Combine the wares of Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese Shop with the clean, sunny vibe and enormous baked goods of Yum! Kitchen and Bakery, and you’ll get a fairly accurate sense of what the new Pairings Food and Wine Market brings to the west metro. Opening its doors earlier this week among the office-park row that is Shady Oak Rd. in Minnetonka, Pairings likens itself to a European market that offers cheeses, charcuterie, wine, and spirits along with prepared meals, bakery treats, and gourmet dry goods such as pasta, beans, and chocolates.
The large dining room serves three meals daily, with the expected egg-based dishes for breakfast and brunch and a variety of salads, sandwiches, panini, pasta, and pizzas made to order for lunch and dinner. At first glance, much of the menu may look very similar to Panera’s, but hopefully Pairings’ focus on local ingredients whenever possible (and higher price point — salads and sandwiches at Pairings range from $7.50-$9.50) will push the flavor to the next level.
A case also offers a rotating selection of ready-to-eat meals that, upon sampling, proved to be tasty and tender. Grilled beef tenderloin ($14.95 for 6 oz. of meat with two sides) was perfectly medium rare with a salty, smoky bite, and buttermilk-marinated grilled chicken wings ($2 for three) provided tangy morsels of meat that almost melted on the tongue. A creamy potato gratin had a pleasingly silky texture and delicate flavor, but the relative sharpness of the porcini mushroom risotto cake ($2.50) failed to match the luxuriousness of the other dishes. The humongous brownie ($2.50), practically ubiquitous at gourmet markets these days, had a rich cocoa flavor that was begging for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The cheese counter was a pleasant surprise, glistening with almost untouched wedges of domestic and international choices that this cheese lover appreciated. Those looking for Pleasant Ridge Reserve or other artisan cheeses no longer have to venture to Minneapolis for their preferred fromages.
The wine shop stocks a thoughtful selection of wine, liquor, and beer at a price point more in line with France 44 or Surdyk’s than Trader Joe’s. Most bottles ranged from $12 to $25, though a few priced at $7 could be found among the racks. Many varieties are available in half-bottles, making them perfect to add to a picnic basket, which Pairings also sells on the market side of the store.
It will be interesting to see how Pairings’ neighbors will embrace the market in the next few months, but it has all the elements of a successful shop: flavorful food, affordable wines, and enough elbow room to ensure a pleasant shopping and dining experience. But despite attentive service from the food market manager, the other staff still seemed to be in training mode and tended to hang back rather than engage customers. Hopefully, this will change as they settle into their new roles as gourmet ambassadors to the west side of town.
Gourmet food and wine shop in Minnetonka
6001 Shady Oak Rd.
Minnetonka, MN 55343
Sat 8am-10 pm
BAR: Wine and beer
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: No / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $7-15