Monday, June 16, 2008

Wine and Cheese, Trifecta style

Lately the Trifecta (Amanda, Katie, and myself - plus sometimes the Mini Deal) have been spending a lot of time (and money) at two of the "Thames River" group of businesses - Thames River Wine and Spirits and Brie & Bleu.

Thames River Wine and Spirits has a great Friday night wine tasting. They try three or four (usually four) different wines, mostly ones that I probably would not stumble upon myself. They hold these free tastings in their cellar:

The Thames River tastings are a great way to try new wines. They pour a variety of regions, varietals, and price ranges. This past Friday, we started with an $11 Loire Valley sauvignon blanc and finished up with a $46 Italian red blend (mostly sangiovese). The taste they pour is generous and the glass they pour it in really lets you get your nose right in there. The staff is pretty accommodating and happy to answer questions.

I'll be the first to admit that I've been a little out of my wine element since leaving the Earle and Julie's wine tasting group behind in Michigan. I was very excited to find this Friday night tasting and even more excited to find friends who are really interested in wine. (Check out one of those friends at - John recently posted reviews of the stuff we tried last Friday.)

Perhaps we are a little too interested - the Trifecta decided that one night a week wasn't enough and has since begun visiting Thames River's neighbor and sister business Brie & Bleu on Thursday nights.

Brie & Bleu is billed as "New London's Premier Cheese Market" but they are also an excellent little bistro with deck seating available in nicer weather. They have a menu consisting of some standard cheese plates, salads, and bruschettas, plus weekly entree specials. Their list of wines by the glass rotates and offers some unusual suggestions.

However, the Trifecta doesn't order by the glass. We think the best way to enjoy Brie & Bleu is to first visit the wine cellar next door and pick out a couple bottles. We can then take these to the cheese shop where a waitress or one of the wine store guys will open them and chill them if necessary.

We've found some truly wonderful wines this way over the past few weeks, including one of our new favorites, the Michel Torino Don David Torrontes. We actually can't take credit for finding this delicious Argentinian white - a third of a bottle was given to us a couple weeks ago by a couple also dining on the deck at Brie & Bleu who decided not to finish it. We went crazy over the floral smell and light citrusy flavors and bought our own bottle the next week. And then we bought more to take home. I know it's only June, but this might just be my favorite wine this summer...

Brie & Bleu has also provided some excellent cheese finds. We usually order one of the cheese plates on special. These plates include three regional cheeses and accompaniments.

Last week's Italian cheese plate was fantastic - but who doesn't enjoy some creamy fontina spread on crusty bread? The dried apricots and salami were perfect compliments.

We loved two-thirds of the French cheese plate we tried the week before. However, the third cheese was terrible. I mean really awful. It was a bleu cheese and I wish we had gotten the name of it so we could make a point to NEVER EAT IT AGAIN. All three of us enjoy bleu cheeses, but we dubbed this one the "morning breath cheese". The texture was bad, too - sort of gelatinous. If I find out the name, I will post appropriate warnings!

The occasional bad cheese aside, Brie & Bleu has provided us with some incredible food. If you are looking for something more hearty, I recommend their bruschettas. My personal favorite is the Parma - a delectable combination of prosciutto, tart apples, and blue cheese melted over a crusty baguette. Yum!

So between Brie & Bleu Thursdays and Thames River Fridays, we've been giving this group quite a bit of business lately. However, they've provided us with some wonderful wines and mouth-watering food, so I'd say it's a pretty fair trade.

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