Pin It
Favorite

Wine Lovers' Underground 

by Lauren McAllister


A visit to downtown Coeur d'Alene is always a delight on a warm summer day. Maybe you don't need a souvenir, but surely someone you know does. And the creative shops along Sherman Avenue offer ample reason to browse. Stop for a paper cone of roasted nuts in front of Simple Pleasures, or check out the paintings at several nearby galleries. The windows at Clark's Jewelry never fail to entice. Thus, it can be a little hard to tear yourself away from all the baubles and the balmy breezes wafting in from the lake. But on a recent shimmery summer evening, I managed to descend with a couple of friends into the dark lair of the Wine Cellar for dinner.


The Wine Cellar has been a mainstay in Coeur d'Alene for years, attracting diners interested in good food, oenophiles eager to explore the vast wine selection and people just wanting to listen to a little live music.


The busy, dimly lit dining rooms are packed with tables, which, combined with the below-street location, lend a sort of speakeasy atmosphere to the place.


The menu at the Wine Cellar is always changing, although a number of signature dishes are always available.


For openers, the petite salmon cakes breaded with panko and served with roasted red pepper in a white wine sauce sounded almost irresistible. But we opened our meal with an order of stuffed mushrooms. The 'shrooms were piping hot and loaded with flavor. They disappeared fast.


There are several options for entrees at the Wine Cellar, and all are relatively affordable. There is a three-course dinner for $16 per person, which offers a choice of gnocci or small servings of pasta as a first course, an entr & eacute;e and a choice of dessert, salad or a fruit and cheese platter as the finale. A number of entrees are available, and include salad. Or you can choose dinners for two, such as the highly recommended paella ($28).


The bouillabaise ($11) is a house specialty and features fresh mussels, clams, fish, peppers and potatoes in a saffron-tomato broth. It sounded great, and our server said it was a favorite, but light dinner. With my hunger piqued from a day on the beach, I needed a large amount of sturdy food. So I chose the plum pork ($11), which was marinated in rosemary, garlic and white wine, oven-roasted and served over garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, with a ginger plum sauce. The pork was a little rare for my taste but had a delicate flavor that was enhanced with the sweet and tangy ginger plum sauce. The mashed potatoes were oh-so-rich and smooth. Some fresh, lightly cooked green beans rounded out this tasty entr & eacute;e. I also greatly enjoyed the salad of chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions in a slightly sweet balsamic vinaigrette.


After considering the fresh salmon ($14), available in two preparations (marinated in teriyaki, baked and topped with ginger sesame butter, or smoked with artichokes, roasted garlic and cheese souffle topping), one of my companions opted for the pasta milano with rock shrimp ($12). This basic dish was distinguished by the fresh zesty tomatoes and roasted garlic and accented with fresh basil. The rock shrimp added a little protein and a nice change of texture. The salad of baby greens with caramelized nuts was a delight as well.


On the night we visited, the Sicilian chicken was available in the three-course dinner selections, so one of our diners ordered it up. The first course of spinach gnocci with a creamy garlicy sauce was a good beginning. The chicken was moist and delicious, stuffed with chevre, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes and caramelized onions. This delightful blend of flavors provided a new way to enjoy the old standby chicken breast.


Desserts, made on the premises, are amazingly affordable at $3.75. We tried a delicious, creamy almond joy cheesecake with a chocolately crust. More subtle, but still tasty, was the white chocolate bread pudding with a red berry sauce. The warm cocoa cake served with ice cream was a homey way to end the meal.


But this place is called the Wine Cellar, and it does not disappoint. We found some favorite bottles of Italians on their extensive list of reasonably priced wines. Like any restaurant with a good wine list, reading it keeps you wanting to come back to try this one and that one.


Service was swift and practiced on the busy Saturday night we visited; our only wish being that our water glasses had been refilled a bit more regularly early in our meal. But it's a minor quibble for a place that has proven itself for years as one of the truly unique Inland Northwest mainstays.





Publication date: 07/22/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Crash > Click > Cash
  • Crash > Click > Cash

    Lawyers and chiropractors already have your name, your address and the police report from your car accident — and they want you to hire them
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Starting Small
  • Starting Small

    A village of tiny houses in Spokane Valley could serve as a model for fighting homelessness in the region
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Drastic Action
  • Drastic Action

    Spokane among seven school districts sued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction; plus, trio of police-chief finalists are in town
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Lauren McAllister

  • Delicious Details
  • Delicious Details

    Savory is more than just a pretty face in Spokane's dining scene.
    • Mar 30, 2011
  • No Crumb in Sight
  • No Crumb in Sight

    How good Italian food can turn your mood inside out.
    • Mar 16, 2011
  • Old-World Escape
  • Old-World Escape

    Europa has been pulling diners into its home below the train tracks for nearly 30 years.
    • Jan 12, 2011
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Lane Ends Ahead

    Spokane wants to improve a mile-long section of Monroe — but that means taking away two lanes
    • Jul 7, 2016
  • Too Smart for School

    What happens when a 12-year-old prodigy tries to go to college in Spokane?
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

green zone


marijuana


Briefs


election 2016


trail mix


Readers also liked…

  • The Selfie Generation
  • The Selfie Generation

    Ambitious and independent, we millennials are defined by no one but ourselves. Now please love us
    • Dec 3, 2014
  • When a Horse Isn't a Horse
  • When a Horse Isn't a Horse

    Gambling machines help Idaho's racing industries limp along — but maybe not for long
    • Jan 28, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation