TINY, TASTY — To the geographically challenged, the teeny European nation of San Marino may not call much to mind. The San Marino Social Club hopes to change that by bringing the robust flavors of the Taylor-sized country of 30,000 to a new eatery in Troy. The Tre Monti Ristorante will court diners with the cuisine of the tiny country with a big taste. Sammarinian Maddalena Sarti, known to club members as "Nona Lena," will oversee the establishment's moderately priced menu of regional specialties. Sarti boasts 25 years' experience and proudly prepares food as her mother did using fresh ingredients and making pasta "from scratch." And what is Sammarinian food like? Like Italian, maybe with a chip on its shoulder. In addition to the pastas (lasagna, tagliatelle, gnocchi and ravioli), pizzas, and meat dishes, there are proud regional specialties, including San Marino's quality breads: piada, a flaky flat bread and spianatta, similar to focaccia bread. Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner, opens 4 p.m., kitchen open until 10 p.m., 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. The joint's complete premium bar carries the distinctive regional wines to wash it all down. At 1695 Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-680-1100.
SPRING FORTH — Downtown Detroit's award-winning Seldom Blues knows spring is building under the snow. The upscale jazz supper club will welcome the season by hosting a five-course spring wine dinner with Benziger Family Winery of the Sonoma Mountains in California. It starts at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, Level 1, Tower 400, Renaissance Center, Detroit; $80 per person; call 313-567-7301 for reservations.
EAT THE PAGE
The latest in a spate of books offering recipes for hot and crisp sandwiches is Panini Express: 70 Delicious Recipes Hot Off the Press (Taunton, $18.95) by Daniel Leader and Lauren Chattman. Colorfully illustrated, it's filled with recipes for panini — including spreads to put on them — and even bread recipes for the truly ambitious. Although panini are considered Italian, anything goes, even a pressed Cuban sandwich filled with ham and roasted pork, Swiss cheese and pickles, slathered with mustard and mayonnaise.
A TASTY BEVERAGE
While the amateurs are getting sloppy drunk on cheap colored beer this St. Patrick's Day, mellow out with a glass of Bushmills' 10-year single-malt Irish whiskey. Triple-distilled and aged for 10 years in bourbon barrels, Bushmills drinks smooth, with mild hints of vanilla and spice. The Old Bushmills Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world. Located in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, legend has it that the troops of King Henry II were sipping this whiskey back as far back as the 11th century.
Many small items, including kitchen tools that can easily disappear from store shelves — without payment — are packaged in nearly impenetrable and environmentally unfriendly thermoformed plastic and that is a real nuisance to open. Finally a solution: The Open-Sezz-Me package opener solves the pesky problem. Available at rubicontools.com, this handy device makes quick work of the task. For a mere $7.95 you can avoid the frustration and hand-gouging that can result from trying to open such packaging with scissors or a knife.