Kick back and enjoy the vino

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February 7, 2005 // UPDATED 1:51 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Tammy Sproule Kaplan
Tammy Sproule Kaplan

Plus, Downtown eateries are on the move

How to drink wine

Whether you consider yourself a wine cosmopolite or absolute buffoon, most restaurants and retail stores offer the advice you need to make a fitting wine selection.

According to Wil Bailey, an instructor in the wine sommelier program at Art Institutes International (AII), 15 S. 9th St., the local wine market is burgeoning. Consumers are finally starting to recognize, and get, good wine service, including recommendations, as part of the whole-dining experience. Good restaurants get it - so if you ask for wine selection assistance only to be snubbed, Bailey advises that you simply take your business elsewhere.

Novice drinkers should start by sampling varietals, beginning with the most common ones - cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and Riesling. According to general manager Dominic Ciresi of Haskell's wine store, 81 S. 9th St., these six make a solid foundation in wine education - they comprise a wide enough range to help you figure out what characteristics you appreciate in wine.

What makes a wine good? Both Bailey and Ciresi agree: The best wine is wine you enjoy, not the one someone else tells you to drink. "If you're having salmon and someone tells you to drink pinot noir, but you really like chardonnay, drink chardonnay," Bailey said.

They also warned about judging a wine by its price tag. Ciresi said that during wine sales at his store, a good bottle sells for as little as $4.

Taking advantage of such sales (Haskell's has them in fall and spring) is also a good way to start your own wine cellar. (Nowadays, a "cellar" can be as small as a mini-fridge, if you're short on space.)

First, stock up on several wines you can drink now (as in tonight . . . and over the next two or three years). That way you won't drink down your next purchase: Bottles that will peak decades from now. Ciresi recommends stocking up on Bordeaux, California cabernets and Rhones, which age well.

If this wine-drinking thing becomes a full-fledged hobby, and you need more than a "Wine Specatator" to sate your thirst, consider enrolling in a sommelier class. The next entry-level course at AII, Wine Fundamentals I, starts Wednesday, Feb. 9.

Bailey said the class attracts plenty of everyday wine fans as well as industry professionals.

The class is a prerequisite for AII's International Sommelier Guild-certified Sommelier Diploma Program. For more information, visit aii.edu or internationalsommelier.com.

Key's on the move

Key's Caf, 1007 Nicollet Mall, is moving to the former Red Restaurant space in the Foshay Tower, 821 Marquette Ave. The deal is in its final stages, though "not 100 percent complete," said Joe Schlarbaum, general manager of Key's.

With these roomier digs, the longtime Downtown breakfast hotspot will probably make a few changes, Schlarbaum said. The Foshay Key's may serve wine and beer and expand their hours as well as their dinner menu.

The timeline for the move is yet to be determined. It comes on the heels of a proposed 45-story condo tower that would at least temporarily displace Key's from its current location.

Former Red chef Marianne Miller had her sights on the Foshay space, but plans reportedly fell through last month.

La Belle Vie rumors return

It's been known for some time that La Belle Vie owners Josh Thoma and Tim McKee are seeking a Downtown venue for the relocation of their Stillwater mainstay. Recently they've been eyeing the

510 Restaurant space at 510 Groveland Ave. The proprietors are yet to go public with the deal, but negotiations are reportedly in the works.

112 Eatery open

Along with his wife Nancy Silverton, Isaac Becker, the former head chef of Lurcat (1624 Harmon Place) recently opened the 112 Eatery at 112 N. 3rd St. in the Warehouse District. The restaurant is open for dinner, and the menu caters to both everyday and more decadent tastes with lighter fare and smaller portions (including a $4 country-style pork rib a la carte as well as beef, lamb, pork and seafood entrees in the $18 to $26 range.

Becker especially recommends the choucroute bread pudding, a savory concoction including sausage, pork belly and sauerkraut. He also suggests the stringozi (ropelike pasta) with lamb stew. For sweets-lovers, it's difficult to choose from the 112's many mouthwatering desserts, but the tres leches cake is a must. It's soaked in three milk products (evaporated, condensed and whole, thus, "tres leches"), buttery and topped off with gooey, marshmallow-y frosting.

Chili days

The Loon Caf, 500 1st Ave. N., is celebrating its 25th year in business with an antidote for icy winter temperatures: The Loon chili sampler. Get two cups of chili (the Pecos River red chili and/or Ski-dad's chicken chili) for $6 through February.

The best of the best of . . . Jill Cordes, co-star of the Food Network's

"The Best of ...," will present the "Best of the 2005 Food & Wine Experience" awards at the Twin Cities Food & Wine Experience event at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Saturday, Feb. 26. She will appear on stage with local columnist Sue Zellickson and Julie Griffin of Culinary Products.

Cordes will also be selling and signing her book, "Food Network's Best of the Best of," which includes mention of Murray's restaurant at 26 S. 6th St.

Cordes resided in Minnesota 1999-2001 when her husband worked for KARE-11 news and said she always looks forward to this Minnesota show. "If a great weekend of eating can't cure the winter blues, I don't know what can!" she said.

The Twin Cities Food & Wine Experience is Feb. 25-27 and features 300 exhibitors with wine and gourmet food from around the world. The convention center is located at 13th & 2nd Avenue South. Tickets are $55 if purchased by Sunday, Feb. 13,

$60 after. For more information, check out foodwineshow.com.

Send your food-related tips to tammysproule@yahoo.com.