Wine and Dine at St. Vincent

David Lynch, often referred to as a Sommelier’s Sommelier, took over the former Heart wine bar in the Mission and opened St. Vincent Tavern about 5 months ago. Named after the patron saint of vintners, restaurant modifications included building out a kitchen and moving the use of the canning jars previously used by Heart as wine glasses to votives. He hired Chef Bill Niles to come up with a seasonal menu that would complement the extensive wines and craft beers available.

One of the most unique and best feature of St. Vincent’s that keeps us coming back is that every bottle on the wine list can be ordered as a half or full bottle. They are confident that they will have no issue selling the other half of the bottle as wines available by the glass. No open bottle is kept more than a day or two at most.

With this kind of structure, we always like to start with a half-bottle of white wine. In this case, one from Loire valley that we had not tried before:

We ordered the squid dish which came served with a thick sweet potato slice, radicchio, fennel batons and mint. A trend around here seems to serve grilled squid with some form of pork. In this case, the cephalods were topped with crushed puffed chicharrón pork rinds (called baconettes on the menu) which added a nice crunch in addition to flavor:

The delicious She-Crab dish has gone through several iterations since they first opened. The kitchen split the dish for us this time around where the corn chowder base came loaded with rice, french beans, lobster and sea urchin bits. This might have been our last chance to get this dish that is essentially summer in a bowl:

We usually order a bottle of red wine at the same time as the white to give it an opportunity to breathe while we start our meal. This particular Southern Rhône was very deep red in color with an intense berry-like aroma. It had a smoky quality that paired well with the hearty courses:

The Baked Shell Beans were cooked with smoked tomato and mushrooms. It was topped with a purple radicchio leaf cradling a slow cooked egg. The soft yolk tastily coated the beans:

We ordered the one thing on the menu that we honestly have never had before: a Ham Chop. The thick pork chop, cured as if it were a ham, came with spitzenberg apple, isadora’s honey, and spigarello (broccoli leaves). The addictive sweet corn spoonbread that came with it was like having dessert on the plate:

The ham chop came with a side of buttered Parisian Carrots topped with fried bread crumbs. The carrots were crunchy and sweet:

Here is a view of the ham chop bone, showing the pinkness of the ham curing process. The entire dish was comfortingly great and paired really well with the Gigondas. We actually took the bone home to use as a flavoring agent for a future bean dish:

St. Vincent’s wine list is one of the most interesting in San Francisco and always contains a good selection of imported and domestic wines at reasonable prices (markup is about 2X of retail). With their half-bottle at half-price policy, it’s a great way to try new wines since it’s a good guess that owner David Lynch probably wouldn’t put a bad wine on the list. St. Vincent’s recently got a permit to sell wines to takeaway as a retail business. So go there to drink some wine on the premises, eat some great food and buy a bottle to take home with you.

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