Tag Archives: wine

Old World Meets Suburban Omaha

October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Thomas Grady

Having worked closely with Matt and Laurie Willburn to design their beautiful West Omaha home a few years ago, I was delighted to be invited back to conceptualize their wine cellar. 

Combining function with style was an important aspect of my interior design philosophy during construction of the Willburn home. My design of the wine cellar employed the same approach to create an inviting space for storing and displaying the family’s extensive wine collection. 

First, we had to find enough space for a wine cellar within the oddly shaped storage room to accommodate the vast collection (with plenty of room for friends and family to mingle). 

The existing soffit couldn’t be moved or modified in any way, so the space needed to be reconfigured in such a way that the available structure allowed bottle storage without diminishing the overall design aesthetic.

Additional design requirements included lighting and display considerations (without sacrificing storage space for the large collection). We wanted the display to be functional but also be the focal point of the room. We wanted to create something with a dynamic visual element.

Our solution was to create a design resembling a wine barrel. The fundamental simplicity and modern functionality simultaneously showcased their wine in a unique way. The circular design of the room—with LED-lit wood panels—further provides a sophisticated environment for appreciating the extensive bottle collection. The display also hides the existing soffit, so it was the perfect solution to the challenge of the existing space.

The scale of the room balances the weight of the massive wine collection, which is also displayed on circular wood panels covering the side walls and backlit by radiant LED light. The lighting configuration gives the illusion that bottles are floating in the air, a stark contrast to the brick veneer in between the circular wood panels. 

The circular space presented additional design challenges when it came to choosing materials that could be manipulated on a curved surface. The solution was to apply a thin brick veneer and wood panels made of imported hardwood veneer layers, allowing the panels to bend and fit the curved wall. ​

We added finishes to infuse Old World charm into the modern wine cellar, forming the perfect union of domestic utility and alluring elegance. The resulting space inspires drinking wine with good food in good company. 

A repurposed door from a grandparent’s family home in Colorado adorns the entry from the basement, adding deep sentimental value to the balance of personal expression and purposeful glamour. 

Like a glass of fine wine, the Willburns’ wine cellar leaves a lasting impression. The room is truly a space to be enjoyed.


MEET THE DESIGNER

Stacie Muhle 
Allied ASID, Artistico

​Muhle received her Bachelor of Interior Architecture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She applies her stylistic vision and attention to detail to commercial, corporate, and residential projects. Innovative design skills allow Muhle to transform clients’ design wishes into unique and practical spaces in reality.


Visit artisticodesign.net for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Escape on Wine Road

October 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Driving into the heart of wine country in Northern California, our chauffeur has to point out where last year’s devastation ravaged the landscape of Sonoma County. At first glance, we only see lush green hillsides. Upon closer inspection from the passing vehicle, the brownish limbs of damaged evergreens indicate where flames once danced over the freeway in October 2017. Occasional construction sites and empty lots reveal the former site of gas stations, fast food joints, and hotels consumed by wildfires. 

“After the recent rains, everything turned so green,” says the driver, Hugo, a resident of Santa Rosa (the largest city in Sonoma County). His neighborhood was almost entirely destroyed, and his home was among the few that survived. “It burned so fast that, as soon as the firefighters got there, everything was gone. The heat was so intense that it was melting aluminum from the wheels on cars.”

Luckily, “vineyards are a natural firebreak,” Hugo says. Hundreds of fires across Northern California destroyed some 8,900 buildings, causing upwards of $9.4 million in damage close to the time of harvest season. But most of Sonoma’s grapes had been picked by then. Although some late-harvest yields could carry a smoky flavor, we can only speculate (as that vintage had yet to begin pouring during our visit in May).

Wine production—the vineyards acting as a firebreak—didn’t merely slow the devastation; the industry and its associated tourism remain a critical part of the region’s economic recovery. As we drive deeper into the grape-producing hills of Sonoma County, evidence of the previous year’s inferno fades from view and memory. We are getting thirsty. Bring on the wine!

Our trip began with a direct flight from Omaha to San Francisco on the morning of Saturday, May 5. Joined by my family, wife Michele and 8-month-old Faye-Marie, it was our first foray into California’s wine country. Neither my wife nor I had much knowledge of fine wines (let alone Sonoma wines), but we eagerly welcomed the opportunity to drink, uh, I mean, “to learn.” Yes, this was an educational trip. 

After some light weekend sightseeing in San Francisco—and gaining firsthand appreciation for the apocryphal Mark Twain quote “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”—Hugo’s sparkling Chevy Suburban from Pure Luxury Transportation arrived at our hotel. 

We left the foggy city and drove north through the Golden Gate Bridge, stopped for selfies, and (after another hour or so) were transported to the laid-back hillsides of Sonoma County to find perfect weather. It was all blue skies and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The day before in San Francisco was about 20 degrees cooler (a common temperature differential between the two Northern California locales).

We were, literally, traveling the Wine Road. The association of wineries and lodgings in northern Sonoma County, known as Wine Road, had invited us on the trip and arranged our travel itinerary and accommodations. Wine Road even took into account a schedule that accommodated all our interests and limitations (i.e., maximum wining/dining for us with minimal whining from the baby). 

Omaha Magazine’s publisher and associate publisher traveled to Sonoma a month earlier for photos, but they encountered rainy weather that left the hillsides nice and green for our subsequent reporting trip. Our timing, a few weeks before the Memorial Day tourist rush, seemed ideal. June through October is widely noted to be the best time to visit Sonoma, but tourism is also more packed during those five months heading into the grape-harvest season. 

Nine Sonoma wineries together established Wine Road in 1976. It now includes about 200 winery members (close to half of the vineyards in Sonoma) and roughly 50 associate lodging members. The Wine Road website describes its coalition as “a spirited constellation of nearly 200 wineries and 54 lodgings” that provides a resource to guide visitors and locals alike. Member vineyards range from modern and state-of-the-art to smaller boutique operations located throughout northern Sonoma’s Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys. 

Sonoma is home to roughly 425 vineyards in total, including farmers who simply grow grapes for sale to larger companies, along with members-only vineyards where it can take years of being waitlisted before a would-be customer could even purchase a bottle, and everything in between. 

