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Gossiping Gourmet: A lot more than wine

The Wine Gallery also offers cheeses, small plates, pizzas, soups and large plates.

January 10, 2013|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • The short rib tacos with truffle oil at Laguna's Wine Gallery.
The short rib tacos with truffle oil at Laguna's… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

The popular Wine Gallery in Corona Del Mar has opened a beautiful second location in Laguna Beach. The large room is centered around a spacious, U-shaped, marble-topped bar that faces the white-tiled, open kitchen featuring a wood-burning oven. The atmosphere is both sophisticated and cozy. The décor is contemporary and warm, with soft lighting emanating from a fascinating ceiling composed of long wooden slats separated by fire-resistant crushed black paper. Facing the street are floor-to-ceiling windows, with pulled-back curtains made of wine corks.

As expected, there is an extensive wine menu with bottles, glasses and flights, but we were there for the food. The Wine Gallery offers a variety of options from cheese and salumi to small plates, pizzas and large plates for you to enjoy with your wine or beer. The very gracious and helpful servers are a cut above the usual and can guide you through the wine list.

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Bruschettas come in three flavors: traditional, fig and date, or the daily special. We had one of each. Atop a slice of toasted baguette, the tasty traditional version boasted sweet grape tomatoes, basil, garlic and a healthy drizzle of balsamic reduction. Fig jam, dates and whipped goat cheese also had a balsamic reduction, but there were too many sweet elements and not enough cheese to provide balance. The special of the day was a delicious mélange of mixed mushrooms married to some creamy brie. The advertised truffle oil was undetectable and unnecessary, as is often the case.

From the small-plate menu, we had some of the very best short rib tacos around. The meat was very tender, juicy and nicely seasoned, served in crispy corn tortilla shells. Piquant pickled red onions added crunch, guacamole added creaminess and Fresno chilies added a kick. A light sprinkling of cotija cheese and micro-greens provided the finishing touch.

The butternut squash soup de jour was very rich and creamy, and was topped with a dollop of apple-and-pear chutney and one lonely, soggy, sweet-potato chip. It had a very pleasant flavor but was too rich to finish. The "chutney" tasted more like cooked fruit but went nicely with the soup.

Some of the other small-plate options include seared ahi with Asian slaw and peanut sauce, or spinach salad with apples, red onions, pomegranate seeds and candied pecans.

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