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    Photo Credit: Andrew Tucker

    One of the things I really appreciate about the course meals offered with regularity at Varanese Restaurant in Clifton is the communal seating. It was no different yesterday as we sat down at a table for eight with several other couples we did not know for Varanese's Around the World in Six Courses dinner. I also appreciate that Varanese clearly has a base of loyal clientele. No one at our table were first time diners. All of them had participated in one of Varanese's course meals in the past. This mean that they were excited diners who were more than happy to converse about each course and it's accompanying wine. It also meant that John Varanese was doing something right for folks to keep coming back.

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    All courses were paired with wines from Terlato wines. As an added perk, the Wine Market was on site offering a ten percent discount on an preordered wines from the event.  I took advantage not only because discounted wine is always a no brainer, but because many of the wines featured were good solid products at a very affordable price point. 

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    First Course: Greece

    The meal started off with massive, plump chilled prawn delicately laid across the sweetest cubes of watermelon, tender, softly bitter pea tendrils, and crumbles of salty feta cheese. All these were tossed in a preserved lemon vinaigrette that our table agreed could have been a little stronger. However, when I did secure a bite with a delightful bit of tart preserved lemon, I appreciated that the vinaigrette was subtle. It was just enough to punch out sweet notes from the prawn and watermelon without souring the dish.

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Second Course: France

    Our second course went a bit heavier. The bread, reportedly from a local baker, was soft and airy. My preference is for a chewier variety with a little more flavor. The ham was shaved modestly on a generous slab of brie which worked well since the ham was very salty. Our table did lament the peaches being on the tart side. If the peaches had been a few touches sweeter, it would have been a really lovely compliment. 

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Hold the phone, it's a palette cleanser! I say that because we all got very excited about the palette cleanser. One diner commented, "I don't know what it is but I like it!"

    What looks like a simple dome of shaved ice on a spoon, was refreshing delicious, granita of orange blossom. Slightly syrupy, ice cold, and herbaceous, it cut through our developing haze from wine and food. I believe it ignited more than it cleansed. Maybe that's the same thing. At any rate, delicious.

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Third Course: Argentina

    I had just gushed to my neighbor at the table about how much I adored the chimichuri at another local restaurant when they served us this pulled pork sausage delight. Drizzled with a delicious chimichuri, this dish had a really well balanced symphony of tangy vinegar, rich savory notes, and finally a mild smoky hot sweetness from the accompanying pork rinds. It's always a good sign when you glance around the table and see folks immersed in their dish, nodding approvingly.

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Fourth Course: Chile

    We were so caught up in the Lapostolle Casa Carmenere when they served course four, it took me by surprise. The presentation of the skirt steak was relatively simple with sweet potatoes, onion, and pepper and a savory demi. The flavor of the meat, however, was so spot on. While skirt steak is normally really flavorful, it's not always tender. Perhaps it was the marinade but this steak was only slightly chewy, the perfect amount to pull the ample juice and flavor from the meat. It's what I imagine beef should taste like.  

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Fifth Course: United States

    Our fifth course celebrated the works of fusion in the American kitchen. This one in particular had an Asian flair. The most succulent duck breast I've ever had the privilege to eat was partnered with plump aromatic duck confit dumplings and bathed in a delicate duck consomme. It was awesome. Especially the duck breast. You could cut it with a butter knife but it was firm and full of richness. 

    Photo credit: Andrew Tucker Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

    Sixth Course: Italy

    By now I am warm with wine and full of flavors from so many corners of the world. I questioned my ability to finish. Then, the sweetest little miniature Italian cream cake was placed in front of me with a cold malted coffee milk shake. In addition, we were served a sweet sparkling red called Fizz 56. The cake was layered with fresh berry which worked well with the closing wine and helped cut through the decadent richness of the cake. The malted coffee milkshake was creamy and smooth while cooling us down the warmth from the wine. 

    Another incredible experience at Varanese. I recommend trying their course meal events, but also their regular menu as well. I want to leave you with a few shots of the regular menu which I have also enjoyed. I hope it encourages a visit soon!

    Photo credit: Andrew TuckerPhoto credit: Andrew Tucker Photo credit: Andrew Tucker Photo credit: Andrew Tucker

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    About Colette Henderson

    Colette is a food writer for She is originally from Washington State but has been living and eating here since 2002 after visiting and falling in love with the city. While she loves her day job, she spends a lot of time day dreaming of the perfect restaurant. In her free time, Colette enjoys preparing lavish meals with local foods, traveling to strange new worlds, and indulging in playful mischief. She shares her home with her partner Drew and her spoiled dogs Gracie and Musket. Please send comments, questions, and suggestions to

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