FishHawk Ranch wine shop cooks up a unique tasting

Walk through the main doors of Park Square Cellar in FishHawk Ranch and you'll find an international collection of fine wines and cheeses.

Among the 500 varieties, you might spot a 2006 Raymond Reserve chardonnay or a 2004 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Red, but you're not going to find Riunite D'oro or Mogen David 20/20's new blue raspberry flavor.

Yes, since opening in October 2005, Shawn and Mary Sarkisian have crafted a wine connoisseur reputation among FishHawk residents.

What people may not realize is that in the back of the store is a quaint wine bar perfect for pairing wine and cheese. Wood decor, soft lighting and racks of bottled wine create a backdrop uncommon to the area. You feel like you're in a trendy, big city bistro instead of a neighborhood town square.

"I'm not sure where we take people, but you're not quite here any more," Shawn said.

Even more impressive is that the Sarkisians occasionally serve up "cellar selection dinners" for customers.

For $45, you get a three-course meal paired with a different wine for each course. For example: Gorgonzola-stuffed peppers, grilled sweet spicy steak with infused mashed potatoes and flourless chocolate torte for dessert.

You can get the same meal without the wine pairing for $20.

So what inspired Shawn and Mary to branch out into select dinners?

"We had some people over to our house for dinner, and they said, 'Why don't you do this at the store?' Shawn explained. "I like to cook and Mary likes to bake. If you're into wine, you can't help but get into different foods.

"Now it's like having people over to our house."

The dinners are reservation-only and typically limited to Saturday evenings, although they did give customers a special 13-course meal for New Year's Eve.

Shawn has taken a break from cooking this summer, but come August, he'll be back to pleasing customers with his culinary exploits, which range from seared bluefin tuna to stuffed veal chops.

He has no formal training, but often borrows ideas from friends in the restaurant business — before putting his own spin on the dishes. Right now, Shawn is toying with the idea of a dinner featuring Kobe beef served three different ways.

Mary also has new desserts on the horizon. Past favorites include a lemon ricotta cake and a concoction of frozen grapes and white chocolate.

I just gained a couple of pounds.

Because the meals are much like having someone over for dinner, there are no menu choices. Shawn and Mary put together their selections and serve them up. Remember, it's like going to someone's house for dinner.

Of course, not every home has someone who can get behind the piano and regale friends with some nice mood music. Mary, who is a cantor at St. Stephen Catholic Church, does quality renditions of such songs as Someone To Watch Over Me.

The whole ambience is a far cry from the Sarkisians' corporate jobs in Boston. They set out to find a warmer climate for themselves and their two young children while turning their wine collecting hobby into a business. After three years of planning, they found a spot in FishHawk.

Looks to me they've uncorked a pretty good life.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa Bay section. Reach him at hooper@sptimes.com or 226-3406.

>>FAST FACTS

Park Square Cellar

16132 Churchview Drive, Lithia

Hours: 11 a.m-8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2-6 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

More information: park squarecellar.com or 689-4560.

FishHawk Ranch wine shop cooks up a unique tasting 07/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 3, 2008 11:24am]

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