 Day 1: Arrival in Sonoma County

The wine country of Sonoma also offers the delicious paradox of mountain town atmosphere, rural farming interspersed with high luxury, and close proximity to expansive ocean shorelines. Just to the east is the neighboring, landlocked wine region of Napa County. Sonoma’s wine-producing regions cover roughly 65,000 acres, which is 25,000 more than neighboring Napa. 

Varied soil types and mild temperatures help make Sonoma a winegrower’s paradise. The county may be best known for its pinot noir and zinfandels, but it also produces a host of other varietals: chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, shiraz, and petite sirah. Each subregion of Sonoma is known for particular grapes, and the Russian River Valley is widely considered to produce some of the world’s best pinot noir—the preferred varietal of the Paul Giamatti’s character in the 2004 film Sideways by Omaha director Alexander Payne. (Although the film was not shot in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, for the sake of the film’s protagonist, it probably should have been; the on-screen character’s obsession for pinot noir was associated with a spike in demand and price for pinot around the time of the film’s release.) The Russian River Valley is also notable for its chardonnay production.

Driving along River Road, we cross a bridge high over the Russian River. Happy kayakers float on the gentle river below (possibly with wine stashed in their vessels). Veering off the road, a steep driveway takes us up to our lodging nestled behind a wall of trees and dense foliage. We discover Sonoma Orchid Inn Bed and Breakfast—a cluster of cozy yellow cottages—to be a rustic, sun-soaked dream. Hummingbirds flit past multi-colored roses, and one of the property’s co-owners, Dana Murphy, welcomes us in the driveway.

Murphy offers a quick tour of the three-level main cottage. In addition to smaller standalone cottages outside, the main building features rooms for a range of price points. There is artwork and antique furniture throughout; a family-style dining room and living room on the main level with a library, fireplace, couches, floor-to-ceiling windows, and piano; and two kitchens, one for staff, one for guests. 

The nearby Russian River is a short walk from the lodging along Odd Fellows Park Road. The river takes its name from Russian explorers who established forts and planted apples in the area at the dawn of the 19th century. Then came Spanish missionaries, who introduced grapes to the Russian River Valley for personal consumption (making it the oldest wine-producing region of California). Formal annexation of California by the U.S. came in 1848, followed by the gold rush, logging and destruction of expansive redwood forests, Prohibition (which put local viticulture on hold), the rise and fall of hop farming, and eventual removal of apple orchards in recent decades. 

Sonoma’s history is fascinating, and the B&B site was originally the homestead of a prune/plumb/hops farmer who came out for the gold rush but missed the action. But I struggle to keep my focus from the mountain of chewy double-chocolate (gluten-free) cookies that Murphy—also the resident chef—had piled under a covered platter in the guest kitchen. 

The refrigerator is stocked with favorite wines from Sonoma, of course. To my surprise, the fridge is also packed with an ample selection of local craft beer and hard cider. Before becoming synonymous with wine country, Sonoma was famous for its production of Gravenstein apples and the hops necessary for beer. The high value of grapes in recent decades prompted growers to cultivate grapevines in place of orchards and hop farms. 

In recent years, however, the booming demand for craft beer and hard cider has led to resurgent use of these historic Sonoma agricultural products. Although the grapes remain more profitable per acre, the cyclical pattern of history in Sonoma agriculture feels poetic. But we are late for dinner (and I can only eat so many cookies before seeming like a rude guest).

Another driver picks us up, and we head into the quaint town of Guerneville. The small-town feel of the main drag belies the culinary delights waiting in the bars and restaurants. We stop at an uber-hip bistro, Boon Eat+Drink, to feast on roasted Brussels sprouts, a burger with truffle fries, and baked cod from a seasonally rotating menu (paired with Sonoma wine, of course, and a local Sonoma beer). Next door, we pop into the Guerneville Bank Club—a collective retail and art space in a restored historic bank—for a slice of spicy green chile apple pie with a scoop of lavender honeycomb ice cream. 

There is still sunlight, so we head over to the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve for a walk. Giant redwoods tower overhead, and we meander through the trees on a flat trail with occasional interpretive signs that explain how the patch of old-growth forest narrowly escaped loggers’ axes. We take the “Discovery Loop” trail to pay respects to Colonel Armstrong (a redwood tree that is more than 1,400 years old) and Parson Jones (the forest’s tallest tree at 310 feet).

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Back at our lodging, our host explains that we made the right decision to skip Muir Woods National Monument on the way to Sonoma. Although Muir Woods is easily accessible north of San Francisco, the forest has become so crowded with tourists that reservations are needed to visit. We just showed up at Armstrong Redwoods, and we only encountered a few other couples and families hiking (there . 

 Day 2: Adventure and Gluttony

Experiencing local wineries fills the remainder of our trip. We have multiple chauffeurs during our tour, and I ask each driver to suggest the perfect number of wineries to visit on a trip to Sonoma. The answer varies. 

One middle-aged driver says that two or three at max is ideal per day. He sees too many visitors get sloshed early in the day and miss their dinner reservations to five-star restaurants. He’s been driving guests for many years, and his advice is solid. In contrast, another driver (in his 20s) insists that five wineries is the perfect number in a day. With youthful energy and/or high tolerance for alcohol, this could also work out well—so long as wine consumption is moderated at every stop, or there are no fancy dinner reservations in the evening that could be spoiled. 

There are vessels for spitting out wine at every winery. And staffers always assure us that this is perfectly normal. But I find it difficult to not swallow/guzzle great wine, so a less-ambitious winery tour is better for my waste-not attitude. Then again, I also want to sample as much as I can. Luckily, we experience a bit of both scheduling philosophies on our trip. 

We begin with a leisurely drinking day. But first, some adventure. My first full day in Sonoma begins at Sonoma Canopy Tours. Michele and the baby stay at the B&B as I head deep into the redwood forest. 

To check in, I must step on a scale to make sure I’m not over 250 pounds. A nearby television screen displays footage of helmeted humans screaming through the treetops hundreds of feet above the earth. Minutes later, I’m geared up and flying between the redwoods. My group’s lead guide, Bryan Hart, is a true comedian. Every stop on a platform high in the trees is master’s course in tree-related puns, i.e., Q: Why is this tree so healthy? A: Because of the antibodies (he points to the ants all over the tree). Hart’s assistant can’t help but roll his eyes at the constant barrage of puns (that he has no doubt heard a million times) about pirates, animals, wine, and celebri-trees. But I love it. 

