Table Talk: Rare Earth Wine Bar
New dining destinations are cropping up almost monthly in downtown Glens Falls. What’s interesting and challenging is they are all featuring different cuisine while also being very creative and distinctly unique in taste and atmosphere.
The latest entry to grace the scene is Michael Belanger and Chef Paul Parker’s Rare Earth Wine Bar. Located adjacent to the city’s new round-a-bout, it replaces the Chocolate Mill. Patrons of the former will not recognize the interior featuring some wonderful artwork, a cozy bar that came from the Montcalm restaurant and an open kitchen to the rear.
You enter through a small curtained entryway designed to keep out the winter chill and are greeted by several tiny high-tops along the far wall as well as a chef’s table in the kitchen. You’re welcome to dine at the bar and each table is supplied with an i-Pad tablet for viewing the night’s menu. There’s also an extensive wine list, as the name implies, that features an abundance of international wines, as well as a handful from the United States including the Finger Lakes region.
Those wishing to imbibe will also appreciate Rare Earth’s specialty drinks including a Mont St. Michel consisting of a fresh shucked oyster, chilled Boyd and Blair potato vodka, a dash of Frank’s Red Hot sauce and a squeeze of lemon. There’s also a French 95 made with Berkshire bourbon, Blanquette de Limoux, simple syrup, lemon and fresh orange, squeezed in a rocks glass.
The menu begins with a raw bar platter served with a glass of champagne at the Chef’s table, a country pate platter, Calabrian fig roasted in its own leaves and Michael’s bruschetta. Entrees include cold poached lobster, roasted quail and scallop ceviche.
Companion and I found the only opening at the bar, secured one of the i-Pads and perused the menu. Bartender Rob poured us glasses of ice water and handed us the wine list as well. I chose a white wine flight consisting of tiny goblets of a Dipinti Chardonnay from Italy, Carcassonne Blanc (France), Virginie Sauvignon Blanc (NZ) and a Red Tail Riesling from the good old’ USA. All good but later I would order a glass of Virginie Taunt Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand to continue my tasting.
Companion leans towards pinot noirs and chose a 2012 Forge Cellars from the Finger Lakes. Most of the wines are available to taste, by the glass or bottle.
Prior to ordering, we were personally welcomed by Michael Belanger, one of the owners, who extolled the virtues of Glens Falls and of his experiences as a vineyard owner in France. He mentioned his intent to import some of his wines in bulk and bottle them on-site. Michael also painstakingly described the origin and ingredients in my wonderful pate platter as well as the imported mustard and aspic.
I followed that with a small plate of duck breast thinly sliced, moist and very tender accompanied by a leafy vegetable that resembled cold cabbage.
Companion chose agnolotti which is a house made pasta resembling ravioli stuffed with squash. Truly vegan! She also finished with a red blend Conde Villar Tinto 2011 from Portugal that was comprised of no less than four grapes.
Rare Earth Wine Bar’s portions are meant to be small and priced accordingly. You can easily devour each dish with one glass of wine and this is a place where you certainly should try at least two of each.
Virginia Wolf is quoted on the menu saying, “Language is wine upon the lips.” How true, because if you truly know and love wine, it is very complex, highly satisfying and somewhat exciting to experience. This place will certainly fill the bill for those who truly love wine and are open to new tastes.
The Rare Earth Wine Bar is cozy, friendly, creative and unique. For instance, the wait staff does not accept tips but rather, if you choose, donates the funds to local charities; a very generous and thoughtful gesture by owner Belanger, Chef Parker and the wait staff. On our visit, “Women In Need” was the beneficiary.
As I write this review, the local media reports that yet another wine bar is slated for the Dolan building on Maple Street. And we know the McEchron House on Ridge Street will open someday as well.
I suspect that as more apartments are built downtown, the demand for walk-to dining will increase. If they follow the path of the Rare Earth Wine Bar, they have an excellent chance to succeed.
By all means, go for the wine, go for the food and leave with that warm, fuzzy feeling that you just supported a worthwhile charity as well!
518-409-8055 • 164 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY