Sample Circuit

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If you enjoy dining out but like to try before you buy, here’s your chance to be in-the-know about new restaurants without breaking your budget. Sample Circuit organizes parties at fine dining restaurants, where, for $38, you can taste a sampling of menu items, along with cocktails and wine. Running the show are savvy business partners Tara Rea and Ryan Nelson. They had upwards of 200 guests at a similar event last week, and I saw maybe 80 or so at the one I attended at Spill the Wine, on the corner of 11th and Washington in downtown Minneapolis.

Most of the food had been inhaled by the time I got there at 6:20pm–the events typically run 5pm to 7pm–but I saw photos of tantalizing grilled chicken skewers, caprese salad skewers (cherry tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella and sprinkled with basil and olive oil), bruschettas, and fresh fruit including white chocolate-dipped strawberries sprinkled with cayenne. (Following the event, my companion and I stayed in the dining room and ordered the gnocchi–outstanding with a server-recommended Sauvignon blanc. For reservations, call 612-339-3388.)

Sample Circuit also features music—Joey Kantor on keyboards played at Spill the Wine. Participating restaurants get to show off not only their food, but their space and their quality of service. I’d love to have my next party on the second floor of Spill the Wine, where owners Karl and Katie Greeman have opened up a new, loft-like event space. Of course I’d want to emulate the lounge environment created by Spinario Design & Gallery, filled with midcentury designer furniture, and I’d put candles on all of those great window ledges. I’d also hire one of my many musician friends to play the piano, guitar, muted trumpet, accordion, or harp. It was nice to have music in that space. I’ll bet it’s magical in winter.

Sample Circuit events also include a great goodie bag. Mine had hairspray, a sample of UV vodka, a can of Airforce Nutrisoda, a hefty corkscrew/bottle opener, the latest issue of Metro magazine , and coupons. For a complete schedule of upcoming weekly events, visit www.samplecircuit.com—and be sure to get there early for your money’s worth of the food.