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O’Keeffe Café

October 18, 2006, 12:00 am
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Big flower paintings draw thousands of visitors every year to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, but it's the outstanding wine list, wine-friendly food and peaceful atmosphere that draw people to the restaurant next door. Outside, facing Johnson Street, is a spacious brick patio shaded by a giant box elder. Inside this former Civil War army barracks, big black-and-white photos of Georgia O'Keeffe dot the walls while locally grown red roses brighten every table and anchor a black, white and red color scheme that is striking but not stark. The food here is nearly chile-free, not because chef Carmen Rodriguez dislikes our state vegetable (yes, technically a fruit) but because it is too much of a wine-pairing problem for owner and oenophile Michael O'Reilly. Dishes like sweetbreads with shallots and cherry demiglace or spice-rubbed beef tenderloin with goat cheese and Navajo-harvested piñon cry out for suggestions from the sommelier. Lobster salad always seems to be on the menu in one form or another, heaped with lobster claws that make it a satisfying main course. Serious gourmands will appreciate the generous portions from the chef's tasting menus. On a recent visit we particularly enjoyed a crispy duck leg in a creamy tomato sauce, perfectly cooked risotto with just a hint of wasabi and the perfect sugar crust on the crème brûlée. We only wished we had remembered to go on a Sunday night, when every bottle of wine on the list is half price.

217 Johnson St., 946-1065, www.okeeffecafe.com. Lunch and dinner daily. $$$

 

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