Dining Out

Bubbly and beyond at Cuvée Bistro & Champagne Bar in Avila Beach

Cuvée accompanies its Champagne, wines and beer with an impressive array of eats, from ceviche to ‘Drunken Meatballs’

Special to The TribuneDecember 24, 2013 

  • Cuvée Bistro & Champagne Bar

    550 First St., Avila Beach | 595-2245 | cuveechampagnebar.com

    Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday (Closed Mondays for winter hours, otherwise open daily)

    The scene: A bright, welcoming Champagne bar with bubbles available by the glass or by the bottle, or just enjoy a leisurely espresso.

    The cuisine: Small plates of savory and sweet including ceviche, panini and salads. Picnic baskets and local delivery available, including to hotels.

    Expect to spend: Most food items $8-15, bottles start at about $18.

    Laetitia Vineyard & Winery

    Tasting room just off Highway 101 between Arroyo Grande and Nipomo

    474-7651 | laetitiawine.com

    Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (11 a.m.-3 p.m. New Year’s Eve and Day)

With New Year’s Eve on approach, what better time to discover the bubbles, savory noshes and sweet treats being served up at Cuvée Bistro & Champagne Bar.

Located in Avila Beach at the First Street entrance to town, Cuvée is a sunny, open space with bamboo floors and dark wood accents. Choose from seating at the bar or at one of eight low or high tables.

Opened by its original owner with just a Champagne and desserts menu, Cuvée was shuttered by the time it caught the online attention of the Radogna family, specifically Alex Radogna, her father, Frank, and her stepmother, Fran. Most recently hailing from Chicago, they’re in the process of eventually relocating full time to the Central Coast and had already purchased a Paso Robles vineyard a couple of years ago.

“A family business model was always what we had in mind,” said Alex Radogna, and Cuvée offered yet another aspect of that. The bistro had its grand re-opening in March, and she came on as full-time manager in July.

Though it still offers temptations such as chocolate-dipped strawberries, a fresh fruit cheesecake and a chocolate indulgence brownie filled with a raspberry center, Cuvée has now established a solid savory side to its service as well.

Choose from a market greens salad, quiche of the day, or any one of several panini served on ciabatta or sourdough — such as the popular Mediterranean with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes and arugula.

Radogna also makes ceviche with “fresh fish right from the pier” — most recently a spicy scallop concoction. Other small plate options range from dates wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with goat cheese, sacchettini (sautéed dumplings stuffed with meat or fish), or even “Drunken Meatballs.” The latter is Radogna’s grandmother’s recipe and is drizzled with a blackberry wine reduction.

On the bubbly front, Cuvée offers French Champagne, Spanish cavas, Italian proseccos and American sparklings, and you’re sure to find the style you prefer, be it brut, dry or even rosé.

If Champagne isn’t your cuppa bubbles, not to worry. Cuvée carries several local beers from Barrelhouse Brewing, Tap It Brewing Co. and Firestone Walker Brewing Co., and there’s a select list of local still wines as well. The bistro also presents live music on Saturday nights and will be serving a special prix fixe “Hangover Brunch” on New Year’s Day.

“We’ve had a good first season,” said Radogna, “and we’re really looking forward to next season. Avila’s a great little place.”

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery

One of the standout labels at Cuvée is the Central Coast’s very own Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, which is celebrating its 30th vintage this year. The property was originally established as Maison Deutz in the early 1980s by French viticulturists, who realized the similarities between the Central Coast and their native Epernay region in Champagne.

“When it comes to sparkling wines, the only difference between Old World wine and Laetitia sparkling wine is the use of New World grapes,” said Dave Hickey, the label’s sparkling winemaker. The traditional methods are maintained with the use of Coquard presses and “méthode champenoise,” a traditional, labor-intensive and time-consuming approach to making sparkling wine.

“I was trained by French winemakers who were, themselves, trained in Champagne,” Hickey said. “They wanted it done exactly the same way here as it was there. And to this day, one of the highest compliments anyone can pay me is to say that my wine reminds them of Champagne.”

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

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