SYMPHONY'S RESTAURANT AT PAHRUMP VALLEY WINERY
By Vegas Food Nerd
Symphony’s Restaurant at The Pahrump Valley Winery is a short drive from the insanity of the Strip, and it is a quaint and quiet day-trip that is worth taking.
The desert of course, isn’t generally thought of as a fertile place to grow grapes and make wine, but that could change very soon if the tourists that flock to our city find out about this place. The owners/vintners of the winery, Bill and Gretchen Loken, are working hard to change that perception. When they took over the property in 2003, the vineyard was overgrown and in need of some upkeep. They believed in the place and began renovating it, installing a brand new wine production cellar, including new stainless steel fermentation tanks, bottling line, grape crushing, and pressing equipment. They also installed a new oak barrel room for aging the wine, and an all-new tasting room with an expanded guest lounge. They didn’t stop there. They continued their upgrades with Symphony’s Restaurant with the addition of a new kitchen and remodeled the dining room.
Their love for their property soon resulted in some accolades. In 2005, they harvested the first crop of grapes. It was one and a half tons of Zinfandel grapes. It was Nevada’s first-ever commercial red wine, and it won Gold at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition.
The Loken’s like to brag that they’re:
“Bringing ‘Gold’ to the ‘Silver State.’”
On the afternoon that my husband and I visited, we first began our leisurely lunch at the tasting room. When you first walk in, the scent of fermentation is very heavy. You get to pick 7 different wines that they produce for free. Our tasting guide was so nice, and she led us through the different selections expertly. Now, I am going to preface this with a quick note. If you are a wine snob, this probably won’t thrill you. But I found the tastings to be pretty good and enjoyed the experience immensely. After tipping our guide, we headed to the restaurant for our lunch.
The dining room transports you back to a small town type of restaurant. It’s very tastefully decorated and looks out to the beautifully manicured grounds of the winery. The covered patio looked enticing, but we opted for eating in the main dining room instead. Our server was a charming lady who encouraged us to order a bottle of what we had liked from our tasting. Pinot Grigio ordered, and then an appetizer of their Shrimp Trio: 2 bacon wrapped, 2 coconut, and 2 chilled shrimp to share with different sauces with each. It was a perfect start to our meal. Then we sampled their creamy Lobster Bisque. It was velvety, decadent, and rich—a good execution of the classic we all love so much. We then opted to try the Crab Macaroni and Cheese, starting with a House Salad: a basic mix of greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers, but the house vinaigrette with dots of blue cheese was just killer. As I age, my obsession with blue cheese seems to grow. The Crab Macaroni and Cheese was creamy and full of tons of sweet, tender crabmeat. As our lunch came to an end, I looked around the room and just saw smile after smile, and heard a lot of laughter. All the other patrons seemed as happy as we were. A good meal and fun experience. Consider a day trip soon. I know we will be back.
HANDEL’S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM & YOGURT
I’ve seen a lot of friends posting about this place. They keep mailing enticing looking coupons to our house, which mention their “$2 Tuesday” promotion: “Get 1 scoop of their famous flavors for only $2.” Our family decided to try this one afternoon, and we are glad we did. You stand on the corner at this walkup ice cream stand and pick one of their flavors. One bite and we were hooked. Since 1945, this Ohio-based small chain of ice cream stands have a lot of Midwestern touches—like their Buckeye ice cream. They even sparked my Michigan roots with a Boston Cooler (Vernors ice cream blended with vanilla). And that single scoop for only $2? It sure seems like they are giving you a double scoop. I know it’s winter, but hey, we live in Vegas, it’s always ice cream weather here.