In a good wine pairing, a wine enhances the food's flavor. In a great wine pairing, the two play off and enhance one another so both are improved. At least, that's the theory that builds places like 2South Food + Wine Bar. With a newer face in the kitchen, maybe the theory can match the reality.
Thai-born chef Supansa Banker (who recognized me on my visits) took over as executive chef around a year ago. Banker's resumé reads like a who's-who of local prestige, from the Pikes Peak Community College culinary program through The Broadmoor's Summit restaurant, Nosh and the Blue Star. She's moved the 2South menu away from the comfort food chef Tyler Peoples served when we first visited in 2012, adding more international touches.
The buffalo pastrami pizza that comes out of the patio's wood-fired oven lands a pretty sort of asymmetrical on a properly cooked crust. Replacing tomato sauce with a punchy coarse mustard, topping things with Swiss and provolone, and finishing the pie with a swirl of sambal chili aioli and a mound of mild house sauerkraut in the middle completes the pie's Reuben kinship. The aioli can sometimes balance and sometimes overpower the peppery meat and mustard spice. But the $18 price stings for what you're getting, good as it is, and that's mid-range for 2South's entrées now.
When my server suggests I pair it with either a $13 glass of cabernet or a $7 merlot, I go cheaper and don't regret it. On its own, the punchy Raywood merlot sips dry with powerful tannins and some woody notes. The flavors of the pizza take the edge off, allowing the cigar box notes to come out a little more clearly. And while the wine obliterates the aioli's sweetness, it mellows the mustard in its own way for a different balance to the bite.
As for the cost, happy hour makes things easier, though the menu's smaller. A pick-three meat and cheese board only runs $12, for instance, and it comes with house-pickled veggies, sesame lavosh crackers and fig jam. Wines on tap run buy-one-get-one-half-off — a recommended Hahn pinot noir feels thin, but still presents major woody and plum notes. For the wine-averse diner, there are craft beer taps and house cocktails, both featuring local makers like Nano 108 and Distillery 291.
Crispy duck wings, three for a plate, come in a tamarind-based glaze with prominent ginger. My server suggests a Domaine de Cause malbec, itself a dry, peppery wine with dark fruit notes. With the duck, it obliterates the ginger but boosts the tamarind and spiciness. While the Graff riesling my server offers as another pairing option does better emphasize the rich meat and ginger, its gooseberry/green apple crispness takes a turn for the syrupy. On its own, though, it's pleasantly fruity with balanced acidity.
For something simpler, 2South offers some legit arancini: balls of creamy risotto with a melty mozzarella core, like an adult take on fried mac & cheese. These ooey-gooey balls of joy come under shaved Parmesan in San Marzano crudo, a nearly raw sauce of tomatoes, red chili flake and raw garlic. The sauce bites like a shark, cleaning the palate for the next bite.
So again, back to the concept of a good pairing, Banker's light-handed approach appears to match well with the wine-centricity of 2South, and both are better for it.