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Sunday, March 21, 2004

Wine and Beer ... together. Oh my!

Open since mid-December of 2003, Grand Cru is a wine - and beer - bar in an upscale food market near to Baltimore's historic Senator theater.

Grand Cru pours a fascinating and changing daily lineup of wines - 30 by the glass - and a small but healthy selection of good beer, bottled and draft. There are occasional evening wine and occasional beer tastings, often with the producers themselves.

Recent draft selections were Bitburger, Red Tail Ale, Dogfish Head Brown, Lancaster Milk Stout, Degroen's Rauchbock, and Chimay ... and an artisinal British scrumpy - farmhouse strong cider - Yarlington Mill Cider (7% abv) from a polypin.

Grand Cru doubles as a take-home retail wine, beer, and liquor store with a well-thought-out selection including the beer.

For light fare, the shop prepares small platters of artisinal cheeses, smoked foods, and the like. One can also bring in food from the market's fish monger, sushi counter, delis, Italian market, baker, and gourmet food shops.

The bar seats 15 with much additional seating at small high-top tables placed throughout the store and al fresco.

On one visit, manager Otto served me a small wedge of Oka - a Canadian 'Trappist' style cheese - with a glass of Yarlington Mill scrumpy. Delightful!

On another, I had DeGroen's Rauchbock [2005 update on brewery] paired with some smoked tofu from Neopol in the market. Firm malt, freshly smoked wood bouquet. Scantest of a veil. Good head retention. Nice sweet malt backbone and an insistent yet restrained Canadian bacon flavor. What a wonderful afternoon repast.

Owner Nelson Carey recommended pairing this with smoked mussels or a hangar steak panino from next door upscale Italian market Ceriello.

And as to wines: any bar that pours French Roses (several), Italian Prosecco, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and Beaujolais Moulin-a-Vent, all by the glass - affordably - is a special place for me.