My Experience At Plates & Pages

Never before have I been so excited to share a dining experience with you all.

Today I’m here to tell you about Plates & Pages, an extraordinary event put on by a restaurant in Cincinnati called Five on Vine. I had never heard of them before, but it’s the sister restaurant to Losanti Steakhouse, which I absolutely adore and wrote about a few weeks ago.

Five on Vine hosted a five course wine pairing dinner in collaboration with Household Books, a local bookstore that features used books, vinyl records, and vintage clothing. For this event, Household Books held a pop-up bookstore inside the restaurant.

The doors opened at six, and the first hour was allotted for guests to arrive, grab their glass of welcome Prosecco, and peruse the books that were hand-picked by the owner of the bookstore. There was classic literature, some rare books and first editions, some fiction, and best of all, vintage cookbooks.

A ten dollar credit towards a book was included in the cost of the event ticket, so of course I had to grab one. Or three.

First, I got The Art of French Baking by Ginette Mathiot:

A large white book with no cover image, just black lettering that reads,

I really like the no-nonsense minimalistic style of the cover.

Of course I had to grab this 1967 Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook:

A large blue book with yellow lettering that reads

I mean, come on, it has over 400 guest-tested recipes!

And I knew this 1953 Open Sandwiches and Cold Lunches by Asta Bang and Edith Rode was too good to pass up:

An off white book with red lettering that reads

After grabbing my books, I went and sat at my assigned table. Since I had come alone, I had expected to be seated by myself and dine in solitude. Much to my surprise, I was seated at a table with five other people. I don’t mind socializing, and I like making friends, so I wasn’t too worried about the situation. Little did I realize how amazing the company would end up being, and how much richer my dining experience was for it.

The meal began at seven with an amuse-bouche. An endive leaf stuffed with red and gold beets and topped with a radish slice.

A small black plate featuring a single endive leaf stuffed with diced red and golden beets, adorned with a thin slice of radish on top.

I’m not the biggest fan of endive for the same reason I don’t really care for arugula. I find it to be too bitter and there are other greens that I prefer that are an easy substitute. That being said, this dish was simply delicious. I couldn’t figure out what about beets and endive made for such an incredible dish, and the details of the amuse-bouche weren’t on the menu, so I called the restaurant to see if they could give me more details. They were kind enough to let me speak with the chef, and he told me all the aspects that made this dish truly great.

The beets were made confit-style with garlic, thyme, and bay leaf, and the liquid from the confit was used to make the vinaigrette. Alongside the endive leaf was a blue cheese mousse with celery seed that added a nice richness. I mentioned to the chef that despite not liking endive, I loved this dish, and he said he soaked the endive in gin and sweet vermouth for a few minutes, which totally eliminated the bitterness.

As you can see, the amuse-bouche was beautifully crafted, and was only the beginning. Here’s what was in store:

A menu that lays out each course and has all the details for each dish. It lists five courses, as well as dessert, and each of their wine pairings.

For each course, they’d bring out the food and pour the wine, then the chef would explain each dish, and the wine expert would talk about each wine, and then the bookstore owner would read a quote from a book he’d selected to accompany the course.

First up was this scallop crudo paired with a pinot grigio from Italy:

A small white plate covered in a green sauce (watercress puree) that accompanies the scallop crudo. Atop the scallops is a sort of pineapple citrus chutney and cilantro.

As someone who loves scallops, I had no doubt this course would be good, but I must admit I was hesitant about the “crudo” aspect of it. I have never had raw scallops before. I don’t mind raw seafood, as I’ve eaten plenty of salmon and tuna in sushi, but I definitely have never thought to try scallops raw. I thought the texture would be displeasing, but both the texture and taste ended up being amazing. The brightness from both the watercress puree and the pineapple-citrus-cilantro mixture paired with the buttery scallops wonderfully, and the crispness of the pinot grigio was the perfect accompaniment to this light and delicious course.

I was especially surprised about liking the pinot grigio, because I have never cared for dry wines. I knew this event would have a lot of dry wines, and that didn’t bother me even though I’ve never liked them before, but something about this one in particular was really nice. It was refreshing, crisp, and not overly dry. This course really gave off “summer on the coast” vibes, and I was all about it.

Going off of this, the book pairing for this course was The Talented Mr. Ripley. It was said that this was because of the themes of simplicity and class, as well as the ability to really “feel the breeze”. It was quite eloquently put.

Next was this beautiful medley of summer vegetables:

A large white plate featuring a cylindrically shaped mixture of summer squash, tomatoes, onions, and eggplant, topped with a green leafy garnish and surrounded by a pesto-like sauce and a white anchovy aioli sort of sauce.

