Wolf and Deer
74 Fifth Ave, Park Slope
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
My date is going well. Out comes a board topped with Old Kentucky Tomme, a rich, earthy slab of cheese made from raw goat's milk. Next to it are neatly folded slices of peppery salame di Varzi, buttery smooth and flecked with anise seeds, set next to slices of bread and a jar of spicy pickles.
Normally I would lay into this spread with the speed and grace of Cookie Monster on a meth binge, but, like I said, I'm on a date. Park Slope's Wolf and Deer, as is the case with most wine bars, is a good place for dates. What I particularly like about it is the buzzy, social atmosphere, engendered by a long, U-shaped bar so narrow I wonder how the staff can move around behind it.
Also impressive: the wine selection, 80-strong and reasonably priced. I'm drinking a rustic tempranillo while listening to my date explain how attending school in the UK was not, in fact, like Skins. She is drinking the Left Hand Milk Stout, an unusually creamy brew with a restrained maltiness and hints of chocolate, which is poured from one of four custom-made taps made of deer bone. The rest of the décor isn't anything that you, the savvy Brooklynite, haven't seen before, but it's done tastefully: exposed brick, Edison bulbs, knotty hardwood floors. Above the bar hangs a wrought-iron structure lined with dangling stemware.
Need a breather? Sit near the floor-to-ceiling windows in front, where you can watch people walk down a busy stretch of Fifth Avenue. The most fun, however, is in back. The bar, owned by Israeli-born Raphael Hasid and Daniel Bailey, is a tight fit even by New York standards, meaning you are crammed together with other patrons whether you like it or not. Don't worry; they're nice, the kind of people who got As at Oberlin and listen to The Leonard Lopate Show. Wolf and Deer doesn't refer to some obscure Vancouver indie band but rather to the Hebrew names of the owners' sons, a sign of earnestness that carries over into the attitude of the bar, including the casually friendly service.
As the night progresses, I lean in to hear what my date is saying over the non-offensive soundtrack, a mix of global grooves, old-school soul and French crooning. Thanks to the sandwich, filled with an odd yet somewhat satisfying mix of salmon and Camembert, I'm coherent even after an ill-advised final glass of malbec. The date ends on a pleasant note, as we step out and catch a cab; I know I'll definitely be returning to Wolf and Deer someday, hopefully soon.
Keith Wagstaff Photo Cody Swanson