Meanwhile, Michele is enjoying breakfast with travelers from as far away as Latvia and across the U.S. (including local Californians). Some are passing through on self-directed wine tours, others make the lodge a recurring destination for family trips. The co-owners, Murphy and Brian Siewert, are experts on Sonoma wineries, festivals, and activities. What’s more, they share their knowledge with a typical laid-back California fashion, absent of condescension (which we experienced all throughout Sonoma). They were helpful and informative without making us feel stupid about wine, which in all fairness, we were.

In an idyllic sun-soaked scene that could have been ripped from a Thomas Kinkade painting, I find Michele and the baby playing in the yard. Then we are off to our first winery, Korbel Champagne Cellars, which boasts of being the only producer of real champagne outside of France. Korbel’s operation in Sonoma was founded by three Czech brothers in 1882, a history that exempts it from a later international treaty that legally restricts use of the term “champagne” to sparkling wine produced in Champagne, France. 

Korbel provided the champagne for Ronald Reagan’s presidential inauguration. Of course a Californian would use “California Champagne,” and he set a tradition that has continued with the drink of choice in all subsequent U.S. presidential inaugurations. President Barack Obama received angry feedback from French wine lobbyists for his serving Korbel to no avail. His inauguration organizers more or less told the lobbyists to “put a cork in it.”

We visit the cellars, learn the company history, witness the stages of production, and linger in the tasting room until we’ve tried every variety (including several limited editions). Buzzed and late, we stop in the cafe for some fancy sandwiches to eat in the car. Had we not spent so much time in the tasting room, we would have taken our sandwiches to Armstrong Redwoods for a picnic. Never mind. We are off to our next destination, Iron Horse Vineyards. 

Iron Horse Vineyards’ tasting room consists of a cozy bar overlooking a sweeping vista of grapevines rolling downhill and out to the horizon. Iron Horse, like Korbel, was also a crucial drink for the Reagan administration. Iron Horse’s sparkling wine was served at his Perestroika meetings with the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev that ended the Cold War. Although famous for its sparkling wine (and we sample the 2013 Russian Cuvee that commemorates the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting), the vineyard produces much more—including some delightful chardonnay and pinot noir. 

We close out the bar in the late afternoon, and we head to Forestville (another of Sonoma’s quaint little towns) for dinner reservations at Backyard. Backyard is a farm-to-table restaurant. Chef and owner Daniel Kedan brings out a spectacular charcuterie board with ingredients sourced from his own garden along with local organic farms. Live music is playing, and we order several other dishes—pizza, pasta, and fried chicken—that are all wonderful. 

Beware. Travelers in wine country must be careful of overeating as well as overdrinking. By the time we leave Backyard, I am so full that I have to walk up and down the little main street a few times

 Day 3: Novelty and Heavy Drinking

Our first full day was a crash course in sparkling wine. Our second full day will introduce the broader spectrum of Sonoma wines from chardonnay to pinot to zinfandel (and more). Wine tours, we are told, should start with lighter-bodied wines—sparkling or chardonnay—and move into the heavier-bodied wines. Pinot is a very light-bodied red wine. Cabernet sauvignon, on the other hand, is robust and dominates one’s palate).

After a family-style breakfast at the B&B, I take a lesson from the previous day and remind myself not to overdo it. Today is our big day of drinking with four vineyards and a brewery all on the itinerary. We start with a stop at Sonoma-Cutrer in the Russian River Valley.

While the baby is sleeping in the stroller under the shade of our table’s umbrella, we sample three refreshing chardonnays and a pinot while munching on a local cheese spread. Each chardonnay exhibits a different flavor characteristic: one is more fruit forward on the tongue, another carries stronger oaky hints from the barrel, and the third has a stronger mineral taste. The pinot, without any cross-reference, I’d simply describe as delightful (a descriptor that applies to each chardonnay, too). 

Our table overlooks two croquet courts. Two elderly couples smack at balls on one court, and our server offers a quick tutorial. We play a few rounds as the baby sleeps nearby. Swinging the mallet between planted feet takes some getting used to, but it’s a fun way to putter around the grass while enjoying more wine. 

Next, we swing over to Healdsburg for lunch at Bear Republic Brewing Co. We order a Big Bear Black Stout and the barrel-aged flight set. For Sonoma’s historical integrity, the hoppy flight would have been another good choice, but we are trying to pace ourselves. We order garlic fries and a beet salad. Then we’re off to Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in the Dry Creek Valley.

Ferrari-Carano’s palatial estate features sprawling gardens that are a tourist attraction independent of the winery, which employs a dozen or so full-time gardeners to care for flowers and hedgerows surrounding the mansion. There is even a special hotline (707-433-5349) for the public to inquire about the status of the tulips. The estate’s roughly 10,000 tulips and daffodils bloom in the spring. Owner Rhonda Carano designed all the gardens, and every year she chooses the colors of the tulips to surprise visitors. Roses are also found throughout the property (and in other Sonoma vineyards). Traditionally, roses served a purpose in vineyards by indicating to growers if pests were threatening the vines (the flowers were the first targets, though they now primarily serve an aesthetic role).

The vineyard has two tasting rooms: one on the main level, and one past the cellars downstairs. We start with tasting upstairs. Then, we head downstairs to experience a private sensory tasting where a sommelier has different canisters spread across a table in a dimly lit room. Each canister holds a different item: from fruits and herbs to spices and chocolate, paired with lighter wines first, followed by a succession of heavier-bodied wines. The exercise is meant to help strengthen one’s ability to articulate the sensory experience of the wine, as each person may experience a wine differently with different mental associations. 

By this point in the day, I’m thankful we have a driver. Our next stop is Fritz Underground. Founder Arthur Fritz started building the facility in the heat of the 1970s’ energy crisis. The production facility, cellar, and tasting room were all buried into a hillside in the Dry Creek Valley. By the time construction had completed, the energy crisis was over; however, the vineyard continues to yield the benefit of low utility bills and is ready in the event that America again faces an energy shortage. Touring the vineyard feels like descending into a futuristic bomb shelter, but the top-level tasting room feels like sitting in a church with the serving sommelier as the high priest. 

It’s Tuesday, and every Tuesday evening is the A Tavola dinner at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville. We head over for the meal featuring actors serving dinner and drinks in a theatrical performance that comes directly to the table. 

