Thursday, November 18, 2010

Femme Fatal: Cafe Atlantico Women and Wine Dinner

A women-in-wine themed evening promised a world renowned chef from a well-regarded DC restaurant and wine poured from the winemakers themselves. It had all the makings of a great night.  But the Wine Entre Femmes, Beautiful Side of Wine Tour tasting dinner at Café Atlantico on Wednesday, November 10th failed to live up to expectations.

I was originally on the wait-list for this $95 per person dinner inclusive of wine but exclusive of tax and gratuity. I got the call the day of that a space had opened up; thrilled with the prospect of a midweek excursion, I quickly called another wine lover to take advantage of what sounded like the perfect evening. Neither of us had tried Café Atlantico and were looking forward to sampling Jose Andres’ creations which included scallop, quail, duck, short-rib, and venison -- a seemingly hearty, fall menu -- paired with wines from the Napa Valley.

From the moment we arrived, I had my doubts. All attendees crowded into the bar and were painfully, slowly seated upstairs in the cramped main dining room. The menus describing the pairings looked as though they were printed by a not-so-into-their-job intern; what was supposed to be a booklet was instead a stapled, unordered mass.

And that hearty menu? Ridiculously small portions, many of which missed the mark, leaving my friend and I ravenous, and looking forward to breakfast. While the short rib and venison were both excellent, and the rum cake Mini-Bar inventive, it required immense effort to flag a server to figure out the nuances of each dish.

I usually revel in the intimate experience of wine dinners, and love to learn about the wine, the food, and the thought behind the pairing choices. But in this case, this educational element was almost non-existent, with zero explanation of the food and only a haphazard attempt by a few of the winemakers to discuss the pairings over the din of everyone’s conversation. While the winemakers did circulate table-to-table by the end of the evening, it was too late, as many of the 12 wines were long-drunk and those tiny portions, long-devoured.

I expected more from Café Atlantico, and will not soon be back.  Fortunately, my favorable impression of Jose Andres returned later that week with a Friday-night dinner at Oyamel. More to come…

Café Atlántico on Urbanspoon


  1. You forgot to mention that at least we saw Jose Andres in the kitchen. Okay, he was on the phone... but at least he was there!

  2. Good point! Maybe he was calling in some takeout.