Food notes: Mai Thai re-creates wine program with sommeliers on staff

doland@idahostatesman.comJuly 4, 2014 

In the world of wine pairing, Asian food is particularly challenging, so much so that most people tend to reach for a beer or cocktail instead.

Mai Thai in Downtown Boise is working to remedy that with certified sommeliers on staff. In May, general manager Daniel Rhodes and bar manager Michael Reed received certified designation with the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Sommelier is a French term for wine steward.

For the past two years, Rhodes and Reed have studied wine theory, service techniques, grape varietals, wine-growing geography, politics and the laws that govern the industry worldwide. All of that can go into choosing a bottle of wine.

They also organized a tasting group to help develop their palates.

"You have to taste a ton of wine to learn what wines pair with foods," Rhodes says.

Their tasting group includes certified sommeliers Ryan Robinson, of Ruth's Chris Steak House, who is halfway to completing his advanced-level designation, and Leil Cardoza, of Craig Stein Beverage, who recently began studying for the advanced designation.

Since receiving their designations, Reed and Rhodes have rebuilt Mai Thai's wine program, tasting a wide swath of international wines with the dozen or so base sauces.

They also installed new refrigeration units that keep the wines at their appropriate temperature and a Coravin wine-pouring system that allows wine to be poured without removing the cork.

It may all sound a bit lofty, but a knowledgeable sommelier can help guide customers to a more satisfying experience, and that's good for business, Rhodes says.

This summer, they plan to expand Mai Thai's by-the-glass list from 18 to 36.

Mai Thai is open for lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, noon to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays (with a buffet that runs until 2 p.m.). Dinner is from 5-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5-9:30 p.m. Sundays.

Happy hours are 5-6:30 p.m. and 9-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 5-6:30 p.m. and 9:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5-9:30 p.m. Sundays.

NEW CUPCAKE STORE

Lilly Jane's Cupcakes will celebrate its new Downtown location at 1020 W. Main St., on July 19. The first 200 people who stop by between 10 a.m. and noon that day can hang out with 94.9 FM The River personalities Ken Bass and Tim Johnstone and get a free cupcake.

Owners Margaret and Ryan Lagerstrom opened Lilly Jane's first location at 664 S. Rivershore Lane in Eagle in 2006. You also can find their fresh, daily made gourmet cupcakes at Fred Meyer at 1400 W. Chinden Blvd. daily.

This is the second cupcake-centric store to open in Downtown in the past year. A Cupcake Paradise opened in February.

Lilly Jane's Downtown store will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Info: 938-3408.

KINDNESS AND OWYHEE GRAND OPENING

Celebrate the grand re-opening of The Owyhee, 1109 W. Main St., Boise and the formal opening of its Kindness restaurant at a parking lot party from 6-9 p.m. July 9. You'll find live music and pop-up shops from Bricolage and others. Take self-guided tours of the building and rooftop deck where DJ Eric Rhodes will spin music.

Kindness the bar will be open, serving samples of chef Anna Tapia's cuisine.

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