It is fair at some point to suspect I’m in the employ of the Downtown Business Association, so enthusiastic have I been about the downtown renaissance over the past couple decades. And now we have another great addition to our vibrant downtown with BottleShock Wine and Brew, a creation of a mother and daughter team that brings something slightly new to downtown.
In these days where outdoor dining is unexpectedly crucial, they have an amazing space here. The small building inside where business is normally done is cute enough with deft decorative touches (subway tiles, etc.) but is limited in size. To the west of that building though is a large lawn, patio tables, concrete, a wood chip area and shades from umbrellas, all of which make social distancing seem oh so civilized.
One of my companions sang the praises of the large brick wall on the west that kept out the harsh sun near the end of a long, over-108-degree day, and at 6 p.m. at night in the shade there it was positively pleasant, especially with a light breeze. No misters did we spy in actual operation, but we didn’t miss them. Reminded me of those ex-Bakersfield residents who after they move away say they miss the warm evenings when you can dine outdoors.
Our wheels were turning: This would make a great place for a company party, a small engagement or wedding event, maybe baby or bridal showers. There is nothing exactly like it in town.
The menu here is not extensive in either wine selections or food options but what is done is done thoughtfully and with an impressive concern for quality. We sampled the gobble gobble turkey panini ($13), the chicken and fig panini ($13) and a caprese tomato salad ($11), with a glass of Lapis Luna chardonnay ($12), a Luca chardonnay ($10) and a glass of the Tikal malbec ($12), one of three excellent choices from Argentina that were part of the special monthly offerings from that South American country. Almost everything is available by the glass or by the bottle.
The first positive impression we received was the water. We requested it with our wines, and I swear we had hydrated well on this hot day, but the iced water was sweet and clear and couldn’t have been ordinary water. I don’t know what it was; it was presented in a pitcher but there is something special in that water that created such a positive impression. And this actually occurred before any wine had been consumed. That attention to detail was evident throughout our visit.
In fact, the entire experience made me feel less than useless. What good is a critic if he can’t pick and complain? The three of us shared everything that hit the table and were happy with our choices.
The chicken and fig sandwich was just a revelation that made me regret I’ve wasted my life to this point without ever previously sampling such a thing. It was made with sliced breast meat, fig jam, green apple, arugula and Brie cheese. I’m sure a creation like this has popped up on Food Network or something, but this was our first experience with it, and we were wowed.
It creates such an impression that you can anticipate cravings in the future as times passes, saying, “Man, I need to get back to BottleShock to get that chicken and fig thing.”
Why was the salad great? Both beautiful and tasty, it had fresh mozzarella cut into four deck-of-card-sized slices and alternated with juicy, red tomato slices, all laid on a bed of cabbage, a bit of basil on top and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. My companion thought briefly that she was in Italy, but then we all remember the Europeans told us to go pound sand and wouldn’t let us in this summer.
The turkey panini sounds dull, but it was made with decent sourdough bread, had more than one inch deep of thinly sliced turkey breast meat, pickles, lettuce and tomato and your choice of sauce (spicy, Dijon or garlic aioli). It also comes with Swiss cheese, though our waitress made her biggest faux pas when she said she could substitute American cheese for that. Such savagery.
Our biggest disappointment was the lack of desserts available. They get them from Sweet Nine Bakeshop, but our waitress said that the baker was not able to produce anything on this particular day in the industrial kitchen she uses due to the pandemic. Have you ever noticed that in recent months you can blame any snafu on COVID-19 and people will instantly nod their heads and accept the excuse? Literally anything that happens or doesn’t happen is the fault of the silent killer.
As you may have read in a previous Dish column on these pages, this business is the creation of Theresa and Shelby Gerber, a mother-daughter team that have lived in Bakersfield, Oregon and Austin, Texas, and wanted to create a vibrant outdoor space for their venture similar to the businesses they enjoyed in Austin. The daughter has experience working for California wineries, too.
BottleShock Wine and Brew is one of the best new restaurants to open this year in Bakersfield and can be recommended for a fine dining experience.
Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @pftittl.