Lily’s Wine Bar, featuring small plates of seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood, local meats and European wines, is open for the season in Stonington.
“I focus mostly on European wines from small vineyards,” said owner, chef, gardener and textile artist Kyra Alex. Bottles are $30. You can take it home if you don’t finish it.
Or, if you’re visiting solo, a glass is $12.
On a recent evening, Alex had prepared carrot and hazelnut pesto with dipping bread, Carding Brook farm mesclun with house dressing and feta.
Other offerings were crispy fried duck egg (Alex’s Swedish Blue ducks) with asparagus gremolata and Thai meatballs over sautéed spinach with lime mayonnaise.
There also was lobster in anchovy butter served over pasta.
Everything Alex serves is gluten-free. She has celiac disease and wants to be able to eat herself what, if anything, might be left over from the once-weekly wine bar. Lily’s is open Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m.
Serving seasonal and local food is important to Alex, who bases the menu on what she can buy from Maine farms and fishermen or can grow herself.
May’s menu brings rhubarb, pea shoots and more greens. Halibut will be in season.
“I can always get crabmeat, lobster and clams,” Alex said.
Pork comes from Old Ackley Farm, as does chicken. Squash, cauliflower and many other vegetables are supplied by Ironwood Farm.
Ground beef from 100 percent grass-fed cattle is sourced from Misty Brook Farm in Albion.
“I get my yogurt from White Orchard Farm in Frankfort,” she said. Alex makes cheese using that yogurt.
Butter, made with raw milk, comes from Dixon Family Farm.
“So once a month I drive all over the place and pick stuff up,” she said.
Come summer, dishes will include vegetables that Alex has grown a few steps from the wine bar.
“It’s pretty fun to figure out how to use stuff out of my garden,” she said.
Onto the wines. All of Alex’s wines are natural. One favorite is a red blend — “heavy on Malbec — from a small village in Argentina. That one is called Cando.
“I like wines that are food-friendly,” Alex said. “I want stuff that goes with the food.”
Since the wine bar offers so many small plates with different flavors, the wines need to pair well with whatever might be on the menu.
Alex prefers European wines for her restaurant because of the grapes.
“I’m picking grapes that are lighter in body,” she said.
Another favorite is a sauvignon blanc from Chile called Laberinto.
Alex, who is also executive director of the island’s adult preparation/teenage mentoring program Ready by 21, has been cooking for years.
“I’ve worked in the food industry since I was 15,” Alex said. “I was 15 and got my first job at a Western Sizzler,” adding that she learned a lot about life in that position.
“I opened my first small café in Cincinnati in ’91 and came here in ’97,” said Alex. As a child, she visited her uncle who is still on the island and her late aunt, for whom Lily’s is named.
She has a degree in psychology and worked her way through school in the food industry.
“When I got out I knew it and liked it so I just kept going.”
After moving to Stonington in 1997, Alex operated Lily’s Café in the same Victorian house where she runs the wine bar and textile workshops.