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.
Embarcadero embraces the fresh flavors of California cuisine with a menu that blends seafood, colorful produce, and culinary influences from Latin America and Asia. Like a children's theater version of Hamlet where nobody dies, each item on the bill of fare is a refreshing twist on an old classic. Wontons stuffed with Hass avocado and cilantro share menu space with mac 'n' cheese infused with chipotle seasoning and Dungeness-crab cakes kissed with jicama slaw and Tabasco aioli. Guests sip full-flavored California wines or choose from flavored martinis and mojitos while they nibble on desserts such as lemon bars and chocolate torte. Live music fills the air every Thursday night, compelling diners to sway in time to their companions’ hearty chewing.
The bread pans and baking trays begin clattering early at Cinnamon Productions, announcing the bakers’ 4 a.m. arrival. It’s during these hours before dawn that the bakery’s team brings everything from sandwich bread to signature cinnamon rolls, which they pepper with actual ground cinnamon, to golden brown fruition. Once out of the oven, the freshly made goods crowd the eatery’s display case, tempting patrons to pair them with cups of coffee, scrambled eggs, or one of seven gourmet sandwiches. Every now and then, one of the staffers will pluck a few of the fresh cinnamon rolls to create a catering order, gift basket, or convincing Princess Leia headpiece.
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.
The skilled chefs at Spike’s Fish House grill a rotating cast of 8–10 daily fish specials to fill salads, rice bowls, and other entree options. A freshly cooked fillet can play hide-and-seek with forks in a salad’s nest of field greens, cucumbers, and roma tomatoes or bounce on the bowl’s bed of white or brown rice to the consternation of babysitters who insist it’s time to sleep. Chefs drizzle each dish in homemade sauces such as lemon-pesto aioli or chimichurri to infuse a final spark of flavor.