Saturday, July 12, 2008

Winegasm - An Out of Body Experience

Winegasm - 31-86 37th Street, Astoria NY 11103
N/W Train to Broadway

My colleague Joey and I checked out Winegasm back in May and just this week, I returned there with my other two Joey in Astoria colleagues Meg and Sooz. We were generously invited to an informal tasting by Winegasm's owners. It was a fun night filled with laughter, delicious food and incredible wine. While I'm going to concentrate on the food here, my colleagues will cover the wine in a later posting.

We couldn't have survived the night without Winegasm's delicious grub--both because of its wonderful flavor but also because we needed sustenance to hold us over from the wine. Here are some of the things we sampled:

Spicy Almonds - In addition to having a nice kick from spices, these almonds were served warm. They were a delight to bite into, as you could taste their natural oil coming out--and the spices provided a cheerful greeting for the tongue. It's a good starter that's nice with both whites and reds.

Gasm Dip - This caught Meg's eye immediately and it consisted of a puree of beans, carrots and truffle oil with melba chips. It was tasty but definitely not my favorite thing here--partly because of the strange flavoring. I thought that I tasted tarragon or some sort of licorice spice, which I wasn't a fan of. Meg and I were saying that we prefer the carrot dip at Mundo.

Bacon Wrapped Prunes - This sounded amazing on the menu and it's one of my standouts of the night. The exterior was crunchy, smoky and salty from the bacon while the inside was ooey, gooey and sweet from the prunes. It tasted like a dessert and a tapa in one! I highly recommend it, especially if you're drinking red wine.

7 Cheese Mac with Country Bacon - This dish spoke to us from the beginning since the three of us love bacon. While it was presented beautifully in a rustic ceramic dish, we were surprised to see that the bacon was placed on top in large strips, as opposed to being cut up into small pieces and interspersed into the mac. But once we tasted it, the bacon faux pas was quickly forgotten. The mac was crunchy on top, smooth and rich on the inside. It didn't feel heavy as it often could--probably because it was split between three people. In the end, it was kind of fun to break up the bacon into smaller pieces and to place it on top of each forkful of mac.

Mozarella, Sun-Dried Tomato, Arugula and Pesto Panini - This hard-to-mess-up sandwich was another home run at Winegasm. The bread was fluffy and fresh and so were the inside ingredients. It was paired well with a mixed green salad and adorable, crunchy cornishons. Although we agreed that it was no Il Bambino, it held its own and I'd certainly get it again.

Fresh Crab Cakes with Arugula Salad - These were suggested by Winegasm and we absolutely devoured them--the crabmeat was super fresh and flavored with lemony parsley and red peppers. The crab cakes were bite sized and their flavor was enhanced when dipped into the spicy mayo and vinaigrette dip. The arugula salad was a nice touch too, providing zest and freshness to the dish.

Molten Lava Cake and Orange Chocolate Mousse - We needed to cap off our night with something sweet and chocolatey so we selected these two favorites. Both were amazing and beautifully presented. The Molten Lava cake was garnished with silky raspberry sauce--it was so soft and rich inside that we had to switch off between that and the mousse. The mousse was also fabulous, with a tart orange flavor from the Grand Marnier. It was garnished elegantly with orange peel and creme fraische. Both desserts were beautiful, decadent dishes that should be tried at least once.

Service and Cost:
The service was superb--mainly because they knew we were coming but even despite this bias, the staff seems to know what they're doing and their passion for Winegasm shines through. We were given tons of wonderful pairing suggestions and even some brief histories of wine, which were informative and interesting. If you'd like to find out more, check out their Thursday night wine tastings from 7-9p.

Winegasm's costs are reasonable and range between $3.50-$8.50 for appetizers, $6.95-$11.95 for paninis and $7.95 - $21.95 for main dishes. Wine is offered by the glass, $7-$14 or by the bottle, $25-$99.

3 Mmmms


  1. Anonymous22 July, 2008

    Hi Foodista,

    I have to disagree with your overall take on Winegasm. I tried this place about a month ago and was unimpressed.

    I found their wine selection meager and rather average for a restaurant that showcases itself as a wine establishment.

    The staff was unknowledgeable on the subject and when asked about certain wines, it was clear they lacked the ability to discuss and characterize wine by objective standards. This is not snobbery; people who have taken the time to learn about wine and develop their palette are able to discuss its' flavor, aroma, color and pairing in an expressive and detailed way. I realize that they don't have a sommelier on hand and it may seem like I'm taking this a bit too far for a "neighborhood place" but if the owners are going to market the establishment centrally around it's wine then that aspect of the experience has to shine. People who really know wine and are looking for this to be a finer experience will be disappointed.

