Thursday, September 4, 2008


900 E 7th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 524-2809

After the guy that kissed like a duck, I've had to endure a long string of less than stellar dudes in my dating life. It seems like every guy I’ve gone out with in the last 3 months has been lacking. I mean I do alot of internet dating: match, eharmony, those kinds of things. It really is the best way to meet people in this day and age (if you know how to use it). I DO say I'll go out with just about anyone once, but I have a screening program to filter out the crap. Guys I go out with have to generally be intelligent, interesting, and not a complete troll. Other than that, 60% of dating is chemistry, and you never know who you’re really going to click with. I am always surprised at the people who I end up having the best chemistry with, they’re people I NEVER would have picked based solely on an internet dating profile. But, you'd be amazed at how many internet daters qualify as unintelligent, uninteresting and surprisingly troll-like and I weed them out accordingly. Every once in a while someone truly awful gets through my admittedly porous filter and what commences is a painful few hours, but always a great story.

That is exactly what happened last week to me. I had what has probably been the worst date I’ve been on in years. I met Bachelor #5 (in actuality, he’s Bachelor #18, but since I never talked about Bachelors 5-17, I’ll just refer to him as Bachelor #5) on Match. He had an engineering degree (intelligence – check), was a small business owner, a foodie, and said he liked dancing (interesting – check), and was reasonably attractive (check). We talked on the phone a few times and while he seemed a little stiff, I though, ‘oh he must just be nervous’ - I do realize I can be intimidating to some people. So we arranged to meet up at Uncorked, a new wine bar, to get a few glasses of wine.

I’d actually been there before with Laura a few weeks before. Laura was going through a particularly heinous streak of bad luck. Her car had broken (requiring a downhill clutch pop to make it start) and she'd spent the whole week running around buying and fixing car batteries. THEN as if that weren't enough, her AC had gone out in a freak accident. She’d finally gotten it fixed, but by the time I got to her, she was hot and generally irritable. We decided we needed a wine run, so I suggested Uncorked. We’d both heard of it through Austin Tidbits and had heard whispers that it was a decent place to get a glass of wine. And we were heard right.

It’s conveniently located at 7th and IH-35, perched up on a hill not so conveniently overlooking 35. But if you can look past the highway, the view of downtown is stunning. The inside is equally well appointed. According to Laura, Uncorked used to be a cozy and cheap Mexican dive restaurant. Gone are the traces of refried beans and horchata, replaced with the sophisticated notes of hard wood floors, a gentle sea-foam paintjob, and leather furniture. They’re patio is nicely manicured and when the weather is nice, provides a fabulous view of downtown Austin’s skyline.

Their wine selection is decent, a long list of lots of wines you’ve never heard of. They have wines by the glass, by the bottle, and also have wine flights. Most of you are probably familiar with wine flights, but if you’re not, a wine flight is a small collection of 3 to 5 partial glasses of wine usually of some theme. They are presented from gentlest to boldest and the point is to taste a selection of similar but different wines. It’s a great tool if you’re not familiar with a type of wine and want to experience some of the nuances of the type or you’re like me and just like variety. They also have a small selection of warm and cold plates. I was really excited about the food. I’ve been to most of the wine bars around town and have been disappointed that I haven’t found one wine bar yet that I thought had a good enough blend of 1) wine selection 2) good tapas and 3) nice atmosphere 4) central location. I love the wine selection of Cork and Co, but they have no food (aside from a cheese plate), and their décor is a little chintzy. We won’t even talk about the debacle at Vin Bistro. And though I haven’t written about it (yet), I’ve been to Vino Vino (on a lack-luster date) and found the food excellent, but the selection and décor rather lacking.

So with the excitement of an actual food menu, I ordered the brown butter gnocchi. As some of you readers may remember, one of my favorite dishes at ANY restaurant is the brown butter and sage gnocchi at Primizie. I’ve eaten it a half dozen times, and even have gone so far as to recreate it at home (with decent success too, thank you very much). And if *I* can cook it, a restaurant should be able to cook it and make it taste pretty good. Boy was I wrong. Uncorked managed to serve a TINY plate of gummy gnocchi in a bland, oily butter sauce for an astronomical price. I was less than impressed. The olive plate and cheese plate were much better, but really, how can you mess up olives and cheese?

But, I was impressed by the atmosphere and the selection of wine so I’ve decided it’s a decent place to go on a first date. It’s easy to find, has a nice neutral décor, involves alcohol, and is VERY public – all the things that make a good first date location. So I told Bachelor #5 to meet me there on a Tuesday evening. I could already tell it was going to be a bad date. I could feel a cold coming on, I’d had a crazy day at work, and was generally frazzled. I thought about cancelling, but the lure of some warming alcohol pulled me through.

I arrived before he did, sat at a table by the door and ordered my first glass of wine. I don’t remember what it was, but knowing me, it was probably something Spanish and full of tannins. My date arrived and my first impression was that he was reasonable attractive, but he really should have kept his mouth shut. I immediately felt like I was at a business meeting and not on a date. Within 5 minutes, I knew this guys entire financial portfolio. I knew that small business owner actually meant gas station owner. I knew how much said gas stations were worth, what kind of profit each gas station earned in a year, what kind of financing he had for each, etc. The entire time, Bachelor #5 never smile, never laughed, never said a joke. It was pure business. I drank my 2 glasses of wine, made an excuse about not feeling well (it really wasn’t an excuse though, I really didn’t feel well), and bolted. We sealed the “date” with a rather brisk hand shake and I was out of the parking lot in a cloud of dust before he could even unlock his beamer.

Bottom Line: Wonderful atmosphere and wine, overpriced and unappetizing food – great first date locale

Mariah: 8