty average. It was what you would hope to receive in any restaurant, actual pieces of crab meat and not incredibly salty. The cheddar crisp was really good; it surprised me to have seafood and cheese paired together, but I liked it. The wine was pretty nice and definitely enhanced the flavors of the soup. Grade: A 

Course 2: 
Tom: Baby Arugula with chevre, toasted pecans, pomegranate and apricot vinaigrette – 2011 Kenwood Chardonnay
Me: Local grown tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, balsamic reduction and fried basil leaves – 2010 Ladoucette Les Deux Tours Sauvignon Blanc 
Tom doesn’t like salads to begin with, so I was shocked he went with the one he did. He didn’t end up liking the arugula at all. His wine was very fruity and almost mimicked the apricots in the salad.
My salad was delicious. You could tell the tomatoes were home grown (something I definitely appreciate), the balsamic had a great flavor and OMG fried basil leaves are INCREDIBLE. I really enjoyed my wine and wouldn’t have minded another glass. Grade: A


Course 3:
Tom: Deer Creek Beef Steak with Blue Cheese Fries and Pickled Vegetables – 2009 Benzinger Cabernet Sauvignon
Me: Grilled Shrimp with Peach Barbecue and Cajun Rice – 2008 Duas Quintas
Tom’s steak was delicious and had that melt in your mouth quality to it. The blue cheese fries were also really tasty and even though he didn’t enjoy the pickled vegetables, I thought they were great.
I, on the other hand, was pretty disappointed with my dish. It was barely lukewarm. The shrimp were a tad overcooked and the tomatoes in the Cajun rice just took over the entire dish. It tasted like nothing but tomatoes and mushy rice. Tom’s Dish: A My Dish: C = Average: B 


Course 4:
Tom: Chocolate Cake with Mint Strawberries  – 2009 Rosa Regale Spumante Dulce 
Me: Bresilienne-Broom’s Bloom Coffee * Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramel, Hazelnuts and Chantilly Cream – Ramos Pinto White Port 
The chocolate cake was really nice. I think it might have been flourless. It was made with a bittersweet chocolate and I’d love to know how they infused the strawberries with mint. The freshness was really nice. Tom’s wine was really sweet. I might have the name wrong, it was smudged on the menu and Google isn’t giving me many choices.
My ice cream was really good. The coffee flavor was a nice touch with the cream and really rounded out the dish. I didn’t like my wine, I thought it was too fragrant to even sip. Grade: A 


Now for the restaurant overall, its very nice inside and they have a decently sized wine cellar mainly with wines I’ve never heard of before for pretty reasonable prices. The staff are really friendly. They had live music outside tonight and I’m kind of jealous we didn’t get to sit outside. The guy had a really nice singing voice.

Unfortunately we were seating in a small room with 3 very drunk women who did not understand proper conversation levels or etiquette. I am almost positive when an attractive couple sat across from them and one heard that the guy had an accent, she told him and the woman he was with that she’d “totally f— you both.” Once they left the noise level was quite nice.

The restaurant was pretty busy when we were there and we didn’t receive our wines exactly with our dishes but we weren’t waiting long either.

So my overall grade for the restaurant would be A-. I definitely want to return again since not only do they offer pairings, but wine tastings, cooking classes and various other things that just seem like a lot of fun.

We do need to return soon though, because they have crispy Maryland scallops over a spring pea risotto which I absolutely can’t pass up trying.


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