Driving into the grounds, we keep an eye out for the red Tesla that the famous director and vineyard owner supposedly drives. We don’t see it. So we proceed to walk through the lavish grounds, past the expansive swimming pool area, toward the restaurant.

Waiting for our dinner reservation, we have time to peruse an expansive collection of memorabilia in the two-level Movie Gallery museum. There’s Don Corleone’s desk from the Godfather movies and vampire garb from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, along with other unforgettable props from Coppola films. There’s even a short-story dispenser that prints out short stories in three lengths (with a button for estimated reading time of one, three, or five minutes) from Zoetrope: All-Story, Coppola’s magazine of short stories and art. 

A very pregnant-looking hostess/actress takes us to our seat. There is a family patriarch in wife beater chastising waiters or running from his wife. Waiter-actors deliver multiple courses of pasta, pizza, and other Italian foods to our table (along with accompanying Coppola brand wines, of course). An accordion player sits at one end of the spacious room filled with tables of guests, and at different points of the evening, he is joined by other musicians. 

At some point, the family patriarch chases another man around the room with a knife. They run around outdoors and around the building. Then the antics resume indoors. By this point, it’s getting late and the baby starts to cry. The patriarch comes over and, still remaining in character, apologetically asks if the knife chase was too much. Not at all. But it has been a long day. We finish our meal and depart for much-needed  

 Day 4: Bitten by the Wine Bug

Feeling quite accomplished to wake up without a hangover, we enjoy one last breakfast with our host B&B and head to the final winery of our trip—DeLoach Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Acquired by the Boisset Family of vineyards in 2003, the 25-acre vineyard continues the original DeLoach philosophy of sustainable winemaking. It is one of several Boisset vineyards in France, California, Italy, and Canada

As we approach DeLoach, our driver explains that this road is home to many “old vine” grape-bearing vines (35 to 40 years old, or older), discernible by the vines’ gnarled appearance and absence of modern trellis technology. When we sit down at the vineyard’s outdoor patio area, we have the opportunity to enjoy a range of DeLoach wines that includes both new-growth and old-growth vines produced by the property (and supplemented by neighboring vineyards).

A staffer gives us a tour of the grounds, the “biodynamic” eco-friendly garden that is home to various flowers, vegetable gardens, and animals (Faye-Marie is especially impressed with the goats and chickens). We also explore owner Jean-Charles Boisset’s party room—a James Bond-themed bar area with costumes, wigs, and sensory emitters (like what we had at Ferrari-Carano, but in squeezable perfume sprayers) decorating the walls. Our guide explains that each Boisset vineyard has a special party room with a different theme.

Our time in Sonoma is drawing to a close. We down our last glasses of DeLoach’s delicious old-vine wine, bid farewell to Sonoma, and our driver takes us back to San Francisco for an afternoon flight. Time to return to reality. 

The day after returning to Omaha, I can’t help but feel something is missing. I’m eating my lunch as I normally do, and it hits me: where’s my wine? Three and a half days of drinking some of the nation’s best wine can be habit-forming. And lunch is just not the same without it. 

Later that night, after shutting down the office, I head to the Costco near Omaha Magazine’s suburban office to pick up some groceries—and to see if I can find any of the wines we had tasted on our vineyard tour. Happily, I find a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from Sonoma-Cutrer. 

The bottle is above the price point I would normally spend. But the purchase is worth it. After putting the baby to bed, we slice some cheese and uncork the bottle. Two glasses of the crisp and refreshing chardonnay later, we are transported back to the frivolous, sun-drenched morning of snacking and croquet while our baby sleeps peacefully.

Wine, it seems, truly has the power to teleport the sensory experiences of one memorable moment to the present. Would I like to travel back to Sonoma? Most definitely. Until the opportunity arises, the occasional Sonoma wine will do just fine. 


Visit wineroad.com for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Iron Horse Vineyards in mid-March

Pinot and Pumps

August 12, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

While customers filled up their cars with gas, I filled up on a five-course meal and knocked back glasses of fine California wines. A gas station is the last place most people would go for fancy dining, but once a month local food and wine lovers gather around tables—set up just beyond the racks of Slim Jims and smokes—at the Old Market Cubby’s to savor elegant dishes paired with wines.

It’s not uncommon these days to find good, affordable bottles of vino at convenience stores, but few offer wine-tasting dinners like Cubby’s has for the last decade. The downtown Omaha convenience store, which includes a deli, produce section, and meat counter, hosts the popular wine dinners on the third Wednesday of the month. Cubby’s kitchen crew prepares the food on-site, and the menu, designed to appeal to a wide range of tastes, changes each month. 

Whether guests are casual wine drinkers or connoisseurs, the dinners provide a chance to enhance their knowledge—perhaps my favorite aspect of the event. At a recent dinner, fine wine specialist John Ursick of Omaha and others were on hand to describe the nuances of each wine and answer questions. The dinners are a relative bargain at $30 per person. Portions are generous, and so are the pours.

Crostini topped with olive tapenade and sliced prosciutto

On my visit, the first course featured a flavorful flatbread layered with dried apricot and figs, prosciutto, and fresh arugula. Edible flowers scattered on top provided an extra pop of color, while the sweetness of the dried fruit combined perfectly with the saltiness of the prosciutto. Also good was the accompanying glass of smooth, fruity chardonnay from The Crusher Wines.

A textural and visual delight, crostini topped with olive tapenade and sliced prosciutto was a satisfying blend of crispy, salty, and savory, but I would have preferred the prosciutto shaved thin. A juicy, easy-drinking red blend, also from The Crusher Wines, complemented the dish beautifully.

I also enjoyed a plate of plump, tender crab cakes that had a generous amount of lump crabmeat and a crispy, golden brown exterior. A glass of full-bodied Chardonnay from B Side Wines on California’s North Coast delighted with its crisp finish.

Crab cakes

Shrimp scampi arrived buttery, lemony, and just garlicky enough, but the accompanying pasta was slightly overcooked. It came paired with a Don & Sons pinot noir from Sonoma County, in the heart of wine country.

For dessert, a version of frozen s’mores delivered all the flavors one would expect from the classic childhood treat: graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow. A scoop of homemade bubblegum ice cream in the center was luscious and creamy, but the flavor clashed with the other ingredients. The dessert’s sweetness paired well with the slightly smoky notes of the Gunsight Rock cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles.

