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DINING: Drinks or not, Cooper's Hawk Winery shines

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Dining - A&E

 

Dining Served in a tequila lime sauce, the Mexican Drunken Shrimp is worth trying.(IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

My husband and I are beer people. For a variety of reasons, wine just isn’t our thing. So we weren’t exactly buzzing with excitement when we headed to review Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant (3815 E. 96th St., 574-9463).

But we were when we left.

Cooper’s Hawk, a small Illinois-based chain, opened its first Indiana location last month in the sprawling former home of Bahama Breeze. To get to the dining room or bar, patrons must navigate a gift shop (think an upscale Cracker Barrel) and past a display case full of house-made chocolates that went a long way toward improving my enthusiasm.

We went for a late lunch on a weekday and pretty much had our choice of tables—after we refused the seater’s attempt to put us right next to the only other diners in the place. Really? Dozens of empty tables and you think we want to be able to reach out and touch a stranger? I understand trying to minimize server mileage, but c’mon, people!

While we perused the expansive menu, our server brought tasting samples of the special Winemaker’s Barrel Reserve, which changes periodically. As novices, we appreciated the no-risk policy that allows patrons to taste any vintage before ordering. The menu also lists suggestions for wine pairings with each item.

We opted against a liquid lunch, but ordered enough food that we ended up with dinner, too. First up: the Mexican Drunken Shrimp appetizer ($11.99)— bacon-wrapped grilled shrimp served atop fresh guacamole and a tequila lime butter sauce. The flavor combination was heavenly—bacon really does make everything better—but we would have preferred the meat to be warmer. Maybe if the guacamole were served on the side? The sauce was sop-it-up delicious, so we made good use of the complimentary pretzel bread.

For our meals, we tried the Gnocchi Carbonara ($15.99) and Chicken Giardiniera ($16.99). The gnocchi was delightful: obviously handmade dumplings filled with ricotta cheese, smothered in a parmesan garlic cream sauce, with chunks of crispy pancetta, roasted chicken and peas adding taste and texture. I’m thankful that hubby was generous enough to share.

I returned the favor with my equally yum-inspiring chicken. The meat was pounded thin, crusted with panko breading and parmesan cheese, and topped with the eatery’s own spicy giardiniera—a mix of pickled carrots, capers, onions and bell peppers. It added just the right bite to the rich breading and creamy whipped potatoes that anchored the dish. And it held up well to reheating, always a bonus.

Though full, we couldn’t pass up dessert. I surprised myself by eschewing the chocolate—available individually or as an “assortment” with or without wine—in favor of the server-recommended Banoffee Pie ($6.99). Oh, dear. That’s something I didn’t need to know existed. The miniature pie has a graham cracker crust and what I can only describe as a toffee cream filling, accented by sliced bananas and fresh whipped cream. Our server told us it would be sweet, but she didn’t say it would be addictive.•

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Second in a month-long series of fine-feathered restaurant reviews.

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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