When they brought this dish out, it reminded me of the ratatouille from the movie Ratatouille. This particular mélange featured summer squash, tomato, eggplant, onion, and was topped with an olive tapenade. The sauces were wildly different from each other, one being sort of similar to a pesto, and the other being a thick, white anchovy sauce that was intensely flavorful and creamy. The chef said that this course was like a tribute to the end of summer, and indeed it was a perfect encapsulation of saying farewell to a season filled with so much fresh produce.

Were it deemed socially acceptable, I would’ve licked this plate clean.

As for the wine, we were given a Chablis. Much like the previous course, it seemed to pair exquisitely with the dish at hand. It was from France, and was actually the only French wine of the evening.

The quote for this course was from With Bold Knife & Fork: “It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”

This quote really speaks to me as someone who loves to make baked goods for my loved ones, to share meals with the people I care about. My favorite way to spend time is eating good food with good company, so this quote has a bit of relatability to it.

Following this was a lovely butternut squash soup:

A white teacup filled with butternut squash soup that is topped with candied walnuts. A glass of red wine is in the background.

Butternut squash not only happens to be my favorite type of squash, but one of my favorite types of soup, as well. Especially when it’s as creamy and pleasantly sweet as this one was. The candied walnuts on top certainly assisted with that, while the smoked paprika added a nice warmth. I could’ve eaten a drum of this.

I found the details for the wine particularly interesting for this course. It was a Reyna Barbaresco, which we were told is the queen of Italian wine. The grapes were harvested later than normal, which reduced the acidity. Apparently the previous winter had been full of heavy rainfall and snow, making for a plentiful water reserve and balanced the ripening. The science behind everything was honestly really fascinating.

This next quote was a little more on the philosophical side of things. From Redwall: “Knowledge is a thing that one cannot have enough of. It is the fruit of wisdom, to be eaten carefully and digested fully, unlike that lunch you are bolting down, little friend.”

Onto course four, the seared trout:

A large white bowl containing a filet of seared trout atop a bed of lentils. A small caramelized onion sits next to the trout.

I actually quite like trout. I mean, I can’t think of a fish I’ve had that I don’t like, but trout is definitely a good one. What I did not expect from this trout, though, was sweetness. There was a slightly sweet glaze over the fish that when mixed with the citrus vinaigrette and orange on top made for a delectable bite. As for the lentils, here was another ingredient I generally steered clear of, yet found myself loving every bite of them this time around.

The wine description for the Crognolo Toscana, another Italian red, came with an interesting history lesson. Apparently the name of the estate, Setti Ponti, means seven bridges, and is in reference to the seven bridges over the Arno River that connects Arezzo and Florence. Turns out, one of these bridges is visible behind Mona Lisa!

As for the quote for this course, it comes from Ernest Hemingway: “There is romance in food when romance has disappeared from everywhere else.”

Again, as someone who believes there is love involved in making food for others, in sharing a meal with others, who romanticizes baking on rainy fall days and loves indulging in delicious foods, this quote seemed like it was made for me.

The owner of the bookstore took this time to show us this awesome first edition of The Sun Also Rises:

A small, laminated copy of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

I believe he said it was from 1926, but correct me in the comments if I’m misremembering.

Moving on from the sea to the land, we have some duck:

Seared duck breast with a thick, dark sauce atop a big mound of phyllo dough stuffed with more duck!

Duck is one of those things that I’ve only had a handful of times before, and have always found to be perfectly adequate, but never something I would go out of my way to order. This duck completely changed my opinion on duck as a whole. It was the best duck I’ve ever had, and was so next level that I’m now afraid to try duck anywhere else ever because I doubt it will be as delicious as this dish was. Not only was the seared duck breast tender, flavorful, and accompanied by a deeply savory sauce, but the crispy phyllo dough was filled with more duck, quinoa, goat cheese, and dried cherries. I happen to really like all of those things!

The wine for this course was called Tortoniano Barolo, the third red from Italy. This one was super cool because its name comes from the tortonian era, which was nine million years ago. That’s how old the soil is that the vines are planted in. Tell me that isn’t so cool! All of the dry reds up to this point had not been really to my taste, and this one was especially dry and had me making a bit of a face upon trying it. Can’t say it was my favorite, but I can understand how it would pair well with something as intensely flavorful and savory as the duck.

Before I move on to the dessert, I want to talk a bit about the final quote. It comes from the late Anthony Bourdain, “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from the get-go.”

Food is everything we are. Food is culture, food is community, food is connection. And that is exactly what I experienced at this event. The staff was so inviting and friendly, they made me feel more like a guest than a customer. The people I sat with were interesting, super cool, unique individuals that I enjoyed learning about and getting to know throughout almost four hours of dining together. The chef, the wine expert, and the bookseller were all such awesome, artistic people with a burning passion for their field that showed in every dish, every glass, and every quote. This event was planned and curated with a level of artistry and intentionality I have never experienced before, and I can only hope I get the chance to do it again.

