Let your inner gourmand run wild and free like a child gourmand with today's Groupon: $60 worth of fine dining and drink at Cork for $30. This East Valley restaurant has been earning a ton of rave reviews and awards for its eclectic small-plate dining style and desserts, particularly its "edible work of art", the chocolate-drizzled banana cream pie with Oreo crust, brûléed homemade marshmallow, and a side of brûléed banana slices ($8).
True to its name, Cork offers a massive list of wines, cocktails, and beers that merited an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator this year. You're free to dedicate your entire Groupon to exploring happy hour drink options ($4 across the board), with a figuratively bottomless bowl of olives ($5) to cleanse one's palate between glasses.
The dinner menu excites the taste buds of renowned food critics such as AZ Central's Howard Seftel, who recommends the organic buttermilk fried chicken ($13).Try the Berkshire pork tenderloin with crispy applewood-smoked bacon, butternut squash, and béarnaise sauce ($18) and charred duck breast with Jasper Hill brie, duck confit, calvados sauce, and brandy-vanilla apple pie ($21). The small-plate serving style allows you to try as many different epicurean edibles as your stomach can handle and will make your hands appear larger to dining companions.
For a more sunshiney burst of culinary delights, come to brunch (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday) and sample the pancake lasagna with béchamel and maple syrup ($14); huevos rancheros with anasazi beans, salsa verde, asadero cheese, and chorizo ($16); or cranberry walnut bread french toast with sautéed bananas and bourbon maple syrup ($14). You can also apply your Groupon to special events such as the recent Taste of Spain, which paired fine Spanish vinos with four courses of Iberian delicacies, from pan-roasted monkfish to saffron shellfish risotto in honey-lavender sauce ($35 per person, $50 with wine). However you use today's Groupon, save room for banana cream pie.
The Phoenix New Times has poured praise and awards on Cork's décor and cuisine, including Best Small Plates and Best Banana Cream Pie. The restaurant also scores high marks from AZ Central critic Howard Seftel:
- Cork finally gives East Valley diners in search of finer-dining an alternative to fighting westbound traffic. It gives everyone else a reason to explore the eastbound joys of Loop 202. – Howard Seftel, AZ Central
- Another thing I appreciated about Cork was the atmosphere, which was sophisticated (cork floors, a spectacular wall of wine bottles behind glass, and copper mesh curtains dividing the room) but not fancy. At its heart, this is a neighborhood wine bar that just happens to serve inventive, beautifully presented food. – Michele Laudig, Phoenix New Times
- One of the best meals I've had in my life and by far the best in AZ. True upscale couture dining with excellent quality ingredients and inventive flavor combinations. – Dustin Miranda, Urbanspoon
- The "tasting menu" style of service was so much fun! Each plate was not only visually stunning, each portion was designed to excite the palate. Truly culinary art. Extremely well balanced. – mr_woody2u, Urbanspoon
Cork recently won an award from Wine Spectator magazine, the bitter rival of Wine Voyeur magazine, which cares not for wine, but only for destroying its enemies at Wine Spectator. The feud started years ago when vineyard owner John McNeil grew tired of his well-groomed vinos being passed over by the “snobs” at Wine Spectator. In retaliation, he started the second-most influential magazine for wine drinkers.
Wine Voyeur has consistently received poor notices and few subscribers, likely due to its complete lack of wine-related features and its many articles that are simply a list of Wine Spectator employees’ social security numbers. Its one popular monthly feature is its Letter From The Editor, which consists of a photomontage of editor McNeil standing outside the Wine Spectator office attempting to duel with anyone who enters the building.
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