Bank on Blaine’s Rich New Wine Bar
The Vault Wine Bar, in Blaine, is a restaurant in a unique venue: a former bank building. Teller cages and desks have been replaced with a sleek marble bar top and custom made tables. One wouldn’t exaggerate to say that no expense was spared to create this chic urban bistro. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow ample natural light and an enclosed deck invites diners to enjoy their visit alfresco. The only artifact that would indicate the building’s original purpose is the vault, used for wine storage for wine club members.
Shanna Manning, The Vault’s general manager, oversees the wine list, “Our goal is to have a wine collection representative of every wine producing country,” she says. The nine-page wine list is a great start. Don’t be intimidated by this mega menu. Manning, who is studying for her sommelier exams, will help you select the exact wine to satisfy your expectations. Not in the mood for wine? Then select from among the six tap beers. The marvel of this little wine-centric restaurant is the attention-to-detail adult beverage choices to assure guests enjoy a delightful visit.
It isn’t merely the incredibly fresh ingredients, but the skill with which Chef Tyler HiIls combines flavors and textures that makes this restaurant’s food menu extraordinary.
For starters try the Charcuterie Platter ($20), the Chef’s selection of items that pair with either red or white wine. French Champagne goes especially well with a platter of bresaola, salumi, white and black truffle salami, sotto aceti Italian pickles, Gothberg Farms Cinco de Mayo cheese, and fresh honey still in the comb!
For the second course consider the Caprese salad ($10), a unique interpretation that may be the new standard of Caprese salad excellence. Charred and raw fresh cherry tomatoes are served with fresh Ferndale Farmstead mozzarella balls dressed with smoked lemon olive oil and champagne balsamic vinaigrette. The mozzarella was so incredibly fresh it sliced open under the weight of the fork alone.
The seafood chowder ($6) is a sensually smooth and creamy rich soup that arouses one’s desire for more. This cream and butter soup is a mélange of potatoes, carrots, clams, bay shrimp and fresh Dungeness crab, with roasted corn kernels that provide the most satisfying crunch. This is the type of exceptional restaurant that Julia Child would arrive for late lunch and stay through dinner, and then remain for a night cap. The Abeja 2015 Chardonnay is a rich wine that complements this decadent chowder.
Just as sinfully delicious is the Washington Mac & Cheese ($13). Béchamel bourbon cheese sauce that includes local cheeses from Gothberg, Ferndale Farmstead and Twin Sisters, is topped with bourbon and truffle oil. Hills adds stone-ground mustard to his béchamel which lends it a subtle acidic finish that enhances the overall flavors of this remarkable cassoulet.
Hills’ kitchen produces flatbread style pizza that is served on thick, hand-crafted wooden trays, which helps keep the pie hot. The Hot Coppa ($13) consists of garlic parm sauce, hot coppa, shredded cheese blend, charred tomatoes, red onion, fig slices, and Gothberg chèvre dressed with chili oil. One pizza is never enough, so order the pesto ($12), too. Generous portions of house-made arugula, spinach, basil and candied pine nut pesto, support charred tomatoes, and ooze with a secret cheese blend and drizzled with smoked lemon olive oil.
And then there is dessert; each so delicious there is no reason to settle for just one!
Start with the apple tart ($8) and sink into the most impossibly light and delicate pate brisee crust that is filled with lightly blanched diced apples, folded in a delicious house-made pastry cream. Brilliant served a la carte, phenomenal when served with house-made ice cream. For the second dessert, crack your way into the crème brûlée ($8), an amazingly light but rich strawberry and rosemary custard, with perfectly caramelized sugar crowning this regal dessert.
Whatcom County has been without a restaurant of this caliber for quite some time. Take the drive to downtown Blaine, enjoy the quaint shops and small-town milieu of Peace Portal Drive, and then settle in to The Vault for a world-class food and wine experience. You’ll come away sated, relaxed, and contented from the visit.