I’m Dreaming of a Filet and a French Chardonnay

While most of you may be dreaming of a white Christmas, I’m dreaming of a melt-in-your-mouth Filet and a French Chardonnay this holiday.  I owe these sweet and savory dreams to Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, who invited me to their restaurant last week to sample some of their 100 wines by the glass and new small-plate appetizers.

Yes, I said 100 wines by the glass. 

Just look!
Yes, Fleming's offers 100 wines by the glass
OK, I’ll let you get off the floor now and catch your breath.  I’ve never seen that many wines by the glass in one restaurant, either.

I had no idea that this little gem of a wine bar was adjacent to one of Raleigh’s premier shopping destinations, Crabtree Valley Mall.  Holiday shopping now takes on a whole new meaning for me with this newfound knowledge.

Last Wednesday evening, I hired a sitter and did something I never do with my husband.  We ate in a very nice restaurant on a school night.  Food expert and blogger Johanna Kramer, who authors Durhamfoodie, joined us, along with her fiancé.  We met for the first time that evening, and I feel as if I’ve always known her.  We definitely hit it off.  She’s currently writing a food guide for the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area. 

Raleigh Fleming's operating partner Rebecca Blake and wine manager Jim Soffe also dined with us to talk about new menu items and wines for the holidays.

Fleming's Chef Ron West, Jim Soffe, Rebecca Blake, The Hines, Johanna Kramer, and her fiance, David
I had never been to Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar before last week, and it’s been open in Raleigh for three years.  Why not, you ask?  It’s not that I’m stuck in my house and never eat out.  As a reader of my blog, you know I eat out frequently.  I spend as much money in a year in restaurants as most people spend on designer duds, especially when you factor in sitter costs. 

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Raleigh, NC
I think I had never eaten here because — with two children — our time is limited, and I wasn’t well-informed on what the restaurant offered.  Before last week, I had the perception that most high-end steakhouses were only for special occasions due to the expense.  It’s not that I was choosing other steakhouses over this one; I was choosing different types of restaurants altogether for our nights out.  Since I’m not much of a shopper, I don’t find myself at any traditional mall very often.  If I am at a mall, it is usually at 10 a.m. when it first opens, and I have a toddler in tow.  I’m not scoping out restaurants for dinner.

I quickly learned at this dinner that I could throw my preconceived notions out the window.  Fleming’s is elegant, just as you would find in a fine dining restaurant, but it is warm and inviting. It’s perfect for casual conversations and impromptu dinners.  It’s not reserved for just special occasions.  With awesome specials, like the “5-6-7” bar menu, featuring five tempting appetizers, five premium cocktails and five distinctive wines by the glass — each priced at $6 and served 5 to 7 p.m., you could walk in any given night of the week and have outstanding food at a great price.  

Rebecca and Jim designed a delicious menu for our dinner in order for us to sample the new small-plate section of the restaurant’s menu.  In my opinion, the small plates make a perfect-sized entrée, especially when paired with a salad and the restaurant’s scrumptious family-style sides.

We sampled five popular small-plate entrees, and Jim paired five wines for each dish. 

I’m usually not a Chardonnay girl, but Jim wowed me with this moderately priced wine from France. 

He paired Joseph Drouhin, Macon-Villages France, 2010, with Jumbo Shrimp Scampi Skewers with Chimichurri dipping sauce and an avocado citrus salad.  This was my favorite white wine of the night.  The shrimp was fantastic, and the duo together made a wonderful gastronomic combination.

We tried our red wines via Fleming’s Wine Flights. 

Enjoy a trio of wine with Fleming's Wine Flight
This is an ideal way to try three different wines with a 2-ounce serving each.  Jim picked a Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfadel for us to taste out of his extensive 100-bottle collection.  Eighty discriminating wines out of the Fleming’s 100 can be found nationally, but the remaining 20 wines are carefully selected by local wine managers to reflect personal guest preferences, regional tastes, and special wine-buying opportunities available only on a limited scale.  

Four out of the five wines we sampled, Jim specifically selected for Raleigh’s Fleming’s.   I generally prefer red wine over white wine, so it’s not really a surprise that I thought all three in the flight were great, but what was a surprise is that I adored the French Chardonnay.  It was my favorite for the night, followed by the Twomey, Merlot Napa Valley, 2006.  

This showed me that with a little education about the wines, and the freedom to try a variety, I like white wines more than I realize.  This alone made me want to go back to Fleming’s because you can sample a few selections before deciding on what to put in your flight.

As for the food, I enjoyed every small-plate entree that chef Ron West put in front of me, but two were my personal favorites.
Ahi Tuna Skewers
The Ahi Tuna Skewers with a wasabi aioli, sweet tomato vinaigrette, and homemade wontonentrée of the evening.  The sweet tomato vinaigrette paired perfectly with the seared medium-rare tuna.  It was simply delicious.  I could eat a whole bowl of the vinaigrette, and that may be partly why this dish is so memorable to me.  It was good. 

No doubt, though, the star attraction was the Sliced Filet Mignon on shiitake risotto, chili oil, and drizzled with porcini butter. It melted in your mouth at each bite.  I loved the tuna, but once I took a bite of the filet, then this dish won top honors as the “best of the night” for me.  I have to admit that tasting this one entrée really made me want to go and try the New York strip or 6-ounce filet.  I think my husband and I will do it before the year is out.  I may be going to the mall a lot now with my main purpose to eat and not shop.

Sliced Filet Mignon on the Small Plate Menu
So yes, my recent outing has me dreaming of a Filet Mignon and a French Chardonnay. Jim, of course, did pair red wine with the steak, but he did tell me as I kept sipping my Chardonnay that when it comes to wine, it is important to drink what you like.  The good news is, with a wine flight trio, I can have a blend of whites and reds to go with a variety of small plates.  That just makes the meal fun.

Fleming's waiter, Curtis Workman, poses with us on a tour of the private dining room.
If you go to Fleming's, tell  Curtis hello. 

Johanna and I had a blast on our dinner adventure.  Fleming’s feels like dining with family. We all had such a great time together.  Chef Ron, Rebecca, and Jim take such pride in this restaurant.  I immediately bonded with Rebecca, who is a mom my age. I learned that Baby Diva and her son were born the exact same day, in the exact same hospital, and within the same hour.  That was some great dessert conversation over a seasonal bread pudding.

Want to Go: Fleming's is located at Crabtree Valley Mall, just north of the Raleigh Beltline at 4325 Glenwood Avenue.  There are numerous Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar locations throughout the U.S.  The restaurant is also very conscious of dietary restrictions and has a gluten-free menu for its guests.

Disclosure: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar and McKeeman PR and Marketing invited me to dinner as their guest. As always, my opinions are my own and are not influenced by the company.  

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