Although a gas station is no match for the ambiance of a rustic winery or cozy bistro, wine dinners at Cubby’s are a fun way to sample a variety of bites and learn more about wine in a relaxed, casual, and unconventional setting. 

Cubby’s Old Market Grocery and Catering

601 S. 13th St. | 402.341.2900 

FOOD 3.5 stars
SERVICE 4 stars
AMBIANCE 3 stars
PRICE $$
OVERALL 3.5 stars


Visit cubbys.com for more information.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

Flatbread layered with dried apricot, figs, prosciutto, and fresh arugula

Les Zanotti

December 22, 2017 by
Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits.


Les Zanotti, 81

I grew up in a small Iowa farming town with a population of 400.  I attended the University of Iowa on a baseball scholarship and graduated with a business degree. After serving in the military and working two sales jobs, I started an executive search business here in Omaha at age 31. After almost 34 years, I sold my business to one of my employees and retired.

At age 81, I don’t really feel any different from how I felt 20 years ago.

Our daughter and her husband have blessed us with three grandchildren, who are all honor students and have competed in various sports all through high school. What great fun and thrills for Grandpa and Grandma!

I am happiest when busy—whether alone, with great friends, or with our beautiful family. Food and wine are the common denominators with our best friends. Most of them have great cellars and all like sharing.

“You don’t look your age” is what I like to hear. I have a brother who is 12 years older and doesn’t look 93. Maybe it’s the genes.

I am the same weight as in high school. We eat out quite a lot, so it’s hard to eat healthy foods always; however, I do try to avoid fatty foods.

I suffered a heart attack in 1999. Ever since, I have taken a brisk two-mile walk every day, first thing in the morning.

If you want to look your very best at any age, I feel that you must be active and keep moving the best you can—and drink wine!

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Obviously Omaha

May 25, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

Food and drink are an important part of summertime festivals and cultural events. Celebrations across Omaha’s diverse communities ensure a wide selection of new and interesting things to try. Here are a few options to explore.

Dancers at Omaha’s beloved South Omaha festival

Cinco de Mayo
May 5-7
South 24th Street, from D to L streets

Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s victory at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1962, during the Franco-Mexican War. But in the United States, the holiday has become a general celebration of Mexican culture. Chalupas—small tortillas lightly fried and topped with salsa, onion, and shredded chicken or beef—are a common dish in Puebla. During the festivities in South Omaha, there will also be plenty of tacos, tortas, and other treats (Mexican ice cream, horchata, and specialty drinks). 
cincodemayoomaha.com

Taste of Omaha provides food choices for everyone.

Taste of Omaha
June 2-4
Heartland of America Park and Lewis & Clark Landing

Taste of Omaha is a must-try on the city’s culinary calendar. The three-day food and entertainment extravaganza celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2017. Taste’s smorgasbord gives people a chance to try foods from India, various parts of Africa, Japan, Mexico, and elsewhere, along with several local farm-to-fork options. Taste of Omaha’s signature alcoholic drink, “River Breeze,” is made from coconut-flavored vodka mixed with cranberry and pineapple juices.
showofficeonline.com/TasteHome

Cool off on a hot summer’s night with Italian gelato

Santa Lucia Festival
June 8-11
Lewis & Clark Landing

Founded in 1925 by Grazia Bonafede Caniglia, this festival emulates the traditions of the Santa Lucia Festival in Carlentini, Sicily. Italian food is one of the festival’s highlights. Favorites include sausage or meatball sandwiches and Sicilian-style pizza by the Pizza Boys of Santa Lucia. Pasta lovers can carb-load on fried ravioli, mostaccioli, and much more.
santaluciafestival.com

Shaved ice is a favorite among kids at Omaha Summer Arts Festival

Omaha Summer Arts Festival
June 9-11
Farnam Street, 10th to 15th streets

Gator on a stick, anyone? In addition to traditional festival favorites—cotton candy, funnel cakes, and fresh-squeezed lemonade—the Summer Arts Festival also boasts seafood dishes, noodle bowls, and other foods to satisfy artistically inspired hunger. Snow cones help kids cool down, while adults can enjoy watermelon/grapefruit shandy, vanilla cream ale, black cherry hard soda, or a hard sparkling water.
summerarts.org

Take us out to the ball games, where you can chow down on traditional favorites as well as unique eats.

College World Series
June 16-27/28
TD Ameritrade Park

Each year brings new treats to Omaha’s favorite baseball event. Last year’s lineup of concession offerings at CWS included foot-long taquitos for $18; “mangia fries,” french fries coated in Italian seasoning and topped with cheese sauce, pepperoni, banana peppers, and diced tomatoes; and the “Reuben sausage,” a tubular version of Omaha’s favorite deli meat topped with sauerkraut and dressing served in a pumpernickel bun. Starting in 2016, the NCAA allowed beer and wine sales at the event. Cheers!
cwsomaha.com

Pack a picnic and come to the green for theatrics, and theater.

Shakespeare on the Green
June 22-July 9 (weekends)
Elmwood Park

Nebraska Shakespeare is putting on dinner and a show with its annual Shakespeare on the Green. Several local food trucks will dish up their fare at this free event. In true Shakespeare fashion, pizza vendors will have a variety of cleverly named dishes relating to the night’s performance. This event allows spectators to pack their own picnics, including beer or wine if desired.
nebraskashakespeare.com

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Mexican
 Perfection

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Anthony Bourdain was asked what food trend he would like to see in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), he said, “I would like people really to pay more for top-quality Mexican food. I think it’s the most undervalued, underappreciated world cuisine with tremendous, tremendous potential.”

At Hook & Lime Tacos + Tequila, North Downtown’s newest addition, you will find that top-quality Mexican food and all kinds of potential, though you won’t necessarily have to pay more for it.

Owner Robbie Malm says after selling his share in Dudley’s Pizza and Tavern, he wanted to do something smaller and more creative. With a little help from his wife, Erin, and his brother, Tim Malm, he has done just that.

Hook & Lime’s menu has a selection of a la carte tacos, small plates, and tortas, all for under $20.

But if you do want to spend some money and have a more decadent experience, you can try the family-style tacos or the tasting menu (with or without tequila).

For the family-style tacos, you can choose between the whole fish, which is currently fried, striped bass, or bone-in barbacoa, which is cooked for 72 hours, crisped in the oven, and sent to the table for you to pick apart.

