Operating a bar or a restaurant during the past year has been, to say the very least, a monumental challenge. And to do BOTH and manage to keep the doors open would seem to be a nearly impossible task. So I give props and salutations to Frederich “Fred” Moesinger and his talented team for hanging in there during the last 12 months or so. As owner/chef of both Caffè Molise and BTG Wine Bar, he has indeed achieved the almost impossible.
To celebrate her recent birthday, my wife, Faith, chose to do so at BTG Wine Bar, which is located on West Temple beneath Caffè Molise restaurant. Thankfully, BTG is a large space in the historic Eagle building with plenty of room for social distancing, and the crew there has also installed plexiglass dividers at the bar and to help isolate the booths in the dining room.
We really like the vibe at BTG, which is very calming with its subdued lighting, dark woods and comfy furniture. Although it is a fully licensed bar, BTG has the feeling somewhat of a speakeasy. I always feel when I walk through the doors like it’s my own secret discovery, although anyone 21 and over can enjoy wine, beer, cocktails, spirits and great food at BTG. By the way, BTG is an abbreviation of By The Glass, which is how you can enjoy your wine here. BTG offers wine in 2-ounce and 5-ounce pours, by the bottle, and also in wine flights.
With more than 75 wines available by the glass at BTG, there is truly something for every palate and every pocketbook. Wine, for example, ranges from a four-buck 2-ounce pour of Ve-Ve Vinho Verde from Portugal, or an eight dollar 5-ounce glass of Jean-Luc Colombo “Cape Bleue” Rosè from France, to a splurge such as Domaine Levet “La Chavaroche” Cote Rotie for $200 per bottle. And then, there is also a reserve wine list containing gems like Chateau Duhart Milon Bordeaux, as well as the aforementioned wine flights. Luckily, sommelier Louis Koppel patrols the floor at BTG and knows about as much as anybody does about wine. He’s a walking encyclopedia of wine knowledge and is always happy to assist guests in navigating the extensive BTG wine selection. That’s very helpful given that red wines alone run the gamut from Domestic reds and those from Australia, Argentina and Italy, to Austria, Germany, Spain, France, and even Lebanon.
The wine flights that Koppel has created range from “Bubbles” and “Think Pink” to “A Glance at France,” “Mixed Tape” and a tour of “Malbec Around the World,” just to name a few. There are nearly 30 wine flights to choose from at BTG, each consisting of a trio of 2-ounce pours of different, unique wines.
But here’s what separates BTG Wine Bar from most bars: Sure, it’s a great place to drink. But, it’s also a great place to eat. There’s a terrific menu of bar bites, salads, entrees and desserts available, but savvy BTG customers know that they are also privy to the full Caffe Molise restaurant menu in the bar. Again, there is something for everyone.
Chef Fred Moesinger knows his way around a meatball, and I don’t know that I’ve ever had better ones than at BTG. There’s actually two meatball options: traditional meatballs ($8) made with seasoned beef and spicy Italian sausage, topped with a delicious, classic marinara sauce and grated cheese, but also eggplant meatballs ($7), vegetarian “meatballs” in a scrumptious shallot and tomato-cream sauce.
Other temptations from the BTG Bar Bites menu include smoked almond-stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto ($7), pizza of the day ($14), lamb “lollichops” ($16), grilled asparagus with vinaigrette and burrata ($11), focaccia ($5), and more. Our birthday party of four enjoyed sharing a generous Meat & Cheese Board ($24) featuring an assortment of imported cheeses, cured meats from Creminelli, marinated olives, house mustard, caramelized shallot relish, pickled veggies, and crusty crostini alongside.
One of my favorite “tapas” – if you will – at BTG is the Garlic Shrimp ($12). It’s a Spanish-inspired dish of plump, tender Gulf shrimp cooked and tossed with extra virgin olive oil, sherry, crushed red pepper flakes, fresh parsley, and a delicious dose of garlic.
For his entree, the meat lover in our party ordered the BTG Strip Steak ($28), a cooked-exactly-as-ordered, tender grilled 10-ounce New York Steak served with spuds, veggies and a lovely wild mushroom Bordelaise.
Entrees at BTG come with a house salad or an upgraded arugula salad. Both are very good and very plentiful. I couldn’t come close to finishing my house salad and ditto my wife’s arugula salad.
I rarely pass up the chance to enjoy carbonara when I see it on a menu, and so that’s what I ordered for my main course at BTG. This was a heaping portion of thin al dente spaghetti pasta tossed with crispy house-cured guanciale in a creamy Asiago and Parmesan cheese sauce with freshly ground black pepper. It’s a rib-sticking pasta dish and so generous was the portion size that one of my stepsons took half of it home with him to enjoy later.
I mentioned that guests at BTG can avail themselves of the extensive Caffe Molise menu, which Faith did. My wife had her eye on Pollo Marsala ($22.95) which, it turned out, she absolutely loved. It’s a tender boneless chicken breast sauteed with wild mushrooms and bathed in a silky Marsala wine and cream sauce, served on a bed of spinach. It was an excellent menu choice.
Another outstanding pasta entree from BTG is Butternut Squash Ravioli ($17), which was handmade butternut squash ravioli with a luscious garlic-brown butter sauce and drizzled with a balsamic reduction, grated Asiago cheese and fresh minced parsley.
Throughout the evening we were attended to by sommelier Louis Koppel and a top-notch server named Ammon, reminding me that owner/chef Fred Moesinger has been in the restaurant biz for a long time and has put together an A-list team of cooks, servers, managers, hosts, bartenders, banquet staff, etc. You won’t find a better team.
Although our gang was overstuffed, we couldn’t finish off Faith’s birthday dinner without a dessert. So, we loosened the waists of our trousers and managed to share a scrumptious dessert of bread pudding ($8.95) – a seasonal, house-made bread pudding with caramel sauce, raspberries and blueberries.
So now, when is a bar much more than just a bar? The answer is: When it’s BTG, which is a bodacious bar, but an equally rad restaurant with cuisine that reaches the lofty heights of the finest wines being poured there.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week:
“I know once people get connected to REAL FOOD, they never change back.” — Alice Waters
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.