A note from the Bitches: this restaurant is now closed.
I really love the Curious Grape, a “wine and dine” shop located in Shirlington Village. The wine shop sells great hand-selected wines and cheeses, and serves up house-made pastries, delicious coffee, and great meals for lunch, dinner, and, as of recently, brunch.
Why such love for the Curious Grape? For starters, I’m an oenophile. So, naturally I have an affinity for wine-and-cheese shops. Particularly those that are exemplary and unexpected.
I had an amazing meal, with excellent service, at Curious Grape when it first opened last May.
I also love the story behind the restaurant and shop. The Curious Grape is owned by a charming couple, Kip and Suzanne McGrath, who retired to the area and opened up a business together that they were both passionate about. That, I think, is charming.
One day, when I’m adult, if that day ever comes, I’d love to open a wine and cheese shop with the love of my life. For now, I can dream and live vicariously as I observe the couple scooting around the Curious Grape, happily greeting customers and working together.
Lastly, Curious Grape is a unique, quality addition to the predictable big-box offerings (Mexican restaurant, sports bar, cupcake shop) in Shirlington Village.
With its overtly brand-new cookie cutter strip mall ambiance, Shirlington doesn’t really strike my fancy. But the Curious Grape is worth the trek out there. So when we were invited in to try their new sparkling brunch menu, of course we said yes.
Like the dinner menu, the sparkling brunch serves up spectacular cheese and wine pairings. The brunch cheese plate is three cheeses with hand-selected sparkling wine accompaniments for $16.50.
There is also cheese fondue available at brunch, and it sounded amazing—a blend of Appenzeller and Chenin Blanc with baguette cubes, apple, and seasonal vegetables—but we forced ourselves to exercise restraint.
We began with coffee and a chai latte. Artisanal coffee falls in line with the modus operandi at a high end wine and cheese shop—if you’re fussy over your wine and cheese you’re probably a snoot about your coffee, too. Wine, cheese, and coffee are three of my basic food groups, and I’m pretty much snotty about everything, so the Curious Grape is perfect for me.
I was joined on this particular morning by Meg, one of the most impressive of my very impressive friends. She’s a very hard worker—she’s going to be a doctor—and thus drinks a lot of coffee. Unlike me, she’s not snotty about much, except her coffee. So, it’s worth noting that she was impressed with the brew at the Curious Grape.
Meanwhile, I had a chai latte (I later also had coffee), which was served with a tea bag, rather than a mix.
As it is our duty, we also sampled the brunch cocktails. I tried the traditional mimosa, which was light, frothy and fresh, made with high-quality bubbly. Meg, a Bloody Mary connoisseur, had a Bloody Mary made with red wine, rather than vodka. She was initially hesitant, but pleasantly surprised with the brunch cocktail upon its arrival.
We began with the mini pastry selection, which was a plate of adorable petite perfection. From the cinnamon rolls to the blueberry muffins, every bite of the house-made pastries was delicious. And, we were happy they were petite, thus keeping our waistlines petite as well.
We opted to try two of the three mini souffles, which are baked to order and take 25 minutes, so we placed that order right away. We skipped the sweet potato and maple syrup souffle and selected the goat cheese and thyme and farmhouse cheddar and shallot options. The goat cheese and thyme souffle, which Meg was very excited about, lacked flavor. However, the cheddar and shallot souffle was really flavorful and really cheesy.
The souffles were well-prepared, resulting in moist, fluffy, hot, eggy perfection.
Spotting a very unique dish on the menu—doughnuts with wild boar, dressed in hoisin sauce and served with cilantro and pickled onion—Meg said she simply had to try them. This was the only dish we did not share, but Meg brought the leftovers to her very pleased beau.
The pan-roasted shrimp, a popular dinner option, was delicious, served with pearl onions and bacon over smoked cheddar polenta. Everything with Curious Grape’s gourmet cheddar (the polenta and the souffle we sampled) was just really really good.
Suzanne McGrath, the matriarch of the establishment, raved about her house-made English muffins, served with butter, jam, or honey butter. Genetically predisposed to carb-a-holicism, a love of English muffins runs in my family. (On my mother’s side, specifically.)
The English muffins were, indeed, quite good, served hot and fresh. The honey butter contained actual orange rind rillettes, so it was actually honey orange butter. Regardless, it was delicious.
Because we saw the word “truffle”, we leapt upon the yukon gold potato croquettes, served with black truffle creme fraiche and fresh chive. The croquettes were definitely the least exciting dish on the table, but that’s certainly not to say they were bad. They just lacked the pizzazz I had been anticipating, and expecting from everything at Curious Grape.
We concluded with the blood orange custard tart, presented beautifully and served with house-made sour cream ice cream. The crust of the tart was impeccably done, moist-yet-flaky, and the ice cream was out-of-this-world delicious.
The Bitches say: A. High quality, fresh cuisine; unique menu options, plenty of cheese, sparkling wine flights, and great desserts. Be still, my heart. Definitely worth the trek to Shirlington if you’ve got a set of wheels.
The Curious Grape
2900 S Quincy St.
The Curious Grape serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.