TNT Diner

New in St. Helens: STINK Cheese-Meat sprouts a wine bar

Tacoma’s newest brewery and wine bar not only are across the street from one another, both opened this month as extensions of already established food businesses in the St. Helens neighborhood in Tacoma. The wine bar is STINK Tank, a sibling business to STINK Cheese-Meat. The brewery is Tacoma Brewing Co., an extension of the coffee cafe Amocat. Today, I've got a Q & A with Blondin of STINK. Check back Friday for a Q & A with Alexander.

Kris Blondin opened STINK Cheese and Meat store and deli in April 2011 followed by Fudie, a retail food and cooking shop next door. Last week, she flipped Fudie to STINK Tank, a wine bar, after finding she couldn’t keep up with the retail end of the food store business.

Wait a minute. For those who know Blondin's Tacoma culinary history, doesn't that all sound so familiar? It's true. She’s circling back - way back - to her wine bar roots. Local diners might remember Blondin as the oenophile of the Vin Grotto wine bar, which she operated in downtown Tacoma from 2003 to 2008.

Think of STINK Tank - as she cheekily calls the new wine bar - as something like Vin Grotto with couch seating and a comfortable vibe. Blondin quipped on the decor by email, “My husband Dustin is an amazing carpenter and he has taken reclaimed lumber and made the most beautiful bar and tables. I used to be an estate sale junkie, so much of what you'll see is lots of re-used household stuff: bed springs, windows, and quite the homage to my former bar Vin Grotto. It's warm and smells of success.”

Here's what caught my attention. Blondin's offering a jarring number of by-the-glass wines - with more than 75 available for sipping. She'll offer 200 choices by the bottle.

From Blondin, “The wine list is heavy with whites. I love white wine. I've been in this business for a long time and have drank the lion's share of red wine. I'm pretty burned out on it. But I will say, my favorite red on the menu is the cheapest at $6.00. It's a little number from the Douro region for Portugal. It's phenomenal. I pride myself of finding wines that over-deliver for the price. That wine is a good example.”

I asked Blondin to answer a few questions by email about STINK Tank:

Q: Are you changing the name? Or adding "wine bar" onto the name? You'll still sell all the meat and cheese a person could possibly eat, right? You'll still have the cafe, too?

A: We are calling it The STINK Tank - a little play on "think tank" where you and a friend can solve all the world's problems over a glass of wine. My dream is to have a cheese eating contest, so yes, eat as much as you can. STINK Cheese-Meat isn't going anywhere. I bought my business partner out in April and our store next door Fudie is now the wine bar. I just couldn't keep up with retail shop.

Q: How is what you’re going to do be different from what you do already? Is this just an infrastructure change with different seating? Or are you honing/changing your concept some?

A: The Tank is much more subdued and mellow. It has a completely different feel than STINK. There's a couch and some comfortable chairs. The bar is 21 and over. Parents need a place to chill without the munchkins.

Q: Will there be menu changes to go with any other changes? If so, what will they be?

A: The menu at the deli/restaurant is changing soon. Up until the that side closes, you can order anything off that menu. After the deli/restaurant closes we have a reduced menu in the wine bar.

Q: We all know that cheese is great to pair with wine, but what about meat? What kind of meat do you recommend with wine?

A: I have a dirty little secret. I'm not much of a meat eater, but I can't get enough of cured meats. Salt is my heroin. I find old world wines pair the best with cured meats. They are made with more acidity so they are ideal for meats with a higher fat content. Sangiovese and salami is a perfect example. Pair a medium dry riesling with pate. Holy crap it's good.

Q: Tell us about your selection in the wine bar - will you be offering wines by the glass and bottle? How many of each?

A: We have over 75 wines by the glass and well over 200 bottles to choose from. My wine bottles are priced for retail purchase, so we charge a $10 corking fee which is at least 50% less than what a restaurant would charge. It's strange though, a small amount of people still think I am trying to rip them off. Our focus on beer is Belgian or Belgian inspired. We carry bottles like Duvel and Pike Monk's Uncle. We also have 4 draft handles. Right now we have Bitburger German Pilsner, Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, Schooner Exact IPA and Pike Kilt Lifter.

Q: For readers new to you, will you please share a bit of background with your history as a wine distributor and your previous restaurant, Vin Grotto?

A: I started Vin Grotto in 2003 and sold it in 2008. It then became Merende and now it is The Office Tavern. After that I worked briefly as the wine steward at Stadium Thriftway and soon became an on premise representative (sold to restaurants) for Click Wholesale, a craft beer and wine distributor out of Kent. I swore I would never do this again, but once the entrepreneurial bug has bitten you, you're doomed.

Q: How many ways have you learned to use a wine bottle as a weapon? Have you ever taken anyone's eye out with a champagne cork?

A: I've dreamed of breaking the neck of a bottle on a bar and threatening someone with it, but unfortunately, no one has irritated me that badly - yet. I did have a friend once open a champagne bottle and the cork hit someone in the middle of the forehead. It was pretty awesome.

Q: On Dec. 21 during the apocalypse when the zombies are knocking on your door, what is the one bottle of wine you'll turn to for comfort?

A: Alma Negra "dark soul" malbec/bonarda from Argentina of course!

Q: If you made a meat dress, what kind of meat would you use?

A: Speck prosciutto. It would give the dress that fringy look. Plus the meat is smoked. That's hot.

STINK TankWhere: 630 St. Helens Ave., adjacent to sister store, STINK Cheese and Meat, 628 St. Helens Ave., TacomaHours: 4-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4-11 p.m. Fridays-SaturdaysInfo: 253-426-1347, stinktacoma.comNote: The STINK Tank wine bar is 21 and older only.