Blend pairs food, wine

Blend, a downtown restaurant and wine bar specializing in blended wines, also serves up absolutely delicious dishes to enjoy along with them. Blend is located in a lovely, eclectically decorated older building which is very large but arranged in a way that the seating is intimate and cozy.

A blended wine is one made using different types of grapes to create complexity and great taste, and if can’t decide on one try a flight of three tastings (flights are three two-ounce glasses of red or white wine for $12.) Our favorite red was the Hess Napa Valley 2010, a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Petite Sirah grapes. For the white flight we really liked the Cabotte Cotes du Rhone, a blend of Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Viogner grapes. You can also add the red or white varietal wines in your tasting.

Apparently the chef at Blend, Scott Love, really likes to blend the menus up too, as it took a few minutes to get all of our cork-backed menu holders holding the most current fall menu. We were so glad it listed the Point Reyes blue cheese that we immediately decided to get the fromage and charcuterie board and added triple cream Brie and Genoa salami (choice of three, $14). The board was as lovely as it was delicious. The cheeses and meat, served on a wooden cutting board, came with crispy flatbread, fresh sweet strawberries, red bell pepper and strawberry jam, smoky cashews, grain mustard and house pickled vegetables — we had baby beets and spicy pickles. The combinations of the tangy blue cheese, extra creamy Brie and fatty, rich salami with the different elements included on the board were wonderful and it was fun to try the different tastes with the wine.

Blend offers small plates and encourages patrons to experiment and share. We did just that and were delighted with what was delivered. From the appetizer listings we tried the fried green tomatoes ($12) — two slices of tomatoes fried in a cornmeal batter which gave them a good crunch and topped with a red tomato marmalade and tons of lump blue crab mixed with a charred green onion aioli. A wonderful combination of textures and flavors, this dish was very satisfying.

The large serving of pommes frites ($6) with chives were the best French fries we’ve ever eaten. We all agreed we would go back just for these. They came with a side of chipotle mayonnaise for dipping which was good, but unnecessary. The fries were just the right amount of greasy and salty and a definite treat.

We also tried the one soup offered on the menu, the wild mushroom ($6). Again we were well pleased. The soup, with sautéed mushrooms and truffle cream, was rich and hearty and came garnished with toasted French bread for dipping.

From the shared plates portion of the menu we recommend the goat cheese flatbread ($10), a light serving packing lots of wonderful tastes. The bread is smeared with a creamy, light goat cheese mousse then topped with chopped blackened shrimp, diced eggplant, cherry tomatoes and sprinkled with a spring mix of greens drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. Thoughtfully cut into small squares it was perfect for sharing but so good it would be understandable if you didn’t.

The butternut squash cavatelli pasta ($15) was comfort food brought to a higher level. Though not beautiful to look at, the slightly-sweet squash pasta was mixed with a generous amount of tender pork, dotted with currants, and tossed with a rich creamy sauce which pulled it all together.

Another stellar choice, the NOLA BBQ shrimp ($12) was a knock out. A generous amount of shrimp sat atop Papa Tom’s cheese grits with a sauce that was no stranger to butter. Creamy and buttery, this dish was so good every bit was eaten and soaked up with the warm French bread served on the side.

Quite full and satisfied we shared one dessert among us, the bread pudding ($7). Served as a round piece and topped with fresh blueberries we enjoyed the thick but not dense dessert and liked the crunchy sugar coating.

This restaurant moved into our favorites list and we can’t wait to go back. The obvious care given to the quality and variety of food and wines was exceptional and the service was friendly and knowledgeable. We also enjoyed the soft funky music playing in the background as well as the fun décor.