Bosc Kitchen & Wine Bar, Avon
Bosc Kitchen & Wine Bar ★★ (Very Good)
Bosc Kitchen & Wine Bar is ensconced in an antique farmhouse in the center of Riverdale Farms, a small shopping complex so low-key and beautifully landscaped it’s easy to drive right by the entrance even as your GPS insists you are already there. We did just that, doubled back and found what we were looking for.
When we arrived, foie gras and elaborately garnished racks of lamb were being served in cozy but elegant candle-lit dining rooms. A peek at the menu revealed entrée prices in the $20s range and occasionally straying above.In the lively taproom, bistro food with an international twist is offered for considerably less.
The salient point here is the fact that Bosc is owned by Rich Lucas, a Connecticut chef, caterer and entrepreneurial restaurateur who operated The Perfect Pear in Simsbury until a decade ago. A Culinary Institute of America graduate who once served as sous chef for Julia Child, Mr. Lucas is also a wine connoisseur with an impressive wine collection.
So the first thing we did when we sat down was to ask for the wine list. An eclectic selection of 250 imported and domestic wines is on offer, ranging from a Mionetto Prosecco for $11 to a Chateau Lafite Rothschild ’86 for $1,800. There are 50 wines by the glass. Bosc also does wine flights. A blackboard over the bar posted six flights of three wines each for pairing with three courses of food. As serious as all this sounds, there is nothing solemn about the food, wine or service in this jolly taproom. The wine flights, organized by country of origin, set the tone. Choose your destination: Italian Grand Prix, Tour de France, African Safari, South America, Down Under or California Dreamin’.
When it comes to food, the Tavern Menu is all over the map. It was easy to read but hard to know where to begin. A happy memory prompted my first choice, a salad I remembered enjoying at The Perfect Pear. I can’t swear that Bosc’s pear salad was exactly the same, but I was delighted with it—fresh field greens, Gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, cranberry-maple vinaigrette and a Burgundy-poached bosc pear. Candy ordered an arugula salad, with fresh berries, goat cheese, pine nuts and pomegranate vinaigrette. We loved that, too. Salads are definitely a Bosc strong point, starting with a Cobb salad to end all Cobb salads (made with asparagus, corn, apples, carrots, kalamata olives, avocado, smoked Gouda, romaine and toasted tomato vinaigrette), and last but not least, a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with tomato, bacon and blue cheese dressing dubbed “The famous 4/14/1912 Iceberg Wedge,” named for the nemesis of the Titanic.
Another golden-oldie, chicken salad with grapes, walnuts and tarragon aioli, appealed to us all and disappeared in a trice.
Faced with a multitude of options, we were joyously ordering whatever struck our fancy, whether or not it bore any resemblance to a three- or four-course meal. Lee ordered a risotto royally enriched with mushrooms, corn, red peppers, peas and Asiago cheese—a luscious vegetarian meal in a dish.
Southwestern duck quesadilla with smoked Gouda and chipotle peppers, however, fell far short of expectations. Three layers of soggy tortilla dough encasing a few shreds of what purported to be duck (it was so dry and tasteless it could have been anything) went back to the kitchen after a few bites.
Bosc’s seafood martini redeemed the day. It came in a commodious glass, filled with scallops, shrimp and crabmeat on a bed of seaweed, moistened with mango-Cajun remoulade and garnished with slices of ripe avocado. A brilliant taste and texture combination.
While my companions grazed the groves of lighter fare, I explored meatier regions, ordering short ribs of beef—two chunks of gorgeously braised beef in orange-bourbon barbecue sauce. Served with the creamiest of polentas, it was a bargain at $12.
The same could be said of almost everything on the Tavern Menu because we are not talking tapas or teeny-tiny small plates. A whole sauceboat of polenta came with the short ribs. A shrimp-and-scallop kebab came with grilled vegetable couscous. The chicken salad came with seven-grain bread upon request.
The dessert menu, the same for both Tavern and main dining rooms, is a bit pricey, but if desserts are your passion, the size of the portions will send you over the moon.
A cheese plate, eye-poppingly huge, sailed in like the Queen Mary, laden with grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, thick slices of baguette and five kinds of cheese—Brie, blue, Bel Paese, Gloucester and goat cheese. No rare treasures to discover, but excellent examples of the tried-and-true.
The chocolate sampler, also gargantuan, proved something I thought was impossible: You can go wrong with chocolate. A sauce (or mousse?) the consistency of chocolate pudding was inordinately sweet. So were two chocolate turtles layered with caramel that gripped the teeth like Krazy Glue. An uncrisp chocolate biscotti and a sauce-soaked toile completed the composition. Yet I’ve heard this dessert called fabulous. Go figure.
A trio of tart, fresh-fruit sorbets—blackberry, mango and pomegranate—came to our rescue. And crème brûlée with kirsch-soaked cherries sent us home happy. With live jazz thrumming in the background, it’s a fun place.
The Tavern at Bosc Kitchen & Wine Bar
136 Simsbury Rd., Avon (860/676-2672)
Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 to late night. Sunday brunch 10:30 to 2:30, Tavern Menu 12 to 7. Wheelchair access. Major credit cards. Price range: starters $9 to $13, entrées $8 to $15, desserts $9 to $14.Bosc Kitchen & Wine Bar, Avon