31 March, 2009

Wine Bar Wednesday - 5.2009 Rare, West Oakland

It's not easy being green, but quirky little wine bar, Rare, in West Oakland does a great job of identifying different ways to make sustainable fun. Focusing mostly on wines from far flung places, they absolutely make sure that all the selections are clearly marked with the sustainability agency that certified them. iFoam, LIVE, NASAA, and all the rest. The menu does a great job of clearly identifying the many ways agencies many thousands of miles away are helping us to drive sustainability practices. When the owners of Rare decided to change their focus towards sustainability, they ripped out last year's old steel and chrome decor and replaced it with the simpler, yet more glamorous "green" decor you see today. A great improvement, it really drives the sustainability message home. Brothers Con and Cador Dumas are also initiating their own private labelled wine. I had never tasted an Indian Chardonnay previously, and found it had a slight tang of curry, but other than that, definitely quaffable. Hosting their production in India makes it easier for the brothers to maintain quality, exacting green practices, and still hit the mark in profitability. One thing that hasn't changed, are the off the hook, tasty snacks! Our favorites from several visits include Giant Panda Kebabs. Not an actual bear, but rather a member of the raccoon family, the flat bones of pandas lend themselves toward a natural kebab shape. It's a slightly gamy meat, but ever so tasty with a light glaze of ginger and teriyaki that went great with the suggested Chinese Cabernet pairing. We also tried the Black Rhino Bacon and Brussels sprouts. Cador Dumas was recently back from safari in Africa and we were lucky enough to partake of one of his famous nose to tail specials. I had never had bacon made from black rhino before and found it a little tougher than I would have expected, but still a good match for the suggested Iranian Shiraz. I would have to say my favorite was the Bengal Tiger Tacos. More complex than an ordinary fish taco, the concept was still basically the same---but yummier! We found the tacos an excellent pairing for the house wine, Rare Chardo, since a little cumin and cinnamon in the guacamole brought up the hints of masala spice in the wine.

So if we apply Xandria's criteria:
Affordability - With most plates coming in over $98, it was not the most affordable. But whenever you are doing something good for the environment, I say it's best to pay a little more. The extra $10 per table for Carbon Offsets are another nice touch
Wine list - Great selection that changes often and is listed out online. I particularly loved the way so many regions were represented. Each category offered selections from California, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Oregon, China, India, Iran, you name it. And interesting varietals as well. I really loved how each certifying organization is clearly marked so you absolutely get a sense of the owners's commitment to the Green Movement.
Wait staff- Very knowledgeable, and a good balance of attentive vs. intrusive. We had a lot to go over and our server was very respectful
Food- oh-so-yummy! You will definitely be offered things here that you will not see on any other menu.

In summary, do something nice for yourself and for Mother Earth, visit Rare Wine Bar. Go, it's Green!
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