Spill-proof

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July 11, 2013
By: Carla Waldemar
By Lyon Keasler
Carla Waldemar

Spill the wine? Sure, I’ve been known to — usually red on a hostess’s white carpet. Maybe that’s why the phone’s stopped ringing.

Hey, no problem, now that Spill the Wine bar-cum-café has relocated to my neighborhood. The wine is far more diverse, and interesting in pedigree, than the Trader Joe’s special poured at those dinner parties, anyway. And, should I spill it (Which. I. Did. Not.), no big drama. The tables’ reclaimed wood can take it. And the rest of the spacious room — once a bike shop, today the now-standard industrial setting — is built for survival, too (plus lots of sidewalk tables and soon, a pergola-topped patio, too.)

Following the move from Washington Avenue, the new, open-to-view kitchen, manned by a mentee of culinary gurus J.P. Samuelson and Isaac Becker, enlarged its mission, too. It now partners the wine list, with its flights, BTGs and great Happy Hour specials, with serious food. Small plates rule. (Are the days of supersized mains officially over? Let’s hope!) They’re not especially original, but who cares? Pork belly, check. Beet salad, ditto. Brussels sprouts, of course. Well, you get the idea, but they’re tastefully prepared and generous enough for sharing. ($5–$12, plus a few large offerings, $11­–19). Even a kids’ menu. And late-night hours. Clearly, condo-dwellers’ heaven.

OK, we had to try the beets. And they’re mighty tasty, untrammeled by the usual greens. The star of the show, they’re chunked and roasted, then suavely abetted by bits of sweet pecans, mild and savory goat cheese, and a splash of balsamic. And the Brussels sprouts? Downright addictive. Crunchy globes, but not near-raw (chefs, I’m talking to you), they’re accented with fatty pine nuts, nutty pecorino and, what’s this? Cream! Ever have creamed Brussels sprouts before? Terrific.

But the braised collards weren’t. A dutiful, good-for-you plate of sharp, long-simmered greens that failed to be close to delicious, despite (too little) bacon and a topper of (over) fried egg.

Somehow I resisted the hoisin pork belly (don’t worry, I’ll be back) and went, instead, for the lamb. Two renditions, actually, and both were standouts. First, a plate of pulled neck meat, simmered until docile and tender: robustly flavored and juicy as all heck, served with husky toasts and a sublimely perky, almost tart, pesto of wild ramps. Next, a well-spiced link of lamb sausage, served with a stir-fry of sweet onions and pepper over a cushion of Cheddar polenta, soft and creamy as you please.

Couldn’t hold another bite, and what a pity, with prawns waiting, along with oysters, scallops, sweet-potato sopes with chicken and patatas bravas with hash and egg. Oh, and dessert! How about rhubarb crisp with ginger-vanilla gelato? Or coffee pots de crème, lemonade cupcake, tres leches, and a flourless chocolate cake? Again, they cover the usual bases, but there’s comfort in that, too.

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Spill the Wine

901 W. Lake St.

339-3388

www.spillthewinempls.com