The concept at Pairings Food and Wine Market in Minnetonka is quite simple: Figure out what you want to eat, and then walk over to their wine and beer shop to pair something to go with your meal. Pairing wine and beer with food is by no means revolutionary, but the fact that you can walk across a small breezeway from the food market and pick out the perfect match for your meal from a large and reasonably priced selection is quite new and exciting - at least around here.
Pairings is part cafeteria-style with build your own pizzas and a huge salad bar, but you can also order a number of things off the menu at the registers up front. I debated for a few moments but a staff recommendation pushed me to try the grilled chicken panini instead of the turkey and artichoke sandwich.
The artfully grilled panini was a generous and hearty sandwich featuring big meaty chunks of fresh, smoky grilled chicken. There was no hint of chemical flavorings and the bird tasted like good grilled chicken should. The premier element of the sandwich was the combination of the roasted tomatoes and the fresh melted mozzarella. The roasting helped to unveil all of the deep and bright flavors of the tomatoes while the mozz melted evenly under the warmth of the grill and integrated beautifully with their juices. A nice layer of caramelized onions managed to add a gentle sweetness to he dish before you slipped into the comfort of a robust herbed mayonnaise.
I paired this rustic beauty with a cold Lake Superior Mesabi Red. I felt pretty good about enjoying what I thought was a nice beer with a great sandwich for only an additional two bones (I'm not sure you can get a drink at a fast food joint for that anymore - regardless beer > soda). The huge sandwich adorned with tasty house-made chips will set you back $9, but I thought it was beyond worth it for an enjoyable lunch that kept me well-stuffed into the evening.
Sandwich Rating: Killer. The sandwich was executed with great skill and the staff has managed to source high quality ingredients. The fragrant mayo, rich tomatoes, melted mozz and juicy chicken made for a melange of flavors that has me excited for a return visit to pair something new.
*Dinning Tip - If you intend to head over to the wine shop after you order your food, be sure to ask for your glasses and a bottle opener while at the food shop register. They can't pop the beer for you at the wine shop, so I had to wait in line a bit to get my beer opened.
Epic Sandwich Copyright 2009 by Teddy Hobbins