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212 Market’s wine list has something for everyone
212 MARKET HAS BEEN SERVING EXCEPTIONAL food to downtown Chattanooga diners since 1992—but you already knew that. You already knew that 212 Market was conceived as a restaurant dedicated to featuring quality local foods, prepared with the skill of an artisan and the soul of a Chattanoogan.
And you already knew that 212 is the go-to option for delicious comestibles for anyone seeking dining options such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or for those living with a food allergy.
What you may not know is that 212 Market is serious about wine. This doesn’t mean that you will have to deal with a pretentious, insufferable, sommelier who will roll his eyes at the first hint of timidity as you scan the wine list for something you recognize.
This means that 212 Market is committed to providing all of the quality, selection and support you need when you are craving the perfect taste of vino to go with your meal, whether you are a committed oenophile or a casual wine drinker who doesn’t know a balthazar from a barrique.
While I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, my favorite dining companion is a complete wine geek (and borderline wine snob). I tolerate her geekiness because she’s always given me good advice and because I’m convinced she picked it up inadvertently and through osmosis on a backpacking trip to France in the ’80s. Her giddy enthusiasm at my suggestion we go to 212 Market for dinner was my first hint that their wine selection was above par.
My second hint was when she snatched the voluminous, hardbound wine list from my hand as if it held the cure for cancer. 212’s wine list catalogues a collection of more than 400 labels acquired over the restaurant’s lifetime. While the list focuses on affordable and midrange wines, there are certain treasures to be found in the collection that cause the staff to speak about them as if they were beloved family members—almost becoming melancholy at the prospect of them being consumed. Their dedication to offering a selection of quality producers and a carefully curated, thematic match to their menu in both price and style have earned them Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” every year for more than a decade.
As my friend pored over the wine list, I began to survey the menu for an appetizer, quickly settling on the Mahogany-Glazed Point Judith Calamari. Squid is to Point Judith, Rhode Island what blue crab is to Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. Not only are these calamari some of the most tender and flavorful I have ever tasted, but the mahogany glaze that Chef Moses developed for this dish is the perfect contrast of savory and sweet, with hints of balsamic and honey that are simply addictive.
Topped with tangy pickled onions and resting on a bed of peppery arugula, it is no wonder this is one of 212’s most popular dishes. We paired the calamari with a Louis Jadot Macon Villages Chardonnay. Its floral, apple and citrus notes complemented the calamari dish beautifully.
As we finished the appetizer, we began to realize our eyes may have gotten ahead of our appetites, so we opted to share an entrée. I had been eyeing the Coffee-Crusted Duck Breast since we had been seated, and was determined to stand my ground for the duck. I am happy to report it was a spectacularly good decision. The duck breast was a perfect medium-rare, and the ratio of luscious duck fat, crisp skin and succulent breast meat could not have been better. The coffee crust added to the magic of the maillard reaction to create a smoky companion to the duck’s rich flavor. The sweet citrus flavors of the Chattanooga Whiskey orange sauce dotting the plate paid homage to the classic flavors of Duck à l’Orange. The duck breast was perched atop a sweet potato and spring pea hash that was perfectly al dente, while remaining crisp and bright on the palate. My friend and our server huddled, eventually deciding on a Kenwood, Russian River Pinot Noir to accompany the duck—and once again it was a stunning pairing. This wine was bright, with smooth tannins and red cherry flavors seemingly created just for this duck dish. We could not have been happier with the pairing.
Every visit to 212 Market is a culinary trip to heaven. Now that I have found the wonderful world of wine that can accompany their delicious food, I have a new set of reasons to dine there again and again. Go to 212 for the food, stay for the wine—and enjoy it all.