Introducing our new food critic
Benjamin Leger previously served as managing editor for 225 and was the editor of its Taste section from 2012 to 2021, editing, writing and steering the direction of its food coverage in print and online. He is passionate about all things food and food journalism, and has written about the greater Baton Rouge area’s cuisine and culture for nearly two decades.
THE BASICS: City Group Hospitality added to its roster with this spot in Long Farm Village in October 2021. The concept is all about pairing wines, beers and cocktails with a variety of foods, most notably on shareable boards. The interior design gives a nod to the wine theme, with walls in the same green as traditional Burgundy bottles and modern furnishings featuring wood and leather accents.
WHAT’S A MUST: You can’t go wrong with one of the shareable boards, with themes of Mexican fare, Mediterranean cuisine and Gulf seafood. Snacks such as the Artichoke Romana and Stuffed Chile Ancho can satisfy a peckish appetite, while servers suggest adding an order of Rustic Bread to sop up any leftover sauce. Be sure to ask about the chef’s selections for the dessert-centric Happy Endings Board.
Call something a wine bistro and, of course, wine is going to be top of mind. At Proverbial Wine Bistro, I was expecting a swanky and dimly lit bar catering to the happy hour crowd, with maybe a few small plates thrown into the mix.
But on a busy Thursday night, there was just as much eating as drinking going on at this cozy outpost of Long Farm Village. Nearly every table was crowded with wooden cutting boards piled with Mexican fare, cheese and charcuterie, or all kinds of roasted veggies.
At one point, I saw a giant board of desserts stop at a table for two and thought this was one of those situations where you get to pick from a selection. Nope. The pair quickly dug into the whole spread. (More on this later.)
After selecting from a sizable—though not unmanageable—wine list, my table centered on a few starters from the “Snacks” section of the dinner menu.
First up was the Artichoke Romana, a tender preparation of three marinated artichokes resting in a pool of creamy beurre blanc. The sauce had a tangy acidity, likely aided by a smattering of olives, stuffed peppadews and firm, aged feta. The menu mentioned goat cheese, but if there was any, it may have been lost in the beurre blanc. It was a table favorite, either way.
Next up was the Stuffed Chile Ancho, which featured a flattened half of a poblano pepper buried underneath a mound of cheesy crabmeat stuffing. The mixture was soft and briny and more than counterbalanced any pepperiness from the poblano. The menu promised a truffle chipotle sauce, but it instead sat in a bright, subtle orange sauce that turned out to be red pepper aioli.
Pleasantly surprised by our “Snacks,” we moved on to more substantial fare.
The red wine had us craving red meat, so we opted for the Calabrese off the “Flatbread” section. Essentially a meat-lover’s pizza, it was loaded with spicy salami, pancetta, bacon, olives, capers and the requisite mozzarella and tomato sauce.
Give me salty fried capers and cured meats and I’m happy, though I wished the flatbread itself were a little less dense and more crunchy.
Finally, it came time to go all in on a board. The six savory options all looked enticing, but the Garden Board was calling us. I had multiple friends recommend it based on their own visits.
This board was substantial. In one quadrant, roasted carrots spiced with earthy harissa. In another, a mound of roasted red and golden beets layered with radicchio and microgreens. Three bowls contained, respectively, a crisp watermelon and halloumi salad, ratatouille and some sort of squash casserole under a layer of bubbly, broiled cheese.
Minus the cheese topping, the casserole and ratatouille weren’t much different in flavor or cooked-down vegetable texture. There were also two large roasted portobello caps on the board that were so unremarkable and lacking in flavor, most of the table avoided it.
Of note was the delightful addition of a spoonful of honeycomb and the rather odd inclusion of granola across the center of the board, laced with a syrupy white sauce that was off-putting.
At this point, we were all suitably stuffed. But we had promised ourselves dessert after seeing two more dessert boards find their way to other tables.
The chef’s selection for the evening’s Happy Ending Board was a slice of mascarpone cake, chocolate lava cake, tiramisu and baklava. It came arranged with crumbly biscotti, berries and enough zigzagging drizzles of sweet sauces to completely camouflage the delicious cakes beneath.
I didn’t let the sauces deter me, though. The mascarpone cake was a favorite—a not-too-sweet and slightly tangy filling with a good crumb. The tiramisu was airy and silky; the chocolate lava cake was run-of-the-mill; and the baklava was unfortunately rather dry.
We all felt like it was a worthy dessert board, despite any misses.
And that seemed to be a theme for the night. Portions were generous with surprising and thoughtful touches that made up for any low points. Arrange a variety of items on a board, and it’s likely one or two components won’t work. But there’s enough care given to the whole presentation here that everyone is satisfied.
The same was true for service. We had a reservation on a busy Thursday night, and though we arrived on time, we weren’t seated until at least 40 minutes later. This is the kind of spot where people tend to linger, so that was to be expected—though still annoying. Fortunately, the host and wait staff made every effort to accommodate us while we waited, offering to bring drinks outside or alerting us when seats opened up at the bar.
Once seated, our server was friendly and attentive, offering wine suggestions for food pairings when asked but never being pushy about it.
My advice: Time your arrival to beat the after-work crowds, or come by later in the evening. Bring your appetite and enough friends to share those hefty boards. Sip a glass of wine or two. And definitely save room for dessert.
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue of 225 magazine.