Many of you may already be aware of the good wines made at Auburn Road. You may also be aware that they have live music featuring some excellent musicians and bands. But if you haven’t had dinner there on a Friday night when they feature a different style pasta and sauce every week for their What’s for Dinner Friday series, you are truly missing something special.
My wife, Carol, and I were returning customers. We were seated very close to the stage (Carol thought, perhaps a bit too close). However, the music was acoustic, not too loud and played beautifully by Bo Rains. Bo played an acoustic and electric guitar, as well as keyboards. I was thankful for our proximity, as I was close enough to appreciate Bo’s dexterous finger picking and her use of the entire fretboard. Her husband, Mitch, joined her for her last set, playing the bass guitar.
Our first course, three slices of cheese, jammy dips to augment the natural goodness of the cheeses and three tastes of wine chosen by the staff to pair with each of the cheeses. Piave Vecchio cheese and Harvey’s honey were paired with the White Bottle (unoaked Chardonnay); Rouan table cheese and cherry compote were paired with their Classico (a red blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot); and Primadonna cheese and fig jam were paired with Sóle (a Vidal Blanc with a hint of sweetness). The cheeses were provided by Claudio’s in Philly.
The cheese plate was followed by some fresh Italian bread, castelvertrano olives, an excellent olive oil, and a tomato bruschetta. As there are no tastings after 5:00 and our reservation was for 6:45, I thought it a good idea to ask our server, Mary Kate, if we could taste their recommended wine to accompany our entrée (their Good Karma, a light dry blend of Merlot, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir). It had been awhile since I had their Good Karma. Carol and I liked this wine and ordered a bottle to accompany the rest of our meal.
The next course was a large dish of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, croutons and parmesan cheese. The dressing was a honey balsamic vinaigrette, not dominated by a vinegar taste.
When our entrees arrived and we saw the size of the bowls loaded with penne con vodka, we knew we’d be taking a lot home. I might add, when served it also looked a lot more attractive (and full) before I impulsively began eating, prior to snapping this picture. The Severino pasta was cooked al dente and the sauce was a perfect mix of tomato, cream, parmesan, garlic and a touch of vodka. It was awesome. I indulged more than I should have and still had enough for another meal. I am glad I went along with their wine pairing recommendation, as I was planning to get their Classico, a personal favorite here. The Good Karma was perfectly matched and mysteriously disappeared before our dessert arrived.
The dessert for the evening was a gelato that looked and sounded great, but we had other ideas. At a previous dinner at Auburn Road we had been able to do a chocolate wine pairing for a reasonable upcharge. We asked if this was still an option and thankfully Mary Kate told us it was. Five small bites of various chocolates from 1892 Chocolate were paired with five tastes of wine, hand-picked to go with each exquisite piece of chocolate:
- Organic dark chocolate with Gaia (a red blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot)
- Organic dark chocolate and goldenberry with their White Bottle
- Organic dark chocolate with cacao nibs with their Classico
- Organic dark chocolate and sea salt with their Sóle
- 70% Organic dark chocolate with coffee beans with their Chambourcin
I want to give a special thanks to our server, Mary Kate, who put up with (and happily complied with) my many requests. Kudos to Bo Rains and her husband, Mitch, for their great acoustic music. Finally, thanks to Scott Donnini, one of the owners, and Julianne Donnini, who is a co-owner and the winemaker at Auburn Road Vineyards, and the entire crew for a very nice evening. Scott also sits in and jams on the stage from time to time. I told him he had my dream job: winery owner and musician on his own stage (whenever the spirit or music moves him)!
What’s for Dinner? is a weekly feature. The price is $34.99 (not including your choice of wine to complement the entrée). Check their website for their ever-changing menu, entertainment lineup and other special events.
Auburn Road Vineyards
117 Sharptown-Auburn Road
Pilesgrove, NJ 08098
Price and menu are subject to change.