Cav Wine Bar
I've read that some reviewers (Michael Bauer) hadn't considered this a food place as much as a wine venue, but that he'd changed his mine after revisiting. i know not many people on this site respect Bauer, but I was wondering how people felt about Cav lately (i only found older postings.)
I went for the first time last week. We started out with the Sampling of Three from the charcuterie menu: Foie gras, pig trotters, and boar country pate. The foie gras pot de creme with cubes of jellied Riesling was the least impressive of the three - which says a lot. The foie gras was creamy and was a nice - tho standard - pairing with the sweetness of the Riesling. The boar pate was hearty, dense, and perfectly spiced. The accompaniments were homemade pickled vegetables - in particular, i loved a little tart, dilled cauliflower. But the pig trotters stole the show. I've had them before but here they were sort of carmelized, so they had a crispier, chewy texture, and were infused with garlic.
Next were three cheeses (Brillat Savarin, Abbaye de Belloc and St. Maure) with a wonderful spicy peanut brittle, jelly, slivered dates, hazelnuts, and other little accompaniments. this was such a treat from the standard date bread. They have a good selection of cheeses, about 15 or so, and the portions were quite good-sized.
That was going to be enough, but we let ourselves be talked into the squab over scrapple. This was my next favorite item - a very tender, satiny, pinkish breast of squab sitting on what to me semed like a slightly grainy/gamey version of a polenta cake. another good contrast, and my first exposure to scrapple. i can't for the life of me remember what the ingredients in this particular scrapple was made with, but i want to say it was veal, and the bartender took pains to describe the chef's take on this dish.
We tasted several wines. You can get half glasses for between $3.00 - $3.75, and they were generous with their pours. I stuck to whites - tried a Turkish Cankaya, which was bone dry but a little light for me. I also had a Muller-Thurgau, something I've always found I can depend on to go well with food. I had a glass of my usual favorite, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. But the best was a Spanish Torrontes Terra Buena, described as spicy, lychee, melon & citrus. When I first smelled it, I thought it was going to be too sweet. The nose was heavy and floral, syrupy even, and you could really pick out the lychee. But it was wonderful, fruity but not sweet at all. I'm going to try to hunt this one down. We also shared an aperitif, a Jerez Fino Elcano from Spain, which was a light-tasting sherry, but still complex and just as described, with notes of toasted almonds and hazelnut.
I'm wondering how other people's experience compares to this. I tried Maverick a few days later, and wasn't anywhere near as pleased.
I think everything I've ordered at Cav has been great, and for my taste they have one of the most interesting by-the-glass lists in the city.
Three of us had an evening snack at Cav a few months ago and were pleased. My torchon of foie gras was faultless and came with nicely toasted brioche. I didn't get to try another companion's lamb dish, but it looked good. The cheese plate, however, stole the show. As the original poster mentioned, Cav offers an astounding number of cheeses for such a small restaurant, and all three of the cheeses we tried were delicious and correctly stored. Also noteworthy were the many different accompaniments provided, including honey, dark bread, marcona almonds, quince paste, and plumped dried fruit. The full menu can be found on the Cav web site at http://www.cavwinebar.com/.
Cav Wine Bar
1666 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
I ate at Cav a few weeks ago and thought that the dishes I ordered were done well (squab/scrapple, fried green tomatoes, squash blossoms). My overall issue with a menu like Cav's for dinner is that they have almost no vegetable options. The three dishes I had were heavy (the squab had a thick demiglace, the tomatoes had thick breading, and the squash blossoms were fried as well) and none of them had a veggie accompaniment. I didn't really expect one with the apps but it would have been nice to have something green served with the squab. Despite the fact that I was stuffed, I felt compelled to order a mixed green salad at the end to combat the heavy meal. I'm not sure I'd rush back there again for dinner for this reason, although I'd definitely go for a cheese or charcuterie plate and wine.
It's a small plates menu mixed with large sampler platters (crudo, cheese, charcut); every time I've been, there have been a few interesting veggie sides for well under $10, so we just make sure to order something green.
Food wise, we were thrilled with the food the first year they were open, then after a few more ho-hum dinners in the past 6-12 months we have sort of stopped going; sounds like it's time to check it out again.
As far as their wine list goes, we were able to find an obscure German Riesling they were pouring by the glass at Arlequin wine merchant, on Hayes at Gough. The owner of Arlequin asked us where we heard about the wine, and when we told him we had it at Cav he mentioned that he loves their wine program and that when the winery came out to San Francisco to do sales they sold to both Arlequin and Cav, so there's definitely some creative cross-pollination there. I like Arlequin for this type of transaction, but I find the owner prone to pre-judging customers and being rather aloof so it isn't our regular wine shop.