Terroir: Making Grapes Cool Again
Grapes haven’t been this cool since elementary school, when the purple juice box was more coveted than the red or yellow varieties. While Terroir’s technically not a restaurant, its so worthy of mention I couldn’t neglect it. This gem on a quiet block of the East Village transcends the cookie-cutter wine bars that litter the streets of Manhattan; it takes the art of serving, pairing and enjoying wine to new levels without any of the pretentious jibber-jabber typical of wine enthusiasts.
Intimate without being crowded, lively without being a total zoo, Terroir strikes the perfect balance between being accessible to those just looking to enjoy a glass of whatever and stocking a selection of wines pleasing to connoisseurs. Small and simple, there is a bar where you can interact regularly with the staff and a long communal table for a quieter experience. The space is distinguished only by mellow light wood, a board with colorful magnetic letters spelling out the day’s specials (a welcome twist on the ubiquitous chalkboard), and a tiny side-kitchen for prepping the wide array of bar snacks and treats.
The wine menu is extensive and overwhelming for first-timers – most of the options are bottles, though there are a good number of wines by the glass. My only gripe with the selection is that you’re hard-pressed to find a glass under $10 and most creep towards $20. I won’t pretend to wax poetic about the wines offered, as I’m by no means that knowledgeable; however, you will find well-curated options from France, Italy, America, Australia, Germany, Austria, and really any major wine-producing area, both new world and old world. The specialty of the house is reisling, and three whole pages of bottles are offered, with a particular emphasis on Spatlese.
The food menu is pointed towards small plates and bar snacks – nothing complicated, nothing hefty. The little nibbles are surprisingly elegant and delicious, showing that care is taken not only to please wine-drinkers but also those seeking sustenance. Bar snacks include marinated olives, roasted beets with oranges and hazelnuts, an unusual cheese selection, and the usual charcuterie suspects. Larger selections range from panini (a banh mi italiano with pork terrine and mortadella, duck ham with hen of the woods mushrooms and taleggio cheese) to bruschetta, salads, veal & ricotta meatballs, risotto balls and even desserts. The grub is excellent, particularly when paired with an unusual and quirky wine – definitely try some of the cheese options, which are certain to surprise your palette.
Terroir, one of the few wine bars in Manhattan to keep it simple and keep it unusual – it’s perfect for more sedated meetings with friends than many of the neighboring watering holes may offer, a wine-fueled romantic date (it’s intimate!), or a slow and leisurely wind-down from a long day at the office.