30A Prime Interview with Vin’tij Wine Boutique and Bistro in Destin
One of the many hats I wear at work is “interview appointment setter” so I’m always on the lookout for interesting local businesses with great reputations. Recently, I did a Google search for “Best Destin Restaurants” and I stumbled upon Vin’tij Wine Boutique. Something about it caught my eye so I dug deeper and discovered that Vin’tij is extremely renowned as they’ve racked up a bevy of accolades including the Golden Spoon Award which they have won every year since 2009! It didn’t take long to conclude this was a place we had to showcase. My next step was to reach out to Todd Reber, owner of Vin’tij Wine Boutique and request an interview. Todd graciously accepted and the meeting was set.
Before the Vin’tij Interview
Our interview was for 8:30 a.m., but worried about traffic, I arrived promptly at 8:00 a.m. As I waited in my car I realized I’d passed by this restaurant so many times without ever really noticing it. It’s tucked away in the strip mall across from the Silver Sand’s Premium Outlets in Destin, next to Subway and McAllister’s. The outside of the building is somewhat unassuming but behind the doors is something really special. The old saying goes “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and that’s true with Vin’tij Wine Boutique.
Finally, 8:30 arrived and so did Todd. He opened the door and invited me in. If you have never met Todd Reber you are missing out. He is a sweet, handsome man with green-grey eyes. Upon meeting, him you feel like you have known him your whole life. There are just those people in the world that give you that familiar feeling and he is one of them. No surprise that his restaurant is the same way: Familiar, inviting and unique.
Todd and I spoke for a while about the restaurant and I quickly realized that he’s incredibly modest which is refreshing for someone who owns a successful 5-star restaurant. He gave me a little background on why the restaurant was in the strip mall. Todd said, “When we started this restaurant and Wine bar I was fresh out of college and it was impossible to get a loan. So we scrapped together enough money for this space and 20 years later we’re still here” he joked.
While our camera crew setup, Todd brewed us a fresh pot of a locally sourced Destin coffee. It was delicious and while we were still on our first cup, Todd told us the story behind the amazing wine cork table. It was made by a friend and took countless hours and bottles of wine. It’s truly a masterpiece and sets the tone for the entire place. We learned that almost all of the decorations and decor in the restaurant were handmade. The shorter dining tables were butcher-block tables they had purchased and refurbished. Every piece of the restaurant is funky in an elegant way with multi colors and a Hodge-podge style that somehow pulls off a 5-star restaurant look.
When we were about to get started with the interview I explained to Todd that I am off camera asking questions usually and then we edit it. He didn’t seem fond of that idea and insisted I be on the video as well. I was not expecting that, but it did seem more fitting for the type of environment we were surrounded by. So, my interview was more like a conversation with Todd.
Seaside is where Todd got his start in the restaurant business. While working on 30A, he was mentored by great people and it’s during that time when he developed a love for wine pairings. He said that food and wine make a whole. See food by itself is one-half and wine by itself is one-half, but when you put them together something magical happens. It creates a whole that you never knew was lacking. Once he discovered this and realized there wasn’t a place in the area to buy great wines he decided to open Vin’tij Wine Boutique.
At the time, the closest grocery was 20 miles away and their wine selection was average at best. Todd realized there was an unmet demand for easy access to specialty wines in the Destin area and he decided to take advantage of that niche in the form of “Vin’tij Wine Boutique”. More than 20 years later, Vin’tij has grown into so much more than just a place to purchase fantastic wine.
His passion for wine pairings with gourmet cuisine is what keeps his restaurant above the rest. Todd can’t do it by himself though. Chef John is his business partner and is the man behind the delicious food. I met him briefly as he was setting up his kitchen for the day, and he is also an extremely friendly man. Chef John and his staff are what keep Vin’tij a superior establishment. Everyone we met at Vin’tij Wine Boutique were happy, friendly and extremely good at what they do.
“Chef John is a master of seafood ” Todd bragged. He can turn seafood into something you never thought would appear on a plate. One of the restaurant’s best-selling lunch items exudes this uniqueness: the Oyster BLT. It’s compiled of fried oysters, bacon, brie cheese, lettuce, and tomato. People have tried to recreate this dish at home but cannot match Chef John’s standards. He truly is the master of taste.
