Friday, 06 April 2012 09:55
Those of us who have lived in Gainesville “since the days of Tim Tebow” think we know this town inside and out. It’s easy to visit the same places and fall into a routine, rarely surprised by anything we see.
This is exactly what makes Panache so charming. It is the kind of place you wish you had discovered earlier. But like a fine wine, the Panache experience is best when your Gainesville palette has matured.
By Jennifer Coleman
Photos by Olga Brahollari
Lunchtime in Paris
Panache is reminiscent of a classic French bistro: modest on the outside and quaint behind closed doors. It resides within the downtown Wine and Cheese Gallery, a gourmet shop that has served Gainesville for more than 35 years. This clandestine location makes Panache feel like an escape from daily routine. The infinite rows of international wines and refrigerators full of aged cheeses made us feel like we fell off the Gainesville grid.
On the picturesque patio, wooden fences block the outside world. The tables sit below a canopy of trees, ensuring that even the hottest afternoons won’t spoil your lunch. Wine corks lay at the roots of surrounding plants. Pots of flowers hang from the branches. It’s pleasant enough to enjoy by yourself with a canine companion, but it’s also a great hideaway to share with friends and family.
The indoor dining area possesses a similar beauty. The simple décor and natural window lighting suggest that co-owners Bunky Mastin and Wade Tyler take pleasure in the sweet things in life.
Panache provides a balanced variety of both vegetarian and delicatessen delights (soups, salads, sandwiches and quiches), as well as an impressive range of wine, beer and cider.
The Vegetable Delight ($8.50), a vegetable salad covered with seasoned tempeh crumbles and green pea aioli with sides of parsnip chips and marinated zucchini, was a compelling special. But the Coney Island special ($9) also tempted us with a ciabatta roll full of roasted carrots, Swiss, Havarti, bacon, Dijon mustard and mixed greens, with sides of radish and corn relish. We decided upon two sandwiches with sides of kettle chips and a pickle, both at $7.50, served between fresh bread from Flour Pot Bakery.
The service is just as good as the food. Our plates arrived promptly. The Normandy, a ham sandwich filled with thinly sliced green apples, seasoned with cinnamon and topped with brie, was made complete with thick French bread. The generous stack of apples provided a balanced combination of sweet among the salty and creamy.
The Reuben also proved to be a marriage of flavors. Thick slices of corned beef, generous amounts of sauerkraut and rich Thousand Island dressing overflowed between two slices of toasted New York rye bread. It’s designed for people who will sacrifice clean hands for a downright delicious sandwich.
The Wine and Cheese Gallery is the heart and soul of this Main Street dwelling. The store is an experience itself. With a selection of gourmet sauces, cheeses, and more than 3,000 wines, you can enjoy the delicious flavors of Panache. The gallery offers wine tastings, education classes and special dinner events throughout the year, including WUFT’s annual Celebration of Wine.
If you’re stuck in a food rut, the food and atmosphere of Panache is sure to lift you up.
Address: 113 N Main St.
Parking: Meter parking across the street during lunch hours; free street parking in the evenings.
Hours: 11am-2:15pm Monday through Friday; 12pm-3pm Saturday
Editor’s Pick: The Normandy
Price Range: $$ ($$$$)
Dress Code: Casual
Weekly Specials: Friday happy hour at the Wine and Cheese Gallery with drinks and cheeseboard, 5pm-8pm.