Bin Wine Bar
When I first heard the concept for Bin Wine Bar on Mears Park in downtown St. Paul I knew they were singing my tune. The plan was put together by a woman who lived in one of the lofts in the Lowertown neighborhood. She wanted somewhere she and friends could walk to, enjoy some little bites, good wine in a comfortable chic atmosphere. This was exactly what I was looking for! She could be me.
(Except of course having money and living in a snazzy loft. In fact, when we were looking to move I tried to find somewhere in downtown. I imagined being the super hip type of urban couple that could luxuriate in a brick and lumber lined loft, gleaming stainless steel appliances and glittering granite counter tops smiling at me every day. In fact, I had found one place just like that listed on Craigslist. I eagerly requested a showing and received an email that said, "keys after you sends us a check for $100. We are good cristans diong the Lard's work in Nigera misson. We will sends you tehdesposits. We loev our home and want a good Jessus follwing family to care for our home. We when receives teh mones, we send you teh keys." Yeeeah, as much as I do believe in the "Lard" I reported them as a fraudulent listing. The $800/mo price tag for the luxurious loft should probably have tipped me off, but I was feeling optimistic. Probably drunk or something.)
So, although I didn't live in the area, I wanted to visit and I wanted to try some wine (and maybe have a little commune with The Lard.) After a couple of failed attempts, I finally made my way over there last Saturday with two very good girlfriends. We arrived at exactly 3:01pm and they open at 3. Yes, I am always the lame-o at the party that shows up the exact second you tell me to be there. I am never cool enough to last to the end and I will always be that big of a dork.
"First ones in!" I exclaimed, my voice echoing off the empty bar fixtures. We sat ourselves near the front of the restaurant overlooking the park. I was lovely. Something about the place reminded me very much of a woman I used to know - P.W. Rich reds, brassy fixtures and opulent booths. I should call her.
We ordered a bottle of the Toasted Head "Untamed Red," a bottle I know I've seen at local wine shops, but had never tried. We also ordered a plate of the charcuterie.
A beautiful meat plate. The marinated olives were revelatory. The salty, fatty salami paired beautifully with the rosy pickled onions. There were little dots of salty almonds, tender, chubby little hunks of tar tar and spicy sopressata. Buttery, salty cashews, pickled spicy dilly beans and crisp fresh cucumber chips rounded out the plate. It was delightful to eat with plenty of little tastes and flavors to pair with the toasty wine. The bottle went quickly, although I wouldn't say it was a wonderful choice. It was completely drinkable, but nothing all that fantastic. It didn't taste like $30 worth of wine.
So, of course we ordered another bottle. This time, at the suggestion of our server, we ordered the Root: 1 Carmenere. I liked this one a bit more. The flavor was more supple. Soldiering ahead, we figured we should probably try some more food and ordered the cheese platter.
We were served a young Wisconsin Gouda, Northern Lights Blue and an English Gloucester cheese, more delicious olives, rye crisp crackers, craisins cocoa dusted almonds, incredible Marcona almonds and a little side of pickled beets. The almonds were a fantastic match for the cheese. The cheeses themselves were a nice pairing, all creamy, but varied in flavor from the meek Gouda, the soft, smooth blue and the snappy blue and cheddar combo. The rye crackers were very dry and chock full of nuts - hard to pair with the mild Gouda. They overpowered the taste. After asking for a side of bread, we got a basic if slightly stale baguette that was a better match.
We babbled, sipped, gossiped, giggled and occasionally snorted with laughter. The setting was instantly familiar and comfortable. A little more room on my credit card and we probably could have stayed there all day. If I lived in one of those loft apartments, this place would be a dangerous addition to the neighborhood. I could see myself cultivating a seriously addiction to the reasonably priced wine, fun little plates and outstanding company I'd settled in with.