Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Check out their signature sandwiches

What goes well with wine? Well, cheese, of course. But why stop there, when you can get a gourmet roast beef sandwich with horseradish mayonnaise, lettuce and marinated onions. Or how about a turkey salad with cranberries, celery and fresh dill to go along with your Chardonnay or Merlot?

"We make unique signature, gourmet sandwiches," says the sole sandwich-maker at Chester Wine, Spirits and Gourmet, Michelle Piraneo. "And our quiches are to die for. People come far and wide to come and buy our quiches."

Piraneo, who has no formal culinary experience but learned everything she knows on the job, has been serving some of the best sandwiches in the area for almost a decade now.

"I started here nine years ago selling wine part time," Piraneo says. "I gradually migrated to (food), they tapped into my culinary creativity and talents, and that was that," she says with a laugh.

She attributes her transition from selling wine to making food as a part of being both a lover of food and a mother.

"You learn to multitask and get creative," Piraneo says. "I'm a foodie at heart; more of a live-to-eat rather than eat-to-live kind of person."

Her love for food has transferred to the food she makes. Piraneo has been dabbling with many different flavors to come up with some of the great selections offered in the store.

"I make all the salad dressings here, so we have a sandwich that's grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, homemade balsamic vinaigrette and field greens," Piraneo says. "Another sandwich that's a favorite is turkey, mango chutney and French brie."

Because it is a wine and spirits shop — with wide selections of cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, for example — cheese also is a huge factor at the business, and Piraneo has quite a bit of knowledge to offer in that area, as well.

"Learning cheese is as complex as learning the varieties of wines — the aging process and the molds," Piraneo says. "It's just a huge, huge topic, and while I have lots of choices, it's just a smidgen of the whole cheese world."

That said, Piraneo offers a nice selection of cheeses that complement the wines in the store and she knows which wines work best with which cheeses. She even has a printed guide that she can lead customers with.

"I always have a folder handy to have the cheeses at my fingertips to complement the wines that customers are looking for," Piraneo says. "I did a wine and cheese tasting myself once, and it was amazing. You could just go hog wild because there's so many wonderful marriages between (wine and cheese)."

Customers at the shop can request a sandwich, cheese or soup, and Piraneo welcomes all comers to her counter.

"I try to accommodate everybody," Piraneo says. "There is no 'no' here. Customer service puts a smile on everybody's face."

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