Dining Dish: Fine Spirits Classic, Familiar Faces Join Merchant, and More

I don’t want to brag too heartily, but what is your happy hour plan for the evening? Mine includes hobnobbing with the dapper and charming Bittercube dudes, sipping fine spirits and learning all there is to know about the latest in spirits and cocktails at the Fine Spirits Classic tonight. It’s not too late to join me if you want in on the fun! Last I heard, tickets are available at the door. Stop by and tell me what you think about all the hot news happening this week in food.

Merchant continues to pile on the talent to their team. First Bill Summerville left La Belle Vie to join Gavin Kaysen in his latest adventure. Now, Diane Yang has also made the move to take over their pastry program. Yang spent a decade with the LBV team creating those gorgeous and delicious desserts. Now is her time to spread her sugar coated wings and try something new. Merchant remains on track to open later this fall.

Taking over the job inside 510 Groveland is Niki Francioli who created pastries for Brasserie Zentral. Before that she was dazzling sweet teeth over at Sea Change . It’s a natural fit and word on the street is that diners are dying to get a taste of what she’ll create for the La Belle Vie dessert menu.

Just across the park, Kim Bartmann will be opening The Third Bird inside the restaurant space that was recently occupied by Cafe Maude. Bartmann continues with her knack for clever restaurant names (joining Pat’s Tap, Bryant Lake Bowl, Tiny Diner and more) and commitment to green building. She’s getting a little help from her friends, namely Bill Summerville is consulting on the wine list and Steven Brown of Tilia is consulting. Look for the spot to open for business before the Loring Park leaves fall.

Meanwhile, in Lowertown Public Kitchen and Bar is moving right along with construction. The upstairs/downstairs space will feature a cafe and bar above serving American fare with a downstairs speakeasy that’s promising craft cocktails and small plates. If all continues to go well, they’ll be open the first week of August.

Which isn’t to say there hasn’t been some conflict on that block. Bin Wine Bar recently closed their doors and left behind a note that implied that there was an unpleasant parting of ways with the landlord. It’s a shame as I thought the two spots would be nice compliments to the other area restaurants including Bulldog, Barrio and Faces. OwnerRebecca Illingworth is heading to a different part of town with her next restaurant already in the works. Latin Hills Kitchen will be located at 44th and Beard in Linden Hills. The Spanish-influenced spot expects to open after Labor Day.

Now, if you’re thinking it’s too short notice to get together with me tonight, there’s always the chance to hang out next week at Cured and Crafted a prosciutto di Parma Tasting and craft beer pairing. On Thursday July 31st inside the Muse event center chefs like Beth Fisher from Wise Acres, Stewart Woodman of UNION, Sarah Master of Barbette, Landon Schoenefeld of Haute Dish and more will be creating competitive cured pork dishes. Plus, breweries like Bauhaus Brew Labs (now open in Northeast), Bent Paddle of Duluth, Fulton and more will represent. I’ve always wanted a beautiful leg of prosciutto to call my own—so much so that I’m actually considering their offer that if you get the Parma crown tattooed that you can walk away with your very own. Can you imagine how cool that would be? I have been needing some new ink. Tickets are $40.