Cork & Table offers intimacy, delicacies
by Peggy Hyland, Contributing Writer
Tucked into a narrow storefront in Fredericksburg’s Old Towne district, Cork & Table is a hidden gem. Its motto of “Classic Redefined” applies as much to the atmosphere as to the menu. It is as perfect for a date night as it is for a casual dinner with friends.
Chef James Fallon highlights the Cork & Table theme by focusing on pairing his innovative menu with great wines. He offers three-and four-course fixed price menus, a six-course chef ’s tasting menu and weekly wine dinners.
The wine dinners are in a separate room, decorated with maps of the world’s wine regions, and there is an intimate and collegial feel to the evening. The midweek wine dinners also include representative from the wine distributor, introducing each wine. Chef Fallon starts with an overview of the menu before returning to the kitchen. His sommelier background leads him to create pairings that never fail to delight. The service is fabulous, with a friendly and welcoming staff that seamlessly make the transition from each course and pairing to the next.
I had checked the event webpage every week, waiting for the perfect menu for a night out with friends. It didn’t take long to find one that everyone would enjoy, so we chose the Frog’s Leap dinner. We began with Spanish goat cheese, marinated overnight in basil, tarragon, red and black pepper, and olive oil. It was delicately herbed, crisp and tangy, and paired beautifully with a sauvignon blanc. We all went “mmmm” from the very first bite, and I caught one of my companions scraping the plate and licking his knife to get every last bit.
The second course was a house favorite: grilled romaine topped with delicately poached salmon, marinated cucumbers and a sesame-ginger dressing. The contrasting textures and harmonious flavors were divine. My friends, who usually prefer red meat and red wine, enjoyed it and the chardonnay as much as I did. Next was a risotto, featuring fresh seasonal asparagus, wild mushrooms and black truffles. The nutty, creamy risotto was paired with zinfandel, known in Italy as primitivo, for a classic Italian combination.
The main course was a braised short rib, with potato purée and roast parsnips. The vegetables provided a lovely smooth versus tangy contrast with the tender, savory, melt-in-your-mouth short rib. My friend unabashedly went for extra bread to mop up every drop of the rich sauce. The pairing with an earthy merlot was an excellent choice.
Dessert was affogato, a silky vanilla ice cream with espresso poured on top. Guests had the option to choose decaf, given the late hour. Everyone tipped their cups back to drink it all down. We all enjoyed the cabernet as we perused the list of wines available to take home.
The main dining room is small, so I recommend calling ahead or using Open Table for reservations (you must call for the wine dinners).The regular menu is friendly to vegans, vegetarians and diners who are gluten-free. Whether you are local, passing through or staying to explore the town, an evening at Cork & Table is not to be missed.
Editor’s note: This month, we’re pleased to introduce Peggy Hyland of Fredericksburg, Va., as our restaurant reviewer. She’s a longtime writer and critic who will add some spice to these pages. Got a restaurant for her to review? Let us know at [email protected].