Cincinnati is fortunate to have many historic neighborhoods with unique character. A brief trip up the Mill Creek valley brings one to Northside and a centerpiece of the business district is the restaurant known as Boca. Located in an old storefront, Boca has been a standout for more than seven years and now under the direction of chef and owner David Falk has found a new culinary chapter since 2001. A break in the spring rains allowed the Cincinnati Bailliage to gather a capacity crowd and taste the latest products of his inspiration.
Met by general manager John Colwell and his staff, we mingled on the outside deck and in the main room with flutes of 1996 Handley Brut from Anderson Valley. This region in Mendocino County is home to Roederer in the US as well as some small producers such as Handley, one of the world’s first with a female owner and winemaker when bonded in 1982. A choice of savory caramelized endive tart with chestnut crust and bruschetta garnished with heirloom tomato, olive, and buffalo mozzarella left us ready to continue on a journey through Italian and French themed dishes and wines.
After finding our seats we enjoyed a first course of prosciutto di Parma with marinated asparagus, arugula, and parmigiano reggiano, perfectly matched with Foreau Vouvray Demi-Sec 2000 from Loire Valley. The two historic names in Vouvray are Huet and Foureau, and this demi-sec started deceptively light but then developed minerality, acidity, and bright fruit in the glass. With the delicate complexity of the food combination, the flavors simply exploded in one’s mouth. This match of Italian and French would be hard to top; even the chef was impressed with how great they were together!
Next we were presented with ricotta filled ravioli complemented by caramelized porcini mushrooms and truffle sauce. Exuding a wonderful earthiness, the sauce had a mysterious quality we guessed might be a veal or red wine reduction but were informed by chef David was actually a browned butter and white wine reduction. Featured with 2000 Cantine Del Notaio “La Firma” Basilicata, this proved another masterful duet. Basilicata is in the “arch of the boot” in Italy and although not well known here, the aglianico grape is considered the great varietal of southern Italy. The slopes of Mount Vulture provide both high altitude and black volcanic soil to produce exceptional fruit. This wine garnered comment from almost everyone who tried it. A serious earthy, chocolate, and cabernet-like nose followed with a concentrated body and gentle but substantial finish. Upon asking about the influence of truffle in the dish, the staff happily brought out two whole black truffles for us to inspect.
Next came the fish course, grilled salmon with spinach fennel compote and white wine emulsion. A touch of lemon in the sauce gave a fresh bracing quality to the greens, and the bright fruit balanced by acidity in the 2000 Domaine Arlaud Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru Burgundy kept the food and wine in wonderful harmony with each other. Finally we arrived at the meat course, red wine braised oxtails with black truffle risotto slowly cooked to perfection. Reminiscent of a comforting pot roast and probably having some origin in peasant food, the tenderness and rich hearty flavors of oxtail were elevated well past its humble beginnings to a truly special stature. This was served with 1999 Il Sasso by Vannucci Mauro of Piaggia, a “Super-Tuscan” blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. Starting with an elegant lavender nose and soft easy body, this typified the “food friendly” style of better Italian wines and served to cleanse the palate for another bite of marrow rich oxtail and risotto.
We ended our evening with a taste of Boca Negra, a flourless chocolate bourbon cake finished with chocolate sauce. Chef David Falk impressed and gratified all the diners with his skill gained through years experience at some of the world’s great restaurants, now landed in this local gem.
J.T. Mayer, Vice Chargé de Presse