I’ve had many a fun night in NOLA, but few can compare to the events that went down this past Wednesday night. A couple of friends and I went out for food, drinks, and dancing and before we knew it the evening had turned into one of complete debauchery, including doing handstands on the dance floor at Oz and making a 4 a.m. trip to The Beach on Bourbon to ride the mechanical whale. The night may or may not have ended with me shoving a Lucky Dog into my face, but I promise the beginning of the night started out on a much classier note.
We began our night at Bacchanal Wine, located in the Bywater at 600 Poland Avenue, which is a wine shop housed in a century-old brick building that celebrates every aspect of the wine-drinking experience. It’s a little difficult to explain just how this place works, but here’s my best attempt: You choose your bottle of wine from the inside shop, they cork it and provide glasses free of charge. Then, weather permitting, the back yard is open for you to breathe in fresh air while you sit, sip, and order cash-only food that’s prepared on the outside grill by Bacchanal’s house Chef Joaquin Rodas. Cheese, cured meats, deli sandwiches, and salads are also available for purchase (by cash or card) inside the shop and the Bacchanal staff will plate them up with accompaniments (bread, olives, cornichon) and serve them to you at your table. It’s a wine shop, deli, bistro, and music-venue all rolled up into one, which not only makes it unique, but quite addictive as well.
It was around 7:30 when we arrived and the sun was just setting on the river. We browsed their lovely wine selection, decided on a bottle of the 2009 Pierre-Marie Chermette Cuvee Traditionnelle, picked out an Italian soft cheese from the cooler, and headed out to the pretty backyard to sip our selection. Lilac-colored Wisteria dangle from trees, tiki torches and strings of white lights bathe the pebbled yard in a warm glow, and a band plays soft music in the background. The crowd is as eccentric as the mismatched tables and chairs and the food is served on paper plates. I fell in love immediately.
The smell from the outside grill lured us in and we ordered four different things off the menu, including the Shrimp, Baby Octopus, and Fish Ceviche. The marinade was infused with the heat from red onion and jalapenos, sweetness and tang from lime juice, and freshness from grape tomatoes and bright green herbs. Substantial and filling, but light enough to leave room for something else, this ceviche was a brilliant start to our meal.
Next we had the Eggplant Bruschetta with Roasted Garlic, Capers, Tomatoes, and Golden Raisins. Soft and smoky, this melody of roasted eggplant and pungent cloves of garlic topped crusty bread and was served with tzatziki on the side. Delicious all on its own, but significantly better when sipped with our fruity, slightly smokey wine. Just wonderful.
Our appetizers were great but I’m so glad we left room for the main course of Flat-Iron Steak with Seasoned Fingerling Potatoes and Chimichurri. I was convinced the chef had used some type of vinegar to tenderize this cut of meat, so you can imagine my surprise when I found out all he used was salt and pepper. This steak was sliced thick with a nice sear on the outside and a gorgeous pink center. The melt-in-your-mouth factor was slightly improved by the addition of green chimichurri made from fresh parsley, garlic, and oil. Together, these flavors were wonderful, but once we thought to spread the soft Italian cheese on crostini and top with chimichurri soaked steak, well, that’s when I felt the need to throw my hands in the air and do a toned down version of the “yum yum dance.”
There was only one dessert option on the menu, so, naturally we went ahead and got that, too. Chocolate Bark studded with almonds, sea salt, and drizzled with olive oil was a great pairing with our wine since it was sweet, smoky, and salty enough to round out the vino’s depth of fruitiness.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it doesn’t matter how many years I’ve lived here, New Orleans continues to surprise me. The genuine appreciation for what makes locals tick comes forth in so many creative ways, but few have wooed me as much as Bacchanal’s rustic, mismatched luxury that has managed to combine all of my favorite things. Friends, wine, food, music, and lots of fresh air… I mean, what more could you possibly ask for? Check out their website for more information about their weekly music schedule, deli menu, or “follow” and “like” them to get all the up-to-date details about courtyard happenings. The weather right now is absolute perfection, so if you’re planning a night out, this wine shop is the place to sip and savor.