Plenty of wining in North Loop

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July 4, 2005 // UPDATED 1:56 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Tammy Sproule Kaplan
Tammy Sproule Kaplan

Plus, a new East Bank eatery and take-home food in the skyways

'Sideways' nearby

Has the movie "Sideways" piqued your interest in wine drinking, like it has for the rest of America? Have you recently jumped on a hot Pinot Noir trend? If so, are you dying to find a conveniently placed wine shop where you can pursue your newfound passion? Then look to North Loop, and Sam's Wine Shop, 218 Washington Ave. N.

Owner Sam Haislet, former proprietor of St. Paul's Solo Vino, opened the doors of his 2,500-square-foot store in late May. When asked to describe its character, he says, "We look for a good price-to-quality ratio from smaller producers. We try not to purchase the big, bulk, mass-marketed wines and buy whatever our passions lead us to."

Haislet notes that it is essential in his business to be attuned to neighborhood interests, and he intends to evolve and grow with neighborhood demands.

The shop will offer regular in-store tastings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, to help customers become familiar with and evaluate lesser-known wines. Successful vintages are likely to inform the store's inventory. Haislet mentions 2002 Burgundies as an example, many of which he has in his store.

Authentic, not fake on the East Bank

Don Saunders, former chef of A Rebours in St. Paul, is branching out on his own to open Fugaise, 308 E. Hennepin Ave. The name is a modification of the Italian word for "fake," which stems from a nickname of Saunders.

For the new restarauteur, the name is nothing but a touch of irony since the menu at his new eating spot will be nothing but real. He describes the fare as contemporary, classic French, with a balance between seafood, meat and vegetarian items. He expects items such as squab, monkfish, tuna, lamb and veal to appear on the initial menu.

Saunders sees great promise in the neighborhood. "It feels like it's established but going through changes that are good for restaurants. I personally love the neighborhood," he says.

Fugaise will be open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday, dinner only on Saturdays, and brunch only on Sundays. Saunders says a lot has been put into the design of the space, which holds 60 patrons with an additional small bar. He will be actively involved in the kitchen as head chef.

In the past, Saunders also cooked at Vincent, 1100 Nicollet Mall, and La Belle Vie of Stillwater. Fugaise's opening is scheduled for this fall.

In other neighborhood gossip, Marianne Miller has left Bobino, 222 E. Hennepin Ave., after just a four-month run as chef and partner. She joined Bobino a few months after the short-lived Red, in the Foshay Tower, closed its doors last fall. On that note, Key's has now opened, in its new Foshay Tower digs, at 821 Marquette Ave.

'Sociale' Gathering

Sociale, the Eden Prairie-based cooking club-meets-gourmet specialty store has just expanded to the Downtown area with a skyway location in the Highland Bank Building, 811 LaSalle Ave.

The concept is "cook and carry" cuisine, for those with nary a spare moment to plan meals and visit the grocery store. Customers are encouraged to "book a session" online or by calling ahead. When they arrive, they will find a set of meals with ingredients already chopped and portioned, accompanied by step-by-step instructions.

In provided pans and freezer bags, they will assemble fresh entres from Sociale's monthly menu and go home with meals ready to cook for the next month. Customers can book with a friend and enjoy appetizers while they prepare the meals in about an hour.

Sociale eliminates not only the shopping ahead for ingredients, but also the cleanup. Customers who don't have time for a session may be able to pick up premade packages, which are available daily in limited supply. Sociale is also a gourmet specialty store that sells whole-bean coffees, tea, gourmet salsa, jellies and jams, marinades, fine chocolates and candies, and kitchen gadgets and tools. Visit www.socialegourmet.com for details.

Au Bon Pain grand opening

Lunchgoers, mark your calendars for Monday-Friday, July 11-15, when Au Bon Pain will celebrate the grand opening of its City Center location, 40 S. 7th St. Sample different free treats, like coffee, cookies and bread, each day that week.

Au Bon Pain has recently placed a strong focus on nutrition, by offering a complete line of baked goods that are free of trans fats and placing interactive nutrition kiosks in its stores. From the kiosks, customers can retrieve nutritional information about any of the menu items, to support any diet, whether they are watching sodium, saturated fat, calories or carbohydrates, or seeking items higher in protein and fiber.

Free Wi-fi access is also available for customers who need to multitask during their lunch or coffee break.