    On the evening I was there, the kitchen was very slow. The wait staff was entirely friendly and the experience was fine, but our food took a long time to arrive and the restaurant was almost completely empty. The food was served all at once instead of bringing appetizers first and main dishes afterward. Despite not being busy, the kitchen and or wait staff was obviously not organized. We enjoyed our meal but it wasn't good, it was average. We also ordered a variety of dishes, but for the most part it wasn't anything I couldn't have made better and fresher at home myself.

    While I would not tell people to avoid Winegasm, I would simply say that it was nothing special - to try it they wished, but that there are much better places in the neighborhood.

    I wanted to share my experience because I was not invited for a special event so my experience may better exemplify that of the average customer. Your post on Joey In Astoria was closer my experience.


  2. Totally valid comment Aaron--thanks for your input. I understand that our experience was "skewed" because we were being taken care of. I really enjoyed the food--and even the first time around when I visited with Joey. I'm not an expert on wine and that's why I didn't go into detail in this department. I'd be interested in hearing other people's thoughts too--but I suspect that they might mirror yours. Thanks for being honest.

  3. Anonymous27 July, 2008

    To all of wine lovers out there...
    When we first invisioned this place #1 priority was to make it fun and easy going-that is how things are done in the meditteranien which is the concept of this place. If you already know your wine you should have a good time picking from our small(Down to Earth), but wordly list. As for a sommelier he is here so I encourage you to come back and ask for Dean-he'll be more than happy to chat wine with you untill you turn purple :)
    Food is better and better by each second and I think you will be pleasently surprised next time you come in.
    Last but not least, we take our patrons comments seriouslly and look at it as constructive criticizam that will help us grow and work for you guys even harder!
    Ps. Aaron, stop by sometime and let us show you what we're talking about...

    "In Vino Veritas"

  4. The food in this place is simply excellent! My congratulations to CIA grad Chef Chris Arevalo, whom I had the pleasure to chat after my meal. Chef Arevalo has the innate ability to create the most wonderful and deliciously exotic presentations. I recommend this place to anyone who appreciates a truly gourmet experience.

  5. Served Up a Plate of Death!
    This place is not knowledgeable of the ingredients in their dishes. I ate here Saturday night, Dec 6, 2008. When looking through the menu I noticed that there was pesto on the menu which usually contains pine nuts. I am DEATHLY allergic to pine nuts. I specifically asked the waitress if there was pine nuts or pesto in any additional dishes. She said no. We ordered the olive pampande, I had one bite and began having a reaction. I asked again if there was pine nuts and the manager gave me an attitude and said no. As we were having this arguement the busser placed our second appetizer on the table. A cheese platter garnished with pine nuts. I immediately headed to the emergency room and had to receive epinephrine to take me out of this reaction. I spend the entire night in the emergency room and had to return the following evening. This could have been avoided if their knew what they were serving. I would NOT recommend this place to anyone with food allergies.

  6. Wow PG - that sounds pretty bad. Sorry you had that experience. I wouldn't go back either. Safety is always first!

  7. Hi Foodista, I am posting this in reply to your most recent posting regarding the food allergy at winegasm.
    I am one of the managers of the establishement and was on duty the night in question.
    The first thing I would like to say is that we take food allergies very seriously, all staff must have a complete knowledge of the ingredients in everey dish, they get quizzed at the end of their training and they can't start working until they know all the menu.
    Secondly, the dish that the lady ordered absolutely doesn't contain pine nuts.
    Here is recipe for dish she had,
    Green olive Tapenade, Crushed picholine olives, anchovies,roasted garlic, olive oil blended together. It is served with white wine caramalized onions as well as toasted baguette.
    To pursue the food allergy comment we are so aware of those allergies that even our pesto which traditionnaly contains pine nuts is made without to avoid allergy problems.
    Also when a customer specify that they have an allergy regardless if they are sure or not of ingredients our staff always double checks with the kitchen just to be sure.
    As far as items that contain nuts at our venue we only have two, walnut bread for cheese plates, pinenuts for garnish of cheese plate ( The friends of the lady that had the allergy ordered a cheese plate that did come with pine nuts But it was not HER DISH and she didn't have any of it)
    Regarding the attitude comment I just asked her exactly what she ordered and ate so i could just make sure of what she had and double check once again with the kitchen.
    Once all is said we are really sorry that she had such an experience.

  8. Thanks for your comment Anon. It's hard for me to weigh in on the situation because I was not there. If you'd like to work out the issue with the customer, I think that you can link to her site through this page. Hope that you can come to an understanding.



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