Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet
530 Main St., Melrose
Hours: Mon.—Wed., 10-8 p.m.; Thurs.- Sat., 10-9 p.m.; Sun., 1-7 p.m.
Major credit cards accepted (except Discover)
You’d expect to find wine at Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet, opened three years ago on Main Street in the formerly “dry” town of Melrose.
A long line of wine bottles on a high shelf tempts passersby through shaded windows. Aiming to suit everyone from entry-level wine drinkers to aficionados, prices range from $6 to $1,500. Wine tastings are held regularly.
But unlike their other shop, Beacon Hill Wines on Charles Street in Boston, owners Gene and Rebecca Beraldi offer a lot more than wine in their Melrose store.
“Gourmet” was added to the name for a host of reasons: 25 to 30 artisian cheeses, a freezer stocked full of meats (including duck), flavorful dips, spicy salsas, homemade ravioli, ice cream sandwiches, gelato, pot pies, and mac & cheeses, not to mention fresh bread, crackers, spiced nuts, chocolates, dressings, condiments, oils, seasoned salts . . . It’s starting to sound like a party, isn’t it? Or a gift basket? Or a night off from cooking?
It easily could be all three. Gift items like music CDs to cook by, aprons, wine corks, saute pans, and hand-painted wine glasses complement the wine and food.
Blame Rebecca, who runs the Melrose shop. She and her staff are ready to answer any questions about the wine, food, and possible pairings.
“I love to cook. I’m a closet foodie,” Rebecca said. “I try to be an entertaining shop, not just a liquor store. I’ll bring in anything customers want, if it’s available in the retail market.”
Much of what Rebecca purchases is made fresh and locally, from Somerville to Lowell to the Cape and Maine.
We decided to design a Beacon Hill-styled meal, then invite friends over for a tapas-style dinner. Small portions of many things. The goal was to cook as little as possible — just open, pour, grill — yet have an amazing meal with good friends.
Seeing our food selections, Rebecca recommended a bottle of Dry Creek’s cabernet sauvignon ($23). “The California cabernets are exciting now,” she said. “They’re using French oak versus American oak and blending with traditional Bordeaux grapes.”
For appetizers, we started with a mascarpone burrata ($8) from Fiore DiNonni in Somerville, an “ooey-gooey” ball of hand-stretched mozzarella stuffed with fresh mascarpone.
“Heaven in your mouth,” Rebecca promised. It was.
We also sampled two dips, a creamy goat cheese and toasted walnut dip from To Die For dips ($8) of Concord, and Nantucket smoked bluefish pâté ($8), which tasted like the bluefish had just been caught, plus a small chunk of Dutch vintage Gouda ($5), all served with crackers.
Boston Burger Co.’s Bahama Mama mango salsa, ($5 for 15.6 ounces) was the surprise of the night. Expecting fire with the Inferno Habañero salsa, I purchased the Somerville company’s mango salsa, which, distracted by chunks of sweet pineapple, started with a slow burn. . . then kapow. We should’ve known. Food Network star Guy Fieri is a fan, having discovered it for one of his “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” trips to Boston.
We cooled off with Jessica’s Brick Oven’s small Tuscan pane ($3), a crusty, pre-sliced bread delivered fresh that day from North Andover, served with a dipping sauce we made by sprinkling garlic shallot salt ($13 for 2.9 ounces) from Woburn-based Beyond the Shaker on a plate of olive oil.
For the main course, we grilled local meat from Dom’s Sausages in Malden, the garlic and cheese sausages ($6 a pound) and sirloin steak tips, ($11 a pound). The sirloin was moist and flavorful, the sausages pungent and fresh. A romaine salad, drizzled lightly with DD’s Dressing ($8 for 12 ounces), a lemony, garlic, and olive oil dressing from Malden, was a perfect accompaniment.
Two types of frozen ravioli were good enough to eat without sauce, or even butter: The artichoke and mascarpone agnolotti ($10) from Deano’s Pasta of Somerville, and the roasted winter squash and sage ravioli ($9) from Nella Pasta of Jamaica Plain.
We didn’t have room for Good Tastes’ brie and fig mac and cheese ($7 for 12 ounces) from Newburyport, but it got rave reviews the next day, the fig lending an unexpected sweetness to the cheesy pasta dish.
For dessert, we took Rebecca’s suggestion and paired Kopke’s ruby port ($13) with a Himalayan sea salt dark chocolate candy bar ($5), from CB Stuffer in Swampscott. The wine’s deep, sweet cherry flavor complemented the lightly salted dark chocolate.
Kopke’s tawny port ($13), with a nuttier flavor, went perfectly with CB Stuffer’s traditional peanut butter cup. The port-chocolate double-date was a match made in our mouths.
Beakers & Cream homemade ice cream sandwiches, ($5) made in Somerville, almost started a food fight. Our mistake? Sharing, tapas-style, the Blueberry Buckle, the homemade blueberry ice cream (made with vodka-soaked blueberries) sandwiched between homemade sugar cookies, good enough to eat by themselves.
Meal over, mission accomplished.
Entertaining — and shopping — has never been so easy. We’ll do this again.
Kathy Shiels Tully