College basketball has always been one of my favorite sports. I’ve never really liked the NBA, because to me too many teams don’t really kick up their game until the playoffs. And there’s so much other “stuff” happening when you go to games in person. College is about the game, the energy and excitement of the students, and the tournaments.
I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to attend so many conference basketball tournaments. I began going after undergrad, and made many trips to the ACC tournament. Since coming to OSU, I’ve been to every Big 12 tournament. We always have so much fun, regardless of how either the Terps or the Cowboys are doing. Riding in the RV down to Greensboro, a weekend in Atlanta, seeing the Terps win the tourney. The list goes on and on with lots of fantastic memories. As a matter of fact, my first week of week on the job at OSU was the week of the Big 12 tourney. My first OSU basketball game was a huge overtime win by the Cowboys.
Since I came to OSU, the Big 12 tourney has almost always been in Kansas City. I’ve become a big fan of KC over the years, and enjoy getting to spend a super fun weekend with friends each year. This year my hotel was in Country Club Plaza, about 5 miles from the Power & Light District and Sprint Center, where the games are played. I wasn’t a huge fan of that, because I normally stay much closer and can walk. But that’s what happens when you forget to make hotel reservations early enough. Country Club Plaza is a beautiful, upscale area with lots of shopping and dining options. I went running twice through the area, and discovered some absolutely gorgeous homes.
That Friday I was on my own until meeting friends later than evening for dinner. So when it was time for lunch, I looked first on restaurant.com, but there was nothing within walking distance and I didn’t want to move my car. I had seen Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant when I did a little research on the area, and its a block from my hotel. So that’s where I headed.
The restaurant is on the corner in the main shopping area of Country Club Plaza. You walk up a flight of stairs to enter the building, and the first thing you see is bottles and bottles of wine. There is a tasting station and shop on the main floor, as well as a display case of desserts. I loved this place instantly. Also, if you don’t get a chance to buy anything in the shop, you can order it online. they also have a Wine Club. There is a bar area with seating behind the shop, but I wanted to sit upstairs in the restaurant to get the full experience. Two sides of the building are full of windows, letting in tons of natural light The dining room is separated into different sections, with a combination of booth and table seating. I was seated at a table near the window. The only view is the parking garage across the street, but I still enjoyed it.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery makes over 50 wines, so of course I had to try some. I couldn’t decide between red or white, and my server told me they offer free tasting, so he brought me a sauvignon blanc and a malbec. I love that the tasting are free. That way if you don’t like it, you’re not stuck. More restaurants should do that.
Both wines were really delicious. The sauvignon blanc was a little sweeter than I like, so I went with the malbec. It was very smooth, and not as tart as you sometimes get with a malbec. The server offered pretzel bread, and of course I couldn’t turn that down
Oh my… the salt was baked into the bread. I might be completely making this up, but I feel like the salt almost deepens the flavor of the bread. The bread was served warm, which was perfect for the softened butter. I forced myself to only eat 1/4 of it, but I really wanted to devour the entire thing.
The menu is quite extensive. Of course they have the regular lunch and dinner menus, as well as gluten free and carryout. Their kids’ menu offers several items that are smaller versions of the regular menu. This is wonderful, as so many other kids’ menus only offer unhealthy options. I really like that they also offer lunch-sized entrées and “Life Balance” choices, items under 600 calories. Again, more restaurants need to do this.
I decided to start with the Life Balance roasted beets with whipped goat cheese
Whipped goat cheese is outstanding. It absolutely melted in my mouth, and I really wish there was a lot more of it on the plate. I can’t remember the last time I had beets. My mom made them a lot when I was a kid, but I don’t ever buy them. These beets were delicious, and made me want to start eating them again. Even though they were roasted, in this dish they were served cold. I’m not a fan of walnuts, but these were candied. Makes a big difference, and I scooped up every piece. My server said that they had just added this dish to the menu, and I told him it definitely needs to stay.
For the entrée, I decided on the spaghetti & meatballs. I know that sounds kind of weird, to get something so simple in a restaurant with such a great variety. But my server said he really liked it, and the meatballs were homemade.
This was excellent. And a really good-sized portion, even though it was the lunch size. The sauce was excellent and tasted homemade. It was rich and very well seasoned. The meatballs were a touch overcooked–or maybe a little overmixed–but still delicious and lots of flavor. And the whole dish was super hot. I about scorched my tongue with the first bite. But it was worth it. Oh, and the whipped ricotta. Man, it was so creamy and good. I tasted a bite of cheese by itself, and the rest I mixed into the sauce. It made the sauce just that much richer. I would say the only way they could improve this dish would be to make their own pasta.
As I was finishing my meal my server brought 2 more wine tastes that he wanted me to try. One was a rhubarb wine, and the other was a port wine. I’ve never tasted rhubarb in anything. But I really like it in wine. It’s a little sweet, but very light and refreshing. The port wine was way too sweet for my tastes. I couldn’t even finish it.
I thought about getting a chocolate covered strawberry for dessert. But then thought better of it because I was full. On my way out I stopped and browsed the shop, and saw a dessert case. And saw a dark chocolate cheesecake lollipop. And couldn’t resist.
It didn’t survive intact in the bag on the walk back to the hotel, but that’s okay. It was excellent. The cheesecake was very light. Almost like it was whipped. That seems to be a theme here, and it works. And just one lollipop was a perfect amount of dessert.
Will I go back to Cooper’s Hawk Winery? No question. The problem is, while they have quite a few locations, none are near where I ever go. I’m quite surprised there’s not one in Dallas or Houston, because it would do really well in either city. But I did see that they’re opening one in Ashburn, VA and another in Reston, VA. Those are easy driving distance from my parents’ house, which is awesome.