I asked Todd about other foods people might like as not everyone will eat seafood. He explained they have a variety from steak to salads. However, one of their most popular dishes is the pecan crusted chicken. The more he spoke about this dish, the more I wanted to eat it myself. He rattled off a few other infamous dishes and then we got to the good stuff, the desserts.
Vin’tij Wine Boutique prides itself on home-made ice-cream that is spectacular and a deep-dish pecan pie that is to die for. However, he mentioned one of their more popular desserts is also a lightly pan-seared lemon pound cake served with fresh strawberries. The way Todd spoke about the crust caramelization of this pound cake the bigger my friend, Whitney Holmes, eyes got. Whitney is the woman behind our camera. She loves sweets and couldn’t contain her excitement about this pound cake. More on that later…
I finally got Todd to talk about himself a little. He is originally from Texas, but being in a military family traveled all over. He said that he feels most at home on the Emerald Coast. Todd enjoys every minute of his daily living in paradise. Then I made a bold move, I asked him what his favorite wine was thinking he might name a few that he adores, but he answered with a chuckle, “The wine that I’m drinking currently. Whatever wine is in front of me.” I laughed and said, “That’s a really good answer…that’s how I feel about food.”
He went on to talk about events he has at the restaurant. During off season, every Thursday night they host a wine-tasting event that is really popular. You can get tickets by calling the restaurant at (850) 650-9820 or you can go online at Vintij.com. You’ll want to make sure to preregister as the wine tastings do fill up quickly. You’ll understand why they are such a hit after you attend one for yourself.
I know how fun the wine tastings are because Todd invited us to one they were hosting that very night. He told us to come film some of it and take pictures. Todd also wanted us to partake in the delicious food offerings featured that night. We gratefully agreed to go and here’s where this blog is about to have some extremely foodie material. Fellow foodies unite!
After work, I headed back to Vin’tij Wine Boutique for the wine tasting event. It was about 6:00 p.m. and I got to see it in its full element. The restaurant not only had people there for the wine tasting but also those who were simply dining or grabbing a drink with an appetizer at the wine bar. It was full of life and I quickly chose a seat at the shorter elongated table. Whitney was running a little late so I chatted with the other guests at the table.
Everyone introduced themselves and one of the women directly across from me said she goes to Vin’tij all the time. She’s local and loves the wine-tasting events as well as dining there frequently. Another couple sat down next to us, very friendly as well. This was going to be a good night: we had a good group of people to enjoy fine wine and a fabulous meal with. No one could ask for more. Whitney arrived and the event began.
Kevin Moran, the wine expert, introduced himself and spoke about the wines we would soon enjoy. He went on about the history of Champagne, what we should expect upon drinking it and much more that I simply can’t do justice to through writing. The theme for the night was “Tour De France.”
All of the wines were French and as Kevin would explain at one point, “They have been making wine for 15 centuries. By now they must have perfected it.”
The night would include five full bodied French wines: Champagne Georges Lacombe, Sancerre Les Fossiles, Chamblis Premier Cru, Le Terrasses De Saint Christophe Saint- Emilion Grand Cru, and finally Domaine De la Charbonniere Chateau neuf-du-pape. Of course, these wines would pair with the courses Chef John would exquisitely cook up.
We started out with a blue crab crostini and a salad for the appetizer. That paired with the Champagne Georges Lacombe. This champagne was one of the best champagnes I have ever tasted. It wasn’t too sweet, but it wasn’t bitter. It was dry, but not too dry. This made it a perfect complement to the blue crab and the salad with the lemon truffle dressing, goat cheese, and almonds. The salad was refreshing after biting into the creamy crostini.
