Proof: Livin’ the Dream

Many articles have been written about Mark Kuller and how he walked away from his lucrative career as a tax lawyer to follow his dream of opening a wine bar. Being an attorney myself — albeit an unemployed one at the moment — I have tremendous respect for Mr. Kuller’s decision to follow his dream of “making a small fortune out of a large one.” There is little point in rehashing the whole story here, since sites such as Law.com have already told it well. What I can add to the discussion are my impressions of the result of Mr. Kuller’s labors: Proof.

Proof is ideally located in Chinatown, just one block from the Verizon Center in the heart of Downtown Washington, D.C. One of the first things you notice when you walk in is the glorious Enomatic Wine System stationed behind its fully-stocked bar, designed to provide wine in 2 oz. or 6 oz. tastings, or full 8.5 oz. glasses. (This is a key piece of my dream wine shop, though I am probably many years from following that dream.) The system provides a wonderful opportunity to sample many of Proof’s forty wines by the glass. The wines offered, some of the best of which I have listed below, reflect a broad range of styles, varietals, and geographic regions. The bartenders are friendly, knowledgeable, and always ready to answer questions or make recommendations. If you are looking for a place to unwind after work, or just to sample some great wine, the bar at Proof is the place to go. That being said, be ready for a bit of a crowd at peak hours — the word is out.

After my first visit to Proof, where I spent a couple of hours enjoying wine and cheese at the bar, I was curious if the food would live up to the wine. Mrs. Wine with Dinner was kind enough to call on a Thursday evening for 7:00 p.m. reservations the following Tuesday, only to find that 7 was booked solid. We settled for 8 p.m. , which turned into 8:25. It wasn’t all that tragic, really, it just gave us more time at the bar.

Proof provides a dimly lit, comfortable dining experience. Our waitress, much like the bartenders, was very friendly and happy to offer input on the dishes and suggestions for wine pairings from the sommelier. The menu opens with cheese and meat plates, which you can get in sets of three or six varieties each. In addition to your standard appetizers and main courses, Proof offers a six course tasting menu for $85 per person with optional wine pairings for $120. The plates tend to be small, emphasizing quality over quantity.

Mrs. Wine with Dinner opened with the Roasted Baby Beet & Baby Arugula Salad followed by the Grilled Leg of Lamb, and was kind enough to allow me to sample her dishes. The beet salad was excellent and had just the right amounts of goat cheese and pepper. The sommelier’s suggestion of L’Aventure‘s 2006 Rousanne from Paso Robles, California was a perfect pairing. The lamb may have been just a bit tough around the edges, but it was perfectly medium rare in the middle. It was wonderfully seasoned with a vinegary tang that Mrs. Wine with Dinner could dull with a sip of her Tres Sabores 2004 Porque No? Zinfandel to bring out the pure flavor of the meat.

I chose the Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi with Leeks and Chanterelle Mushrooms for my appetizer and the Roasted Alaskan Halibut as my main course. The gnocchi were a little soft but tasty. What really impressed me, however, was the sommelier’s suggestion of Lafond‘s 2005 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir to accompany it. My initial instinct was a white wine, but this light to medium bodied red complimented the texture and flavors of the gnocchi very well. The halibut was the star of the evening for me. It was perfectly cooked and the flavor of the fish was wonderful. Again, the sommelier’s suggestion was perfect. The 2004 Frederic Magnien Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits was completely different from the Santa Rita Pinot, and its earthy barnyard aromas and subdued fruit flavors were the perfect complement to the lentils, sorrel, and pommery mustard emulsion that accompanied the fish.

Try as we might to do it, we could not leave without some dessert. My wife and I shared tastes of the sticky toffee pudding cake and goat cheesecake with a red pepper-flake crust, matched with one of my local favorites, the 2006 vintage of Rockbridge Vineyard’s V d’Or. The cheesecake was presented in a short, cylindric glass and had a wonderful sweetness and texture. The red pepper gave the crust a wonderful ginger-like quality that blended well with the goat cheese. My one tip: take in a spoonful that dips all the way down into the glass — this will provide the right balance of cheesecake and the accompanying citrus flavors. But as good as the cheesecake was, it is clear that I still have never learned the lesson I recited at the end of my very first post on this blog. I should have had the sticky toffee pudding.

(Update: Mrs. Wine with Dinner and I went to dinner at proof again last night (11/26/07) and had an even better experience than our first visit.  The pork loin and venison were cooked perfectly and well complimented by their side dishes.  Monday evening is the time to go if you want a more quiet atmosphere.)

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The Best Wines I Have Sampled at Proof:

Heidi Schrock 2006 Welshriesling Blend, Rust, Austria
L’Aventure 2006 Rousanne, Paso Robles, California
Lobster Key 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Vinum 2006 Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Seebrich Weingut 2005 Niersteiner Rosenberg Kabinett Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany
Tandem 2004 Peleton (Zinfandel & Pinot Noir), Sonoma, California
Tres Sabores 2004 Porque No? Zinfandel
The Black Chook 2006 Shiraz/Viognier, South Australia
Lafond 2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, California
2004 Frederic Magnien Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits, Cote de Nuits, Burgundy, France
Rockbridge Vineyard 2006 V d’Or, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

Remember, the wines by the glass offerings change periodically.

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Wine Experience: 5 Stars
Dinner Experience: 4 Stars, Appx. $23.00 per entree.

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Don’t forget to VOTE!

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Published in: on October 27, 2007 at 7:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. […] if nothing else, you can swing by Proof […]

  2. […] if nothing else, you can swing by Proof […]


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