June 28, 2011 06:31 PM

River Ranch's newest eatery aims to simplify your dining experience.

Sometimes, eating out should be simple. At POUR, River Ranch's newest addition to the food scene, it's just that. And, it's delicious.

 Chef Jude Tauzin, along with fellow chef Jeremy Conner and wine steward Ben Leger, heads up innovative restaurant and wine bar POUR in River Ranch's Town Square.

River Ranch's newest eatery aims to simplify your dining experience.

Sometimes, eating out should be simple. At POUR, River Ranch's newest addition to the food scene, it's just that. And, it's delicious.

The space is moderate with clean lines and colors for a modern vibe. The ambience is like that of a futuristic bistro or even cabaret venue, a feeling that is helped along by the stunning wine machines lining the wall like a time machine portal into a boozy future. There are 48 selections of wine, both red and white. Each are kept at the optimal temperature for their vintage, and each are sealed for freshness automatically.

Diners buy a POUR card when they come in, if they like - it's like a debit card for exclusive use at POUR for wine - and can use it on the machine to serve themselves a taste, a half glass or a full glass of any wine. The appropriate amount is exacted automatically both from the machine and fiscally from the card. It may seem complicated but it isn't; it's really fun to try as many and as much of the wines as you like. Employees are on hand to advise you, but there aren't any stereotypical sommeliers (ain't nothing stuffy about wine steward Ben Leger) making you feel like a rube.

POUR doubles as an innovative wine market. It doesn't stock cases of wine like traditional wine stores, but you can order cases and half cases at 50 percent off the restaurant price after you sample and decide what you like. Just return in a couple of days to pick the bottles up.

POUR's menu, created by chefs Jude Tauzin and Jeremy Conner of sister restaurant Village Café across the Square in River Ranch, is like that of the gastropubs that have grown in popularity around the country. Gastropubs are known for a great beer selection and fanciful twists on standard pub food. POUR's potato chips with bacon lardons, melted bleu cheese and roasted red pepper ketchup is a perfect example. The chips are thickly cut by hand and the chunks of bacon mixed with the salty bleu cheese and sweetly tart housemade ketchup is smoothly decadent.

Away from the heavy side is the Salad Lyonnaise, possibly my favorite item. Fresh mixed greens (no dreaded iceberg in sight) with a hot vinaigrette of sherry and a bit of bacon fat from the lardons and dainty fingerling potatoes, all

POUR wine steward Ben Leger, chef Jude Tauzin and patron Linda Terry

topped with a perfectly poached egg, make for a filling and really wonderful salad. To poach an egg well isn't easy, and it's actually one of the starting feats in most culinary schools that aspiring chefs must master.

Now, the cheese. The cheese selection is seasonal, and as much as possible is locally sourced. Cheese is one of those things that people are either "meh" or passionate about, and I fall into the latter. International and stateside cheese are offered, dozens to choose from, and range from a three-cheese plate for $14, five-cheese for $24, or seven for $33. Eat it alone and savor it with wine or schmear it on bites of crackers or bread; either way you can't lose. I paired some cheeses with the Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Crostini plate.

Pastrami is another dish that is love or hate. If you hate pastrami, I beseech you to try a really good piece of pastrami. The limp $1 packets hanging themselves at the grocery store are not good. This Pastrami Dip Panini with fontina cheese, pickled onions, and Russian dressing made in-house with its carmelized onion dip is hearty without being too heavy - and makes you understand what a truly good deli can do for your soul.

605 Silverstone Road 706-7681

- Anna Purdy

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