avec, a wine bar from the award-winning team behind Blackbird restaurant, opened in October 2003. A menu crafted of rustic food, including handcrafted charcuterie, inspired by the wine-growing regions of Southern France, Italy, Portugal and the coast of Spain. In addition to cuisine that reflects the aromas, flavors and colors of the Mediterranean, the wine bar features a moderately priced wine list that focuses on boutique vineyards throughout southwestern Europe.
First and foremost, avec is a wine bar. Focusing on hearty peasant wines from small producers in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, the list offers 130 wines priced between $20 and $90 a bottle. Thirty wines are offered by the glass, encouraging guests to experiment with avec’s selection of European boutique wines. The bar also offers an unusual selection of French, Italian and Belgian beers selected to best complement Grieveson’s cuisine. Sherries, ports and sparkling wines round out the beverage list.
The menu is neatly divided into four sections: small plates priced from $5 to $13, large plates priced from $14 to $20, salumi, which can be enjoyed in servings of one for $5, or an assortment for $15, and cheese, which can be enjoyed in servings of three for $15, with accompaniments for an additional $6.
These sections of the menu blur the lines of formal dining. A meal can be constructed of any selection of small or large plates, chosen at the whim of the diner rather than dictated by order and tradition. Fresh crudo salads, cheese or salumi selections, warm cassoulets and casuelas are served in whatever order diners desire. Large plates such as pasta, pork shoulder, or focaccia can be shared among a group or ordered as a meal unto themselves. The dishes at avec are a lovely representation of the everyday foods of the Mediterranean. Their presentation recalls the communal, unhurried approach to dining enjoyed on those warm shores.
The James Beard Award-winning design, by Thomas Schlesser, incorporates the elements of wine-making into the architecture of the 1,500-square-foot bar and dining area. Designed in a Danish Modern style, the room finds ornamentation in structure and materials. The honey-colored room is wrapped in cedar and anchored by a light hickory floor and outfitted with red oak seating. The space holds five communal tables, each seating eight guests, encouraging a convivial atmosphere. A 48-foot stainless-steel bar seats 18 guests with a view into the galley kitchen.
A partnership among Executive Chef Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia and wine steward Eduard Seitan, avec is next door to Blackbird restaurant.