The next course was a shrimp, scallop, salmon seafood cake. I should mention every meal is prepared to order. If you have an allergy they accommodate you. There were a few people who wouldn’t eat shellfish and had a chicken dish that looked equally amazing. However, being a seafood lover, I just couldn’t get enough of the seafood cakes. Not only did it pair well with the Sancerre that has a grapefruit taste, but the side item with them was perfection in a bowl. These delectable cakes were served with glass spinach noodles the sauce on it was salty, savory and ultimately dreamy. Chef John is remarkable with Seafood. After eating this part of the meal, I knew why Todd had bragged about him.
The next course was served: Boeuf Bourguignon, tender beef in a burgundy- wine sauce. The wines that paired with this were a bit dryer for my taste, but I could see why people would like them alone. Les Terrasses had a unique flavor, but I wasn’t fond of it by itself. However, together with the meal it created the whole Todd had spoken about earlier. It truly had to be eaten together with the Boeuf Bourguignon for it to be optimal. The same goes for the Domain de La Charbonniere Chateau neuf-du-pape. I also drank that with the Boeuf Bourguignon and it paired very well. It had a much dryer after taste than the Terrasses, but according to Kevin Moran this is the new French trend in wine.
Whitney doesn’t drink, so I was trying to drink some of hers which would have put me under the table. We offered most of her wines to others at the table. I gave the man sitting next to me an extra Champagne. He said, “Oh do you not like Champagne?” I replied, “That’s not it! I love Champagne, but Whitney doesn’t drink and I can’t drink two.” He said, “Thank you very much. This is one of the best champagnes I have ever drunk.” Truly it was, but my favorite wine might surprise most people.
My favorite wine at the table was the Sancerre. It had a light, crisp and refreshing nature. I am a huge fan of Grapefruit in general and the wine had that flavoring. I truly can’t say I had a favorite dish within the wine tasting event because everything from the appetizer to the Boeuf was on point. From start to finish I was impressed again and again. This experience was fine dining on steroids.
We parted ways with our wine tasting friends and said our goodbyes from the long wine and culinary journey we had just experienced together. It was like saying goodbye to your family, you didn’t want to, but we knew it was time. Plus, I had promised Whitney a sweet treat.
I had promised Whitney that we would try some desserts after the wine tasting because the way Todd described them earlier in the interview was beyond appealing. We were moved to the wine bar. The bar tender was funny and friendly, again Todd was correct. His employees are the foundation that the restaurant is built on.
The waitress took our dessert order. Whitney opted for the Lemon-Pound Cake with Cinnamon ice-cream and I chose the Deep-Dish Pecan Pie with Cinnamon ice cream. When it arrived both portions were huge and plated artistically. I bit into my pie and oh my! It was sweet, nutty and probably the best Pecan pie I have ever eaten. Pairings are everything at Vin’tij Wine Boutique and with that Cinnamon ice-cream, it was heaven on a plate.
Whitney tried some of mine and said it was amazing. I tried some of her Lemon Pound Cake. It wasn’t your usual heavy pound cake, but rather lighter. It had a distinct lemon flavor that accompanied the fresh strawberries on it perfectly. The crispy pan-seared edges were scrumptious and I can see why it’s a house favorite. The Cinnamon ice-cream was smooth and delicious. Whitney described it the best though, she said, “It’s like the Cinnamon butter you get at…Steakhouses, but in ice-cream form.” That’s the best way to describe it: sweet, smooth and addicting.
My conclusion is that 30A Florida helped shape Todd in such a way as to create something so well-defined, unique and impeccable in every way that it describes the area perfectly. It’s an Emerald Coast restaurant in Destin that does not compare to anywhere I have eaten prior.
To give you a short background on myself, I have eaten in many fine-dining restaurants since I was two-years-old. I grew up in Illinois and my parents are from Chicago, we would often travel there on the weekends to seek out gourmet food. I have experienced quite a bit in my short twenty-seven-years and Vin’tij Wine Boutique is the real deal. It’s worth every penny to go there. Not only is the food phenomenal and the wine exquisite, but Todd and all the staff are welcoming and congenial hosts.
This is a prime spot to visit and I hope you will get a chance to enjoy and experience Vin’tij Wine Boutique for yourself. Thank you again to Todd, Chef John and all the staff at Vin’tij. We truly enjoyed interviewing you and experiencing the greatness you have to offer.