With all that being said, the night ended on a sweet note:

A long, oval-ish white plate with berries, mounds of marshmallow fluff, and peanut brittle scattered across.

Mounds of toasted marshmallow fluff, macerated berries, peanut brittle, chocolate budino, what’s not to love? Admittedly, I was confused when I read “quenelle” of the chocolate budino (more or less a chocolate pudding), because the definition on Google for quenelle is a meat and fish mixture. Turns out, there’s a second definition that means a carefully shaped small amount of a soft food. That made a lot more sense. And now I know a new word. Yay learning!

Every bite of this dessert was pure decadence. Sweet, marshmallowy goodness alongside plump, juicy blueberries amidst silky chocolate. I’m drooling just remembering how heavenly this dessert was. It may very well have been the single greatest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.

The wine was a port. I expected no less given port’s depth of flavor and sweet richness that makes it the perfect pairing for any dessert. The small pour was just the right amount to really top off the sheer indulgence of this finisher.

After buying a bottle of the port and the pinot grigio to take home, and with my new books in tow, I headed out for the long drive home, satiated not just in being full from good food and wine, but in conversation, connection, laughter, and artistic expression.

What looks the best to you? Which wine would you have loved to try? Are you a fan of duck? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

(Be sure to follow Five on Vine and Household Books on Instagram!)


38 Comments on “My Experience At Plates & Pages”

  1. Master Chef Australia (and a few other countries) is available on Amazon Prime. From watching the show, I learned what a quenelle was.

    Sounds like you had fun! :-)

  2. This sounds delectable! As for your liking things that you have never liked, maybe this speaks to you never having had them properly prepared or paired with complimentary flavors. There are dishes that I abhored when I was younger. I like them now, and realize that it was the way my mother prepared them that I couldn’t stomach. (FWIW my mom is a great cook)

  3. What a wonderful evening. I must admit to being quite envious.

    Every bit of the menu, including the wines, sounds wonderful to me.

    Love the book angle too, and your selections would have caught my eye as well. The art work on the Betty Crocker book is very cool.

  4. This sounds like a great time! My favorite duck was in a Danish restaurant in Paris. I was on a honeymoon and that husband (my second of three, this one is sticking so far) had Danish relatives and one happened to be in Paris during our vacation and took us to this restaurant. OMG, that was lovely duck. Some sort of long marination, I don’t remember the details, but I do remember the taste.

  5. I too am envious.

    “Were it deemed socially acceptable, I would’ve licked this plate clean.”
    Obviously out in public is when we NEED to lick our plates clean. At home we have a dog for that.

  6. Sounds like a wonderful evening!

    I love the contrast in the hook covers- and in the recipes that will be within.

  7. Two words, Three times: Thank You, Thank You, Thank you. Your posts are a gift. They take me places I will never go and allow me to experience things I will never do, all the while with a smile or chuckle. Actually, you are the gift Athena, thank you for sharing with us.

  8. Athena, I love your descriptions of the food, the wine, the books and the overall experience, but most of all, I loved this comment you make:

    “Food is culture, food is community, food is connection.”

    That resonates so deeply with me, and that is exactly why I love preparing food for the people in my world and why the experience of breaking bread with the folks I love is such a powerful force in my life.

    Also, conversely, that is a big part of why I have had a lifelong struggle with limiting my food intake, because that inextricable connection between food and connection makes it especially hard to reduce how much I eat. But that’s a whole other conversation, and not one to hash out here.

    Thank you for this post, and for sharing both the detailed descriptions of the experience and the observations on the philosophical underpinning of food’s significance in our emotional lives. We do truly feed our souls as well as our bodies when we share great food with those we love.

  9. Wow, I wouldn’t have wanted to eat any of that. Maybe you can soak endive in a martini, but there’s nothing you could do to make beets or butternut squash palatable to me.

    I’m glad you liked it, though, and you describe it very well.

  10. That sounds like a wonderful event. Nice multi-course meal, the connection to books (love a related quote before each course), and the chance to meet new people. How fun!

    I love how you cover a food apprehension before diving in and then being surprised that it doesn’t taste as you expected, especially for an item that under normal circumstances you wouldn’t enjoy.

    A nice reminder that a great chef can change the intensity of flavors or alter textures to something unique.

    Glad you had a great time and enjoy when you share these experiences with us. Now only if your followers could have joined you for this event. We’d have fun sitting with you and meeting each other!

