**Wine lovers rejoice: The wine bar at Fifty-Seven Degrees (on Hancock at Washington in the old Pier 1 Imports building) opens March 5 with a stellar group behind the bar. At the helm is Sheila Tracy (the original Laurel and Farmhouse Café) who enlisted three top wine tenders: Billy Spain (original Laurel), Cindy Bartelli (Crush) and Christopher J. Hile (Ivy Hotel). The wine store features the expertise of Brian Farres (original Wine Bank).
**Downtown, Bacchus Wine Market is a hidden gem, with good tastings and a retail shop. In the East Village, Toast Enoteca joins the wine bar market with a contemporary and comfortable room, complete with those serve yourself, credit card type wine dispensers (and many more behind the bar). Best of all there is an Italian- inspired food menu that goes beyond a cheese plate. Little Italy is a hotspot for wine bars including Enoteca Style (on India between Ash and Beech) where the menu has panini’s, some salads from their sister restaurant Salad Style (on F near 8th), wine and beer.
**Two blocks away on Union between Ash and Beech Extraordinary Desserts dispenses more than delectable desserts. New the first week in March are ports, Madeira and other libations that complement the sweet and savory menu. Worth a trip for a nightcap after the symphony or a night on the town. Or start the day there with coffee and pastry.
Changes: Venice, in UTC has closed and it’s all about location, location, location. Office buildings that garner the lunch crowd cannot be guaranteed the same at dinner. Crescent Heights (shuttered last year) was a terrific downtown restaurant on a Broadway corner with access mainly through the lobby of a large office building not close enough to catch the Gaslamp or convention crowd.
Ivy Hotel is now Andaz San Diego, and part of the Hyatt’s upscale boutique properties. We’re hearing executive chef Nathan Coulon will continue to oversee Quarter Kitchen, that features local ingredients that become terrific menu items. Coulon is a member of Cooks Confab, a group of talented chefs here in San Diego.