Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mad Props

The food scene is boring or over-conceived and under-executed. Or hyper-executed. Or whatever. Point is, finding a spot that is compelling, ever-changing, and unpretentious is a rare beast and when it is it needs to be folded up and put into your pocket for later.

For instance, I like Sophia, Sophia's tasty. Sophia's menu doesn't change, however. Same thing with Daimo. Lanesplitter too. But there's one spot that I frequent almost weekly where I'm able to get something completely different every week. It's also unpretentious, friendly, and reasonably priced. It's pretty much the best place ever.

That place is Solano Cellars.

It's a pretty compelling wine shop (though I'll admit it's sister store Vintage Berkeley is probably a better bet if you're looking for inexpensive wines) with a broad global selection. It's the best spot hands down for Northern European wines and a great spot for the more eclectic boutique-y California (and Oregon and Washington too) wines. More importantly it's one of very few wine shops that has an expansive collection of wines (randing from $10-$80 a bottle) from every major winegrowing region in the world.

Plus mark-up is reasonable, 10% discount on cases, monthly wine club, tasting events, etc.

How could it get any better?

I'll tell you.

A few months ago they reinstituted a small plates menu at the wine bar. They've always had a wine bar with tasting flights (red and white flights for $15 and a special flight for $25) and a couple cheese and charcuterie options. The previous incarnation of Solano Cellars had a "bistro" (re: lame-stro) menu at their wine bar that was unremarkable. This time around however, they've hit it pretty much right on the lower back tattoo.

The small menu has a bunch of wine-friendly appetizers in the $5-$10 range that are bold and flavorful but simple. A retarded good arugula salad with roasted strawberries, salt-cured olives, pine nuts, bacon, and feta. Artichoke hearts and Berkshire prosciutto served warm with Bellwether frams ricotta. A plate of manchego, membrillo, and marcona almonds. A personal favorite, fromage fort served warm over bruschetta. The rotating mix of cheeses is melted with garlic and wine and then spread over thin slices of La Farine baguette. Simple, earnest, and very very wine-friendly.

And there's no pretention in either prices or preparation. The guys (and gal) working the shop really like wine and really like food and really like drinking wine with food and without the contrivance that goes into the overwrought myth of "wine pairing." Drink and eat and enjoy.

And that's what it's all about, right? Good munching food with good wine. And the wine bar selection is heavy on earthier food-friendly reds and crisp refreshing whites.

Solano Cellars wine bar is one of the best places (and in many ways the best place) to eat on Solano Ave.

There I said it. If you don't like it you can go fuck yourself.


Zack said...

I don't enjoy wine but I can appreciate your dedication to the subject.

Can I ask what a "flight" is?

David J.D. said...

A flight is a sampling of wine. Usually 3-5 two or three ounce pours. Often (but not always) flights will be vaguely or specifically themed (same region, varietals, similar styles, etc) so as to facilitate comparing and contrasting similar wines.