  11. A terrific night out! Every one of those plates sounded (and looked) delicious, and I love the idea of ‘book pairings.’ Thanks for sharing. :-)

  12. Brava! This was an excellent piece!

    It’s delightful watching your writing style and skills develop, and hearing about your life experiences–planned, unplanned, and mused upon.

    You’re becoming an interesting and amusing writer, and I suspect your personality is much the same.

    Thank you for sharing!

  13. Hi Athena I don’t think I’ve ever commented on one of your posts–hell, I only rarely comment on your father’s. But I thought that I should say that I think you have a talent for writing about food. Play up sensory descriptors like fiery or icy or creamy or peppery and lay back on words which don’t being a lot to the table (as it were) like wonderful and delicious. Your passion for and knowledge of the subject is clear.

  14. I want to invent time travel specifically so that I can go back in time and attend and try this menu.

  15. This is a great post; keep it up! From your description of Household Books, I bet you’d like Von’s in West Lafayette, IN. Check it out, if you ever find yourself there.

    One of my favorite late summer dishes is ratatouille! I use this recipe I just use regular tomato sauce, though. If you use a mandoline, use the food gripper. Really.

    I learned a new definition for quenelle, because I only knew the shaped one.

    p.s. I concur completely with L’s words!

  16. That sounds like a really fun and interesting event.

    Your food writing continues to level up. I live in Cincinnati right now and it sounds like Five on Vine is close to my apartment. It sounds like they have some good items on their menu that might be vegetarian, so I may give it a try sometime.

    I think I would enjoy attending an event where I got to meet people over dinner rather than milling around at a party. Also I love the idea of pairing food and books, but I wish there would be a vegetarian menu available and I don’t want to be charged for multiple alcoholic beverages that I would barely take a few sips of.

  17. The author of ‘With Bold Knife and Fork’ is MFK Fisher. You might enjoy some of her writing, about Provence or California.

  18. This is your best writing yet, Athena. Really an excellent review. I agree with L above, who said you have a future in food writing!

  19. Athena, this was your best review yet. I loved reading it, and I loved all the details you gave! I’m nowhere near Ohio, so I doubt I’ll get to visit Five on Vine or Household Books anytime soon, but I really enjoyed reading about the event and your pleasure in attending.

    Thanks for writing this!

  20. You go, girl. You just jumped into pro-level food journalism. Also, I’m simultaneously homesick for southwestern Ohio and ravenously hungry.

  21. This was a wonderful tale about a really well done wine & food dinner-I’ve been to several, but this one takes the cake!

  22. Wow, Athena, your writing has come a long way! Restaurant reviewing may just be your calling. Heed the call!

  23. I truly love these articles! I don’t comment often because I read the comments and find that I have nothing to add.
    This time… I am a big fan of the dry wines but I love a Moscato (sweet wine) with fresh berries (particularly strawberries)

    I really appreciate that you give, not only your opinion, but other information that you have researched.

    I’m looking forward to many more of these types of posts.

    Perhaps you could do something like a BBQ experience. Go to the big BBQ places: Kansas City, the Carolinas, Texas…(only if you like BBQ) I’d be interested in your opinion.

    Thank you, again, Athena

  24. As everyone said above, great review. I think the chef did his job balancing flavors, knowing how to manage the bitterness with just a little sweetness and so on. My mouth was watering. I have several of MFK Fisher’s books, including one my father had, from the Depression, How to Cook a Wolf; it was about cooking when the wolf it at the door.

  25. here in NYC, there’s a zillion variations upon duck done in Chinatown… some done good, other do it better… one particular hole-in-the-wall restaurant is never mentioned to mere tourists lest they ruin the place by overcrowding and too many selfies…

    the duck served up at [REDACTED] has to be eaten with your fingers and there’d be grease (oh such grease!) trapped under your fingernails… not tidy nor low calorie, it is the sort of meal only your closest friends can be trusted to share it out evenly…

  26. You write so well about a wonderful experience that I know whether I would enjoy the food you write about, that is a real gift that goes beyond just telling what you like ,to informing others so well they know if they’d like that food. Seriously good food writing!

    And yes making and sharing food is an expression of love for me too.

  27. Terrific post! Thank you for sharing your adventure. Barolo happens to be one of my favorite wines 😁.

  28. I never comment, but read all your posts because I find what you write about your life and experiences interesting. I wanted to tell you that I thought this was a beautifully written piece about your food and wine tasting experience! You really made the food sound delectable and the evening sounded like a very satisfying communal experience of dining. Great job! I agree, you could have a future as a food writer.

  29. Hello Athena,
    I look forward to your food posts and so happy when I see a new one, whether it’s about a gourmet cookie, subscription snack box, recipe you bake, or a special meal like this one.
    I enjoyed reading this one so much and it is now my all time favorite of any of your culinary writing. Thank you.

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