Culinary school wasn’t enough of a learning experience for Hany Fadda. During the summers between his classical training at the California Culinary Academy, Hany traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. These experiences heavily influence the cuisine that he creates as the head chef of Tannins Restaurant and Wine Bar, although he also celebrates Orange County by featuring an extensive wine list that includes more than 40 different local wines by the glass.
These wines complement the contemporary bistro-style cuisine. Italian cuisine appears most prominently on the menus, and the chefs strive for authenticity by importing prosciutto and hand-making their own meatballs in-house. In addition to the assorted pasta dishes, the menus also feature a number of pizzas with toppings that include everything from sausage and roasted red peppers to roma tomatoes and sweet basil. Desserts such as traditional Sicilian cannoli or tiramisu provide a fitting coda to the casually refined meals.
The eatery’s dining room embraces a more classical elegance, with silver candelabras on several of the linen-draped tables. High ceilings and archways between rooms contribute to this vaguely regal setting, as do the thrones that surround each table.
Though their shop stocks a selection of more than 300 wines, owners Bob and Heidi Fisher maintain their commitment to personally selecting vintages from boutique wineries. Inside the earth-toned walls of Salt Creek Wine Company's tasting room, visitors peruse the stacks of obsidian bottles or sidle up to the bar to sample the selection of wine flights, which, like the second hand on a tortoise’s watch, rotates weekly. The bar also stocks pairing bites such as charcuterie, artisan cheeses, and desserts.
A small flight of stairs leads guests down into a rustically decorated room, which evokes the ambiance of a subterranean wine cellar with its earthen arches, barrel-lined walls, and soft chandelier lighting. Designed by the artisans who created Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, the dining room appeals to a similarly nostalgic whimsy. However, the cooks slightly modernize the menu's historic European roots by introducing unexpected ingredients.
The chefs elevate simple grilled-cheese sandwiches by slipping in braised short ribs, caramelized shallots, and horseradish cream alongside the gruyere and monterey jack cheeses, and a splash of cognac adds even more richness to the silken lobster bisque. Thai barbecue-glazed tofu and basmati rice also help to distinguish the menu by lending it a distinctly international flare.
Staying true to its name, The Cellar proudly features a 1,400-bottle wine list, which, according to the staff, helped to garner the restaurant Wine Spectator's exclusive Grand Award. The selection includes familiar staples, boutique producers, and rare vintages from virtually every major wine-producing region except the Marianas Trench.
Amazing Grapes Wine Store features a full wine bar where oenophiles can taste selections from the 1800-plus wine inventory paired with eclectic small plates. Order a sample of one of the around 15 wines offered, including the 2008 La Forge Estate cabernet sauvignon ($4 a tasting), which has a ripe fruit aroma and full-bodied palate, and the 2008 Hirsch Vineyards chardonnay from Sonoma ($6 a tasting), which overflows with lemon chiffon unctuousness and a billowy texture like a cloud of butterscotch pudding. Amazing Grapes takes special care to safely store all 5400 square feet of its inventory for optimal aging. To prevent corks from drying out, all bottles are hung upside down or on their sides in a UV-free environment that is not littered with open tanning beds.
George and Eileen, the husband-and-wife team behind Uncorked Wine Bar and Boutique, personally visit many of the wineries from which they procure crisp sauvignon blancs, bold cabernets, vintage ports, and other varietals. Located within the El Paseo Town Center, their cozy shop is decorated with metallic designs illuminated by candlelight, which casts a warm glow across mustard-yellow walls. Patrons can sip wines by the glass or opt for flight trees that hold three pours, leaving hands free to untie other people’s shoelaces. Visitors can nibble artisanal cheeses, crab cakes, and other pairings or shop the boutique for wine-themed gifts such as bottle openers and decorative glasses.
Twenty-four wine bottles line the circumference of two stainless-steel cylinders, both of which add a futuristic flourish to the middle of the room. With the touch of a button, the machine dispenses a 1-ounce sample of any of the wines—red at room temperature, whites at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Praised on Foodbeast, this self-serve tasting bar, called the Enomatic wine system, lets guests sample an array of wines before committing to a long-term relationship with a single—or several—bottles. This method is just one of several ways OC Wine Mart & Tasting Bar owner Julie Lim takes the intimidation out of wine buying.
At her boutique wine store, Julie fills the shelves with vintages from both well-known and under-the-radar vineyards, with some of her favorites including Silver Oak Cellars, Caymus Vineyards, and Cakebread Cellars. She and her team thrive on helping guests find the best bottle—whether they're hunting for wine, craft beer, or a fine liquor. Once guests feel confident in their selections, the staff can help them compile gift baskets for holiday parties or year-end performance reviews. Committed to green practices, the staff eschews foam packaging in favor of molded-pulp shippers, derived from 100% recycled materials. Such practices earned Julie a place on OC Metro's list of 20 Women to Watch, plus her boutique a place on Gayot's Top 10 Wine Bars in the United States.