Dear Foodies,

House. Wine. — Been there lately? If you have not, shame on you! I remember meeting Jessica Delgado when they first had opened. It was a long time ago at a McAllen Chamber event and another time at an Expo at the McAllen Convention Center. I remembered her friendly smile and how pleasant she was. (That’s what made me go and visit her place.)

I had only gone in for a glass of wine with some friends and at that time they only had a few appetizers. I knew the concept behind this store was to enjoy a bottle of wine and maybe purchase a piece of furniture or piece of home décor (decorator’s paradise) in an elegant and cozy establishment. Yet, I remember thinking to myself … will they make it?

I am proud to say the owners are brilliant! And of course they made it! Chef-owned and operated by Larry Delgado and beautiful wife Jessica, they have worked very hard (smart) at their business. They decided to expand their menu and the reaction from the people I have spoken to is extraordinary. This intimate bistro hums with friendly efficiency carried out by a team of well—coordinated staff. I’ve been there Thursday evenings when live music spans a wide spectrum with jazz, blues, and other ear-caressing sounds, but the tunes are never deafening. They make sure the singer doesn’t drown out dinner and bar guests who come to converse.

Let’s not forget, inviting ambiance is nothing without fine food. House. Wine. delivers great cuisine for lunch and dinner. From steamed mussels, risotto, or flatbread master pieces — your first bites will send your taste buds a clear message that they are in for a treat.

I had planned a Birthday luncheon for my friend Mari and the great thing about is that you don’t really have to decorate (thank you Debbie’s Flowers for the arrangements!) and I knew the food was going to be wonderful. We had a group of 21 ladies show up and our nice and efficient waitress Lyzette took care of all our needs. I asked for separate checks and she said — no problem! She was always smiling and never lost her cool.

Chef Delgado treated me like royalty! The dishes came out like gifts sent for a queen. By the way, I mention starters first not only because they’re the opening salvo but also because they’re the stars of the menu (something about apps’ small size and free-form nature seems to inspire chefs’ ingenuity).

First came the most succulent lamb chops ($16) known to man. Four perfectly seasoned New Zealand lamb chops are seared (the fat is cut off completely) and topped with a creamy blue cheese sauce and are accompanied by a rustic arugula salad. I promise you will become a lamb lover after this dish! Then came the dish that made my mouth water before I tasted it — the garlic lime shrimp ($12). Of course I had my friend Marie Perez sharing the wealth. Garlic was our mantra. Imagine six pieces of gulf shrimp sautéed with white wine, butter, lime and garlic, served over a toasted crostini. It also came with a terrific salad that had black olives, mixed greens, sun dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. The shrimp was slathered in this garlicky lemon and butter sauce and I did not leave a trace of it behind.

Then came my light dish which was seasoned ahi tuna ($16) — a hit with the ladies — which was medium rare, thinly sliced and served over a bed of arugula and topped with a tomato caper relish, sliced red onions and parsley. It was superb. Chef Delgado out did himself and was so generous that day. I really appreciated all his hard work in the kitchen.

My friend Sandra Martinez was craving Italian so she ordered a creamy spaghetti carbonara ($13) that was to die for! It had pan seared pancetta and green onions. She shared with Marie Perez who happened to be at the right place and at the right time. My fit friends who are working towards that bikini this summer (Ariel King and Gabby Nunnery) ordered the most healthy and best tasting salad. The house salad ($6). It was a fresh romaine and arugula salad that came with sliced roma tomatoes, garlic croutons tossed with a sweet onion vinaigrette, topped with sliced almonds and bleu cheese crumbles. You can also add grilled shrimp, salmon or chicken for an additional fee. Usually, house salads are so unimaginative when we go to a restaurant. This one was a keeper!

Mari Rodriguez birthday party will not be forgotten! We shared wine, desserts, good laughs and a full content belly. $$

Your new faithful patron,

Madame Gourmand

house. wine., 1117 W. Bus. 83, McAllen. 956-994-8331. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.