Budget Beat: Fine's Cellar and Wine Bistro

Categories: Budget Beat
Fine's bruschetta with house-smoked mozzarella: Wow.

Happy New Year, Budget Beaters! 

It ain't a news flash when I say that times are tight as we enter the new year. After the missus and I put pencil to paper on New Year's Day to add up all the money we blew in '08, we decided that even the Budget Beat household had best hold the pursestrings a little tighter in 2009. (Heck, I even brought my lunch to work today.) So, I can assure you we'll be tracking down the best deals in town. And my New Year's resolution (nay, my New Year's pledge to you), dear readers, is that I will pass news of such deals to you.

So, over in Old Town Scottsdale, there's a sweet little promotion going on at the semi-swanky eatery called Fine's Cellar and Wine Bistro.

On Monday nights at this fine establishment, all food is half-price. What more do you need to know? Well, the food we sampled on a recent visit was uniformly excellent -- and when you throw in some vino (not half-price, mind you; that's Tuesday night) from Fine's voluminous selection, it made for a nice night out that didn't break the bank.

We sat at a high-top bistro table next to bar to get the best vantage point of the dining room, lined with shelves containing wine bottles. We were promptly served a complimentary basket of popcorn. Popcorn? Yep, I was hooked on this place as soon as the server plunked popcorn down on the table. Such a nice change of pace from the customary bread and olive oil. The corn was popped in bacon fat and was topped with shaved Parmesan and chives. Trust me -- tastes as good as it sounds.

So, with our fingers good and greasy from bacon-fatted popcorn, we got down to the business of ordering up some half-price food. Despite the tempting sandwiches, salads, and entrées, we opted to load up on some appetizers, most of which looked downright awesome. It was hard picking just three, but we did just that: farmers market bruschetta, mac & cheese three ways, and Penn Cove mussels. At half-price, that's a total of $14, y'all -- and it actually filled us up.

Fortified by a few glasses of 2004 Dom de la Charbonniere, "Cuvée Speciale," Chateau du Pape (so divine we wound up buying a bottle to take home), we had a great time with Fine's appetizers. The bruschetta was made with delicious, slightly melted house-smoked mozzarella and little Roma tomatoes that were bursting with flavor. On a rainy winter night, those fresh tomatoes made it feel like summer inside Fine's.

Fresh Penn Cove mussels: Beet broth is where it's at.

The generous serving of mussels (again, only $5) was steamed in a roasted beet broth and served with two pieces of grilled baguette. I sure don't love beets, but the broth turned out to be slurp-worthy. After devouring the plump mussels, we sopped as much of that stuff as we could with our baguettes. They even gave us extra bread with which to continue our sop mission.

Mac & cheese three ways: Who doesn't like m&c? Nobody. (Photos by Laura Hahnefeld)

The mac & cheese three ways was the last to arrive on our table. At this point, we were wondering if we'd need order another appetizer. Perish the thought. Turns out three mini servings of mac and cheese (carbonara, traditional, and blue cheese) were quite filling -- and delicious, to boot. To neither of our surprise, the traditional flavor was the best of the three. It was piping hot, creamy, and cheese-tastic.

I sure hope to get back to Fine's to try one of the entrées, which range from $16 to $28 (before the 50 percent discount). It should also be noted that Fine's touts its numerous cheese plates.

As we dined, the proprietor, Michael Fine (of Sportsman's fame), stopped by to welcome us to his groovy little bistro. Nice guy. We effused about the half-off deal, and he explained that he'd rather hack away at his profit margin than let his restaurant sit empty on the traditionally slow weeknights. Makes sense. I'll be back.

I'd love to know what you think of Fine's or any other eatery you'd like to see written about in Budget Beat, which appears in this space every Thursday morning.

Fine's Cellar and Wine Bistro
7051 East Fifth Avenue, Scottsdale


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