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Friday, March 25, 2005 | Lately I’ve noticed a lot of wine bars popping up around San Diego. They fall into a couple of categories. Many are storefronts opened seemingly on a shoestring, given that they don’t have even the tiniest kitchen for cooking or a dishwasher for plates. Food consists of cheese, nuts, dried fruit, pâté and perhaps a salad, served on disposable paper or plastic. With wines in the range of $5 to $10-plus a glass, I don’t want to eat on plastic with plastic.

Another type of wine bar combines good, casual food with the wines it serves. One place that does it very well is Café Chloe on the corner of 9th Avenue and G Street. Open for breakfast through dinner, this small bistro is a gem. The tiny kitchen produces fine uncomplicated, yet creative dishes with a decidedly French twist. To go with a small international wine and beer list that includes Warres Port and Laurent Perrier Champagne, each listing has three descriptors to help define the taste of the drink. A 2002 Laurel Glen Terra Rosa Cabernet from Mendoza in Argentina is described as spicy plum/rich raspberry/purple ink, while a 2002 Praxis Viognier is lush/butterscotch/pear. Everything I’ve had there from savory custard (at breakfast or anytime) to nibbles such as pommes frites with three dips, or a cheese plate with homemade compote, is delicious. Toothsome breads come from Sadie Rose wholesale-only artisan bakery just down the street. Portions may seem skimpy, however that is the way of the French … smaller portions and you can eat anything! Though their Web site is still under construction, you can get an idea of their menu at www.cafechloe.com. Café Chloe, 721 Ninth Ave., San Diego, (619) 232-3242.

For those who love wine and beer without the food, or need a place to store their wine, Fifty Seven Degrees is just down the way on G Street. It was built as wine storage for people who own good wine, but have no good storage, such as downtown condo residents and yacht owners. In a secure 57-degree warehouse, wine lovers store their wines in wire storage bins. Owner Russ Kindom added the wine bar with a three-page list of medium priced wines by the glass or bottle. He’s got a flat screen TV on the wall, and interesting art on the cavernous front part of the building. Remember it for a nightcap after a ball game. If you’re interested in learning more about the wines of our southern neighbor, they have a spring wine tour of Baja’s Guadalupe Valley, May 21-22. Fifty Seven Degrees, 1330 G St., (619) 234-5757, www.fiftysevendegrees.com.

In upcoming columns, look for more about the varied selection of wine bars we have around the county.

If wine isn’t your thing, but a good dessert is, try Just Fabulous Kensington for desserts, light lunch and dinner and even winemaker dinners. Part of the wholesale Just Fabulous Pastries, this is the retail site. I’ve had many of the desserts and they are quite delicious. Just Fabulous Kensington, 4116 Adams Ave., Kensington, (619) 584-2929, www.justfab.com. Opens at 11 a.m. with Saturday and Sunday brunch.

Marcie Rothman loves good food – no matter where it’s cooked – at home, a hole in the wall or a white tablecloth restaurant. Known as The $5 Chef on radio, television and in her two cookbooks, Marcie travels far and near with an eye on what’s current in food. You can find her at www.5dollarchef.com.

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