Love Is In the…Wine

Cravings creates fabulous wine and food pairings for the most unforgettable wine dinners in Woodbury.

As it turns out, there’s no need to be a wine connoisseur to impress your valentine this month. Let the professionals at Cravings Wine Bar & Grille do it for you, with an elegant four- to five-course, hand-selected and carefully crafted menu of delicious wine and food pairings.

Cravings’ new owner, Nameer Ameen, took over the popular restaurant in November and is continuing the festive monthly wine dinners created by previous owner Greg Rick, working in coordination with Cravings’ various wine representatives. After a winery is chosen, the selected wines are paired with exquisite food selections made by Cravings’ culinary team. The talented team tastes each wine selection, utilizing tasting notes and technical sheets, and uses their culinary experience and unique creativity to create the most optimal food and wine pairings.

Cravings Wine Bar & Grille opened in July 2008 with a philosophy of providing customers with great fresh food and appropriately paired wine, beer and full bar selections. Cravings has a cozy yet elegant, polished feel and offers creative and contemporary American cuisine. Their unique disare offered at a reasonable price point. Cravings offers a wine list that was developed specifically to meet the needs of their clientele, carrying more than 200 bottles of wine with selections from across the globe.

Cravings had its very first wine dinner in September 2008. Over the years, customers have been huge fans of the multi-course set menu, the relaxing atmosphere, the opportunity to converse with people they know and make new friends, and of course gain knowledge of different wines.

John and Danica Chilson, regular attendees of these wine dinners, can attest to this. Cravings seats regular customers at the same tables, and through the events, people have become close friends. The fun experience, along with the fabulous pairings and good education about different vineyards and wine, keeps regulars like the Chilsons coming back each month. “The wine dinners are focused on bringing customers together,” says John Chilson. “They have really helped us get to know wine, where it comes from, and how to understand and appreciate it.”

New owner Ameen is excited to be at the helm of Cravings. He brings a strong resume in the hotel, country club and restaurant industries, most recently in senior leadership with Darden, whose family of restaurants include Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse, Banana Breeze and Eddie V’s.

“I have always wanted to have a business of my own,” Ameen says. “I was a customer of Cravings who appreciated the unique wine bar with outstanding food. Woodbury is a very close-knit, affluent community where this type of restaurant works well.”

Ameen sees a unique opportunity to reach out to the next generation, the millennials, who are gravitating to wine, but may not know wine very well. He is also building Cravings lunch business, introducing a menu with a $10 price point and quick service to attract workers in surrounding area offices.

“There are a lot of good things going on here at Cravings. Nothing currently beloved by our clientele will be removed; I’m just going to put a stamp of my own by taking the restaurant and enhancing it,” Ameen says. “We look forward to serving all of our guests. I’m lucky to have had great leaders in my career that taught me how it can be done well.”


Head to Kowalski’s Market for Valentine’s Day chocolates extraordinaire.

This Valentine’s Day, your relationship status doesn’t matter. Single or taken, Kowalski’s Market has the perfect pairing for you, and you’ve got options: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, triple espresso, almond sea salt, sea salt or toffee pretzel sea salt. Which is it going to be?

Kowalski’s smooth and rich chocolate bars made with premium Belgian chocolate are particularly decadent, featuring unique flavors from roasted almonds, cocoa nibs, ground roasted coffee beans, sea salt, natural vanilla, sweet toffee and salted pretzels. The dark chocolate is aromatic with a distinctive and delightful snap, while the milk chocolate is pleasantly creamy and sweet.

Need help selecting your chocolate of choice? Here’s a recommendation from an expert: Rachael Perron, culinary director at Kowalski’s Market, notes that the sea salt caramel, made by a local chocolatier, is a smashing success with the customers. The triple espresso is also a unique and delicious favorite. “I’ve grated it to use in a tiramisu recipe and it was magical,” Perron says. “I rarely give a gift that doesn’t have one of these bars tucked inside.’

And Kowalski’s isn’t limited to their basic chocolate bars. They also have milk and dark chocolate varieties of nut clusters, pecan caramel snappers, toffee bars and peanut butter cups. “Personally, I love the dark chocolate peanut butter cups,” Perron says. “They’re so much more satisfying than typical milk chocolate cups.” She also notes that truffles have recently been added to the menu and are beautiful gifts, especially at this time of year (time to drop a hint for your Valentine).