For 35 years, downtown Gainesville's Wine and Cheese Gallery has held court in a quaint white wood house that INsite Gainesville writer Jennifer Coleman calls "reminiscent of a classic French bistro.? Owners Bunky Mastin and Wade Tyler curate a larder with more than 3,000 varieties of wine, an international selection of cheeses, rich chocolates, and gourmet lunch items served on the charming patio bistro or inside at Panache, the shop?s restaurant.
Panache's chefs pull from the Gallery?s stock to harmoniously blend flavors in sandwiches such as The Normandy, which combines brie, apples, and cinnamon on french bread and is garnished with a miniature beret, and the turkey and havarti, which is balanced by an Adriatic fig spread. Patrons can also nibble on the quiche du jour or hide their faces from exes in soups that vary depending on the whims of the chef, with one recent creation involving sage matzo balls in the affairs of a ginger-chicken broth.
For Bradley and Jennifer Ferguson, winemaking was initially just a hobby. They fermented their first wine in their kitchen using blueberries plucked from bushes on the grounds of their family's farm. Proud of their creation, they shared the wine with friends and continued to make a new batch each year during blueberry season. Years of practice made the wine tastier and tastier. They decided to make their hobby into a profession, naming their company Bluefield Estate Winery.
Today, they brew two versions of blueberry wine—one sweet, one dry—as well as wines derived from fruits such as peaches, mandarin oranges, or snozberries. Visitors to the vineyard can sample the libations, staining their fingers indigo as a reminder of a day spent picking blueberries and grapes straight from vines and bushes.
One could travel across the world and still not taste as many wines as Corner Bistro has. Sourced from France, Italy, Portugal, and across the United States, the list of more than 100 wines pairs equally with light lunch cuisine such as vegetarian Corner sandwiches or dinner offerings that include braised short ribs and scallops Victoria with truffle-lobster mac 'n' cheese. On Sunday, the bistro unveils a brunch menu populated by an enormous spread of crab cakes benedict, omelets stuffed with bacon and brie, and belgian waffles topped with berries, maple syrup, and Grand Marnier cream. On Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday at 9 p.m., guests can join Matt "Piano Man" Hall as he croons about rieslings and recounts the time he thumb-wrestled Billy Joel for his nickname.
Equipped with in-depth product knowledge and bottles from all over the world, the consultants of PRP Wine International waltz into homes ready to answer nearly any question a novice oenophile may have. As they pour samples for small groups, they explain everything from the intricacies of flavor profiles and the correct pronunciation of “pinot noir” to the most dramatic way to throw a glass of red at a mortal enemy. After tastings, guests can select any of the wine varietals sampled, all of which are chosen by PRP consultants after thorough scrutiny.
La Cena Ristorante, a fine dining restaurant in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, is a cozy spot for intimate conversations and delicious food. It's a well-hidden gem with an extensive wine bar, burnt sienna textured walls and a downstairs main dining room that has only a few tables. Pastas and sauce are made fresh daily, and the skinny breadsticks and gorgonzola salad are local favorites. The menu is large and complex, and includes little side notes, jokes and anecdotes on everything from why parmesan isn’t served tableside to the fee for splitting an entrée. Dishes like the chicken scallopine, spaghetti carbonara and puttanesca make it obvious why downtowners flock to this Italian eatery. La Cena offers a flourless chocolate mosse, an extensive Italian wine list and an owner/chef who will alter dishes based on dietary restrictions.
Since opening in 1980 as a German deli, European Street Cafe has steadily increased the scope of its menu to accommodate an eclectic mix of French, American, and Mediterranean influences. In addition to a beer selection that features 20 drafts and 150 bottles from foreign and domestic producers, the bistro-style eatery?s four locations ply patrons with hot and cold sandwiches. Bavarian bratwursts and spicy kielbasas appear alongside corned-beef sandwiches and pitas with homemade tabbouleh. Taking care to offer vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives, chefs pile sandwich ingredients upon the diner's choice of bread, including pumpernickel, sourdough, and ciabatta. Beyond the ever-expanding menu, certain locations also lure in passersby with trivia nights that test visitors' knowledge of food-fight physics.