Head chef Alex Sorens says the tasting menu is something he’s excited about because it gives his crew the opportunity to create dishes and test things out. If they’re good, they’ll go on the next tasting menu.

“It’s stuff that we wouldn’t normally serve to the public,” he says. “It will be a select amount of these things, and when we run out, we run out.”

The menu features a lot of fish, hence the “hook” in Hook & Lime. Sorens says he gets their fish from Seattle Fish Co. out of Kansas City, Missouri. He uses their program Whole Boat Harvest for some of the dishes, like the ceviche. The program sells the “leftover” fish from hauls, fish that would normally go to waste because they’re not as well-known as others.

“The reason for that is because I’m trying to do my part to not be in that same group that’s using all those super popular, over-fished species that are going on endangered lists right now.”

Sorens also tries to support other environmentally conscious businesses, getting a lot of their ingredients from local producers like Plum Creek Farms and Jon’s Naturals.

Malm says these are things you might normally only find at “higher-end, white tablecloth places.” He says their goal is to make that food available to everyone.

“We have this amazing menu, these amazing items, that we’re able to bring to people who normally wouldn’t get to experience them,” he says. “We’re trying to take that food, that approach of sourcing locally and treating these items with respect, and make it more approachable. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a suit and tie or flip-flops, we welcome everybody here.”

Malm says he has been “very, very fortunate” in finding the team to do that.

“Everyone seems to be really excited about their role in this,” he says. “So I quickly found out that my best role is really to enable them to just dive in.”

This enthusiasm extends to the front of the house, where bar manager Brian van Egmond works to create original cocktails using ingredients made in house.

“It’s a fusion between speed and craft,” he says. There will be a couple margaritas available on tap, but the fresh juices are added after they’re poured.

So far, van Egmond says they’ve made their own orange brandy, orange liquor, syrups, and crème de cassis. He is currently working on a strawberry tequila for their strawberry margaritas. They also have a hibiscus-infused reposado, which is used to make the Roselle cocktail.

“That’s one I think both Negroni and Cosmo fans will appreciate.”

Van Egmond says they also have a well-curated spirits list, and plenty of beers to offer, including many from local breweries. There are also several wine options.

Of course, if what you’re really looking for is some straight up, premium tequila, Hook & Lime has you covered.

“Tequila is my favorite thing to drink,” Malm says. “It is my favorite thing to drink,” he repeats, laughing. “And I’m a fairly recent convert.”

But once he fell in love with tequila, it became a little bit of an obsession. He talks excitedly about touring tequila distilleries in Mexico with his wife. He says they toured five different spots, including Cuervo and Herradura.

The restaurant’s offerings reflect his enthusiasm, with more than 100 tequilas on their list and four different styles of flights available if you want to do a little sampling before you commit.

“They say there’s no zealot like a convert,” Malm says. “And that is definitely true when it comes to tequila.”

Undoubtedly, Hook & Lime will do their share in creating converts, both to tequila and to a greater appreciation of top-quality Mexican food.

Hook & Lime is open Sundays through Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Foraging and Fermenting Wild American Grapes

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Doug Meigs

If you’ve ever been interested in making wine from wild grapes, Frank Sobetski says this is a good year to start.

For nearly 25 years, Sobetski has been supplying local winemakers at Fermenter’s Supply & Equipment (84th and J streets in Omaha, behind Just Good Meats). He sells kits, equipment, and supplies to experts and novices alike. He also offers useful advice on foraging and fermenting.

Blue ribbons hang on his back wall, behind the counter of the small, tidy shop. The ribbons recognize the proprietor’s mastery of oenology (i.e., the study of wines).

Sobetski has tasted a variety of local wines as the superintendent of the Nebraska State Fair Winemaking Competition for the past 33 years. He knows what to expect from local vintages.

He has cultivated grapevines year-to-year since the mid-1980s, and he opened Fermenter’s Supply & Equipment in 1992. Sobetski has been serving winemaking wisdom soaked in his scientific knowledge ever since.

Foraging Wild Grapes

Wild American “fox” grapes differ from store-bought table grapes and wine grapes, which are largely of European origin. Wild grapes are more tart and less sweet than domestic varieties used in commercial winemaking. Fox grape varieties are known for having an earthy and sweet muskiness. The distinct aroma is called “foxy.”

Nebraska’s wild grapes are predominantly from the vitis labrusca and vitus vuplina species of American grapes. They are hardier than European vitis vinifera grapes associated with European, South American, and Californian wines. Nebraskan vitis labrusca and vuplina can better withstand Nebraska’s frigid winters and brutally hot summers. Concord grapes are a well-known cultivated variety of vitis labrusca.

The ripening of wild grapes is known as “veraison” in viticulture and véraison in French. In Nebraska, veraison generally occurs from August to September.

Harvest enough grapes and, with a bit of effort, aspiring winemakers can produce a unique wild grape wine that is unlike any familiar European wine. 

In July 2016, Sobetski predicted a good year for wild grapes in Nebraska because of “fortunate rainfall.” In early fall, the ripe blue-black clusters of wild grapes begin sagging from vines stretched between fence posts and tree branches.

The low-hanging fruits can easily be collected by hand. Wild grapes are often found near rivers and streams, or associated woodlands. Plant guidebooks or a Google image search can assist with identification, and grapes are typically plentiful once located.

Understanding Fermentation

Sobetski says that in order to produce a palatable wine from wild grapes, the “must” (i.e., the juice solution) should be made chemically like European grape juice, which remains the standard.

Balancing the must is complicated by a number of factors. Wild grapes are more acidic and contain less sugar than European grapes. Sobetski says this condition can be ameliorated by adding water and sugar to the must

The equipment generally needed for the initial fermentation stage is a primary fermenter (an airtight container to which a fermentation lock can be affixed), a fermentation lock (a simple device through which gasses may escape but not go back through), and a mesh sack to hold grapes in the fermenter. Measuring cups, spoons, and scales are also necessary. A length of food-grade tubing and sealable bottles are needed to bottle the wine.

A hydrometer—a buoyant glass tube that is calibrated to measure the amount of suspended solids versus straight water in a solution—is “the most important tool in winemaking,” according to Sobetski. Reading a hydrometer can tell a winemaker when fermentation is complete. Sobetski says that one can make wine without a hydrometer, but to pursue the hobby in earnest, a hydrometer is essential.

