Sundance Panache 

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Increasingly, people in search of good food and wine are finding their way to the Wells Fargo building downtown and to Jon and Shauna Engen’s Panache Restaurant and adjacent Fresh Air Café. Not the least of the attractions to these eateries is that talented chef Garry Maxwell has landed in the Panache/Fresh Air Café kitchen. But although you might go to Panache or the Fresh Air Café for the food, you might just stay for the drink. Especially during the Sundance Film Festival, when the Fresh Air Café will morph into the Sundance Festival Café, featuring wine and beer from the Panache lists, thanks to a temporary extension of the Panache liquor license.

During the film festival, the Sundance Festival Café will become a place to mix, mingle and enjoy a glass of wine or bottle of Stella Artois (sponsors of the Sundance Festival Café), 299 S. Main, between the Broadway Center Cinemas and Rose Wagner Center, where many Sundance Film Festival screenings in Salt Lake City take place. However, I suspect that the real movers and shakers from Tinseltown will sniff out the nifty new wine bar at Panache (a private club for members). I predict that’s where the real action will be.

The Panache Wine Bar is an all-too-well-kept secret. But the word is beginning to get out. And it already has star power. It’s not unusual to find Randall Carlisle or Chris Vanocur chatting it up on the Friday night. (Hey, isn’t this supposed to be KUTV 2 territory?) And with time, I think the Panache Wine Bar will become one of the hot social spots of downtown Salt Lake City. Why, there’s even a plush cigar lounge for you smokers'for now, at least.

Wine and beverage director Vicky Martinez has put together an eclectic (i.e. not the same old stuff) wine list for the Panache Wine Bar featuring wines from around the world. Take a quick peek at the list and you’ll find everything from Austrian Umathum Zweitgeit and Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, to half-bottles of French Tattinger Brut and Sonoma’s Tandem Peloton. Martinez’s goal is to keep wines moving “through the system.” It’s a constantly evolving wine list. Jon Engen concurs, adding that “the wine list is intentionally designed to run out of wines.” That way, things (including the wines) stay fresh and constantly evolve right along with the Panache Wine Bar menu. The idea is to change the menu and many of the wines weekly.

And by the way, the menu at Panache Wine Bar isn’t your typical bar menu. Maxwell’s Wine Bar offerings consist of the soup of the day, a blackened ahi salad with mesculin greens and pineapple salsa, hot and cold tapas and desserts. Tapas include wine-friendly treats like marinated olives and feta cheese with pita bread; duck confit and Asian slaw on fried gyoza skins; grilled skirt steak; tomato-Gorgonzola cakes with white truffle oil and crème fraiche; and a prosciutto and artichoke heart pizzetti.

I also like the helpful hand that Martinez lends customers via her Panache Wine Bar wine list. It’s very straightforward, divided into useful categories like wines that are The Ultimate Food Friend; Light. Dry. Never Oaky; Fruity-Tart to Sweet; Reds that Drink Like Whites. The list is clever without being too cute. And by the way, the prices at Panache Wine Bar are very fair. There are many wines by the glass priced at $6-$8 and bottle prices currently run from $18 to $72, with an abundance of wines in the under-$30 range.

The Sundance Festival Café and Panache Wine Bar: only two floors up from the street but miles from what you’re accustomed to.

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More by Ted Scheffler

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