Wine merchants are accustomed to helping their customers pick the right bottle for an upcoming meal. At some wine shops these days, however, the food pairings are taking place in-house.
I encountered the latest example recently at Faubourg Wines (2805 St. Claude Ave., 504-342-2217; faubourgwines.com). Proprietor Catherine Markel reached into her retail wine cooler to pour a lean, bright glass of northern Italian Chardonnay while a salad of crab, melon and shiso leaf arrived courtesy of Four Calendar Café, a pop-up that Amie Marvel and Matt Hayashi operate in back on Tuesday nights.
Plenty of wine shops host weekly tastings and lots of wine bars and lounges offer menus of small plates. But Faubourg Wines joins something of a hybrid trend as retail wine shops offer increasingly diverse and sophisticated food to their patrons, while pouring wines by the glass or selling bottles to open on the spot with their meals (usually with a small corkage fee added).
Bacchanal (600 Poland Ave., 504-948-9111; bacchanalwine.com) set the pace for this mode years ago and has developed the concept into a multifaceted food and wine destination. Food trucks and visiting chefs are also now fixtures at the Mid-City shops Swirl Wine Bar & Market (3143 Ponce De Leon St., 504-304-0635; swirlinthecity.com), on Tuesdays and Fridays, and Pearl Wine Co. (3700 Orleans Ave., 504-483-6314; pearlwineco.com), on Thursdays and Fridays.
The idea blurs the line between bar, restaurant and retail and puts an interesting option on the table for laidback, come-as-you-are, generally economical meals, which seems right for an unscripted night out in the slump of summer. It pairs the always-changing, reliably inventive food of moonlighting chefs, freelance pop-ups and food trucks in eminently casual conditions with arms-length access to the sort of wine selections most restaurants can’t come near, never mind casual restaurants.
Four Calendar Café is an instructive example. On an earlier visit this summer, I made a meal from cool shrimp aguachile, a Mexican-style ceviche served here with grilled peaches; a salad of tomatoes dabbed with whipped ricotta; and a plate of grilled leeks with romesco. What to drink with such a wide sweep of flavors? Thanks to the wine shop partnership, aisles of options were at our fingertips.