“Sanitization is the most important thing,” Sobetski says. “Soap and water is not enough.” Phosphoric acid is a safe, nontoxic sanitizer that can be used. Diluted household bleach sanitizes effectively as well. Everything that may come into contact with the wine must be thoroughly sanitized or the wine is at risk of becoming infected. Infection will ruin a batch of wine, effectively destroying an entire grape harvest.

Making Foxy Wine

Making wild American grape wine is not difficult. First, sanitize all of your equipment. Then remove your grapes from the stems and wash them. Place the grapes in a mesh sack. Place the mesh sack in your primary fermenter. Crush the grapes in the sack, releasing as much juice as possible. Add water, sugar, pectic enzyme, and yeast nutrient. Add the crushed Campden tablet and mix thoroughly. Cover the primary fermenter.

After 24 hours, pitch the yeast into the solution, attach a fermentation lock, and seal the fermenter. Wait a few days. If you are using a hydrometer, fermentation effectively stops when the density reading (known as “specific gravity”) reaches below “1.000.”

Further fermentation in secondary and tertiary fermenters before bottling would improve the wine’s quality. But the additional steps can add several months (or years) to the process. Then, the wine can be siphoned into bottles using a small length of tubing.

Store a few bottles. Share the rest. They will run out fast. The sweet, “foxy” tartness pairs well with autumn weather and is sure to please your holiday guests. They will never forget their first sip of wild American fox grape wine, and neither will you.


Wild American Grape Wine Recipe

Frank Sobetski recommends the Winemaker’s Recipe Handbook as a starting point for wild fruit wine recipes. The brief handbook costs less than $5 and is easy to read. Sobetski says that this book “assumes the reader has knowledge from other sources,” including knowledge of fermentation processes and equipment. Nevertheless, a novice winemaker can follow these recipes and expect “reasonable outcomes,” says Sobetski. His recommended wild-grape wine recipe is derived from the handbook. The following recipe makes one gallon of wine:

6 pounds wild grapes. Forage them.

6 pints water. Avoid tap water if possible.

2 pounds white sugar.

½ teaspoon pectic enzyme. This breaks down the fruit fibers and releases the juices.

1 teaspoon yeast nutrient. This is a fertilizer for yeast. Sobetski says it “makes yeast happy.”

1 crushed tablet of Campden. This is a pre-measured sulfite dose that kills off wild yeast. Sobetski notes that it is impossible to make a sulfite-free wine, as yeast naturally produces sulfites.

1 package wine yeast. Montrachet is recommended for most wild-fruit wines. For grape wine, Pasteur can create a redder wine due to better extraction.

All supplies can be obtained via Fermenter’s Supply.


Visit fermenterssupply.com for more information. OmahaHome

Grapes

Winning at Wine

November 24, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In a spacious home in West Omaha live a pair of wine lovers.

“I open a bottle while I am cooking, and then my husband comes home and we have a glass with dinner,” says the lady of the house. “He will often have two glasses with dinner. I love to cook and pair wine with food.”

Along with a love of fermented grapes, the couple have a love of travel, and that wanderlust has led to the purchase of a lot of wine.

“We have a trip in November to Santa Monica,” the homeowner says. “We’re in Napa or somewhere that we can buy wine at least twice a year.”

They also belong to nine wine clubs, which ship the couple’s favorite drink a couple of times a year. Thus the bottles began to stack up. The homeowners bought a wine fridge, then graduated to a rack that held 400 cabernets, pinots, and Burgundies. They kept accumulating.

“Then we built this,” the homeowner says, spreading her hands in a shy “voila” gesture.

“This” refers to a basement cellar, a temperature-controlled private room with glass doors leading to a dizzying array of dark glass vessels stacked neatly on top of one another. There are no whites inside…the grigios and chardonnays fill two wine fridges in the basement kitchen.

Cellars are becoming a popular home feature, according to Nancy Pesavento, ASID, of Interiors Joan and Associates. Pesavento says there were many factors to be decided in creating this space.

“When a client wants to do a wine cellar we need to understand the extent to which they want to go. Are they collectors, or do they just want an architectural feature in their home? We need to know how it is going to be used. We have seen extensive wine cellars like this that are temperature controlled, and we have seen built-in racks for displaying just a few bottles. Some people like cellars that you can entertain in.”

“We originally wanted it kind of dungeony-looking,” the homeowner says. “We wanted it to be dark and heavy, but then Kent and Nancy convinced us otherwise.”

“I actually designed a wine cellar to be in that corner where the bar is, and (the homeowners) say we’d like to have more of a cave feel, moving it away from the bar,” says Kent Therkelsen of KRT Construction. “In the end, it is maybe like more of what you see at a winery.”

The cavernous expanse became lighter by incorporating grey stone throughout—from the fireplace to the walls and all the way around the room. Wood enclaves broke up the wall to create a warmer feeling while highlighting a non-standard-sized shuffleboard table sitting between them.

“I was trying to highlight the stone, and when I had the original drawings it looked like it was too much, so I said ‘how about some display cabinets?’” Therkelsen says.

The wood isn’t exactly cherry…or oak…

“It was a custom stain that they created for us,” the homeowner says proudly. “I wanted a hint of red, but not too much. I wanted a hint of brown, but not too much.”

The actual wood is birch, stained reddish-brownish.

The hard edges of the rocks were broken up with geometry in the form of arches lit with a series of two-inch lights.

“Most lower levels are boxes,” says Pesavento. “I think bringing in a soft element like the arch gives it an architectural element and breaks up the boxiness of it. She has a very traditional interior. By stoning those arches, it gave her the traditional elements she wanted.”

The homeowner realized the usefulness of a basement kitchen last year after restoring her main floor cooking area.

“I realized I don’t really need a stovetop, I just need an oven, a fridge, and a microwave,” the homeowner says. “And a dishwasher.”

This basement is designed for entertaining, with four high stools at the kitchen counter where people can converse while one creates culinary delights, and a comfortable seating area with a television for others.

The basement also features such furniture as a couch upholstered in a buff-shaded leather and throw pillows with eggplant-colored (some might say shiraz-hued) accents.  An overstuffed chair and a half also features this purple-red tint.

“It’s my favorite color,” the homeowner says. “I really wanted to incorporate it.”

Also bringing in a touch of claret “color” without being claret-colored is the table and stools created from wine barrel staves.

