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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

Bacchus Bar & Bistro… From Wine Store to Wine Bar

We dined as a guest of Bacchus

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I am all about outdoor dining, but once it starts getting dark before 5:00 I start craving a darker warm, cozy atmosphere to meet friends for a few bites and enjoy a glass of wine. My friend Janice and I have discovered a perfect place to do just that… Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Quail Hill Shopping Center in Irvine.

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Though I have been to Quail Hill many times I never realized there is a wine bar tucked into the corner. It’s been there for years. How could I have missed it? Well, to be fair until more recently it was a wine store with a space for wine tasting. Now though it has been completely redesigned into a warm, casually elegant wine bar, lounge and bistro. And under the management of Deb Willem, it’s a gem worth checking out. I was invited to a tasting at Bacchus Bar and Bistro and decided to bring my friend Janice who knows her wines.

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Upon arriving we were warmly greeted and had a choice of sitting at the bar, at a table toward the center of the wine bar, or in a nook off to the side toward the back of the room. We chose the cozy nook, where we still had a view of the entire lounge.

We spent a few minutes looking over the menu. With around 350 bottles of wine from around the world and dozens of by the glass options, I was grateful I had my friend Janice with me to help us select. After talking with our server/bar tender Julia we decided we would each order from their dozen or so wine flight options and share.

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Janice went with the New World Blends which included Rancho Sisquoc “Tre Vini” Paso Robles, 2011; Orin Swift Abstract, Napa, 2013; The Possessor, Paso Robles, 2012. While I took a trip to Italy with Cacciata Reserva Chianti Classico, 2008; Villa Rosa Barolo, 2009; Ornelliai Le Volte Super Tusacan, 2012. And since we were both starving so we immediately put in an order for olives with thyme/citrus/harissa essence.As much as I enjoy Italian wines, I think my favorite of the evening was the Abstract from the New World Blends flight. Note to self, always let Janice select the wine.

To go with our wine we ordered several dishes from Chef Charity Smith’s creative menu of small plates, starters, cheese boards, charcuterie, sandwiches, flatbreads, and salads, which she churns out from a small kitchen equipped with only a Panini press and convection oven to cook with.

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We couldn’t resist ordering the glazed pork belly tacos served with cabbage, kimchi salsa, cilantro and a spicy sweet soy reduction on corn tortillas. A great light bite.

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Our eyes about popped out of our heads when we saw lobster & Spanish chorizo fondu on the menu. This warm gooey heavenly concoction has manchego cheese and smoked peppers, cream cheese along with the lobster and chorizo… so much flavor going on and worth every calorie.

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With the sin of the fondu weighing on us we decided a vegetable was in order and we went with the warm roasted Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage, shishito peppers, fried garlic and sesame ponzu. Seriously, this could be a meal in and of itself.

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Finally, as if all of that wasn’t enough we decided to go for broke and try something from Pastry Chef Christy Puck’s menu of desserts. With options including butterscotch pot de crème, pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust, warm apple crisp, and chocolate bread pudding, choosing was not easy, but we went with butterscotch pot de crème with whipped cream and cookies accompanied by a tawny port selected by GM, Deb. This is not the cloying starchy butterscotch pudding I grew up with as a kid, but rather a silky, creamy little jar of heaven. The cookie dipped in it makes the perfect bite.

I have to say after seeing all that Bacchus has to offer we were both trying to figure out how with all of our wine loving foodie friends we had never heard about this place before. It’s a warm atmosphere perfect for a date or a night out with friends. Although the wine selection could be daunting, General Manager Deb or any of her staff are more than willing to offer suggestions based on your taste preferences and if you find a wine you love, you may purchase a bottle to bring home with you from their store. Also notably, while we had our fair share of wine, if you prefer beer, Bacchus has you covered with their selection of 6 craft beers on tap and 20 bottled microbrews.

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For sports fans, there are flat screen TV’s so you can enjoy a great glass of wine while you watch at the bar or in the corner nook. And while the kitchen is extremely small, you would never know it based off of the variety of options and the quality of the dishes. It is however worth noting, the size of the kitchen poses some logistical challenges and you will enjoy your experience if you are flexible in allowing your dishes to arrive as they are ready. For this reason, I recommend sharing.

Bacchus Bar and Bistro is located in Quail Hill Shopping Center in Irvine at the Sand Canyon exit of the 405.

Dana Wilde grew up playing “sous chef” for her father as he churned out one amazing meal after the next for family and friends. She inherited her father’s life long passion for cooking and has spent the past two decades studying, reading, practicing, experimenting, and creating in the kitchen. Together, she and her sister, Shan are Simply Wilde, a small boutique catering business focusing on in-home entertaining.

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