“The thing is that every wine cellar is different, I’ve never built two the same,” says Therkelsen. “They’re a one-of-a-kind thing that is really defined by size limitation, space limitation, the kind of wine people want to store. There’s a uniqueness to it.”

Visit interiorsbyjoan.com and krtconstruction.com to learn more.

WineCellarBasement1

Painting the Town

October 20, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Dinner, movie, drinks, repeat. Dinner, movie, drinks, repeat. When it comes to planning an evening out, it is easy to get stuck in a routine. Those looking to deviate from the norm might be pleasantly surprised by a new-ish concept that has made its way to the Omaha area.

Paint-and-sip studios and storefronts have been popping up throughout the metro, mixing up the social scene with the combination of wine, painting, and socializing.

Briana Lau was a little hesitant when she felt the brush in her hand at her first paint-and-sip outing at the Twisted Vine in Papillion.

“I have absolutely no artistic ability,” Lau chuckles.

But, with careful instruction, her nerves were soon calmed and the creative juices started flowing, along with a little bit of wine.

“I actually walked out with a piece of art that I plan on hanging in my bedroom. I was so surprised how it turned out and the whole process was so relaxing. You just sip a little wine and do a little painting. I could do it every weekend,” says Lau.

Lau credits her success during the painting portion of the evening to Twisted Vine owner and class instructor, Cara Ehegartner.

“Cara is so patient and kind and just explains things in a way that makes sense,” Lau continues. “She gives some general instructions, but each person gets to individualize their work, too.”

Lau’s initial visit to the Twisted Vine was with her mom.

“I was looking for something different for us to do rather than go to dinner or see a movie. It’s great because you get to talk and laugh and even meet new people, which is something that doesn’t typically happen when you go to see a movie.”

She enjoyed the night so much that she quickly returned with a group of friends and for her daughter’s 10th birthday party.

It is that need to do something different that keeps people coming back, according to Ehegartner.

“We see women looking for a new and fun girls night outing, we see co-workers come in for a group outing and even some couples who are looking to liven up their date nights. They are all looking for something new and something sort of unique,” Ehegartner says.

Dan and Jeanne Vlcek of Papillion took advantage of this new concept when planning their latest date night. The Vlcek’s chose to forego dinner and get a little creative instead.

“This date was much more memorable than a dinner or movie date, and we have the paintings to remember it,” Jeanne Vlcek says.

Ehegartner also stresses the importance of keeping the classes comfortable and laid back. She understands that the idea of painting can seem a little intimidating.

“The atmosphere in our studio and store is relaxed. Art is about creativity. People don’t need to worry about being precise and should feel free to add their own touches to their work.”

It’s those unique touches that get groups talking and laughing. Judy Thome of Bellevue attended a class with 12 friends and felt the laughs were the most memorable part of the evening.

“We just had so much fun. We were all getting the same instruction from Cara, but would look at each other’s work and would laugh at how different each of our paintings looked. It was obvious some of us were more artistically inclined than others, but it didn’t matter. We all had fun.”

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Restaurant Review: Lot 2

November 7, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Benson is fast becoming one of Omaha’s most revitalized old neighborhoods. Maple Street now offers some of the best dining and nightlife experiences in the city. In May 2012, Brad and Johanna Marr opened Lot 2, and in doing so raised the bar for fine establishments in Benson and throughout Omaha.

The space itself is simply stunning. A beautiful brick wall lines one side of the restaurant and an inviting wood bar lines the other. In between are attractive wood tables and a lavish wood-paneled ceiling. There is also a nice patio seating area in the back. I really like the look of this place. Neither over-designed nor over-decorated, it is just plain comfortable and warm.

Meat and Cheese Boards

Meat and Cheese Boards

Executive Chef Joel Mahr is seemingly a big proponent of the “buy fresh, buy local” movement since he sources pretty much the entire menu from local farms and producers. The slate of offerings changes frequently and has something for everyone’s taste, including a variety of sandwiches, appetizers, main dishes, meat and cheese boards, and desserts.

On a recent visit, my dining partner and I started off with one of their often celebrated meat and cheese boards ($9) that included two local cheeses and their house-made pork rillette, along with spiced nuts, garlic confit, tomato jam, Dijon mustard, stuffed dates, and Le Quartier baguette. It’s easy to see why they these boards are so acclaimed. If I had known the serving was going to be so substantial, I probably would not have also ordered the crab fritters ($12) as an appetizer. But it’s a good thing I did, for I would have otherwise missed out on these crispy morsels with a spicy jalapeno aioli and cool cucumber salsa verde. The combo was fantastic.

The Bourbon Chocolate Malt

The Bourbon Chocolate Malt

For entrees, we had the bangers and mash ($14), which was perfectly cooked house-made sausage, lumpy mashed potatoes, and a tasty, stout onion gravy that perfectly complemented this dish. We also had the Truebridge Farms pork chop ($23), which had been brined, making it very moist and nicely seasoned. It was topped with a cherry pistachio relish and served with creamed leeks and a potato confit. I give this dish my top marks. At this point, I must admit I was getting very full, but as an unselfish service to you, the reader, I persevered and also sampled a dessert. The bourbon chocolate malt ($6) is a decadent concoction with small chunks of rich chocolate brownie suspended within. Yum!

Brick and rich wood hues set the tone at Lot 2.

Brick and rich wood hues set the tone at Lot 2.

I have to admit that the wine list at Lot 2 really surprised me. I was not expecting such an extensive and well-curated selection from so many growing regions and varietals. The beer list is also quite remarkable and, like most of the nicer places in Omaha these days, Lot 2 also had a good selection of craft cocktails.

As you might have deduced by now, I am a big fan of Lot 2’s food and beverage. That being said, I think it is possible that the service is its best feature. The style of service is warm, friendly, and casual. The level of understanding among the service staff regarding their array of food and beverage is unmatched anywhere else in Omaha. If this sounds too good to be true, then go check it out for yourself. Just be sure to make a reservation because the word is already out on how good this place is.

Cheers!

 Lot 2
6207 Maple Street
402-504-4200
M-Th/4-11pm, F-Sat/4pm-12am, Sun/10am-2pm
lot2benson.com

 RATING (5 Stars Possible)

Food & Beverage: ****
Service: ****
Ambiance: ****
Price: $$
Overall: ****