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Commander's Palace Wine Specials

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GRAPE-ON

  Commander's Palace is expensive, right?

  It can be very expensive, certainly. But it doesn't have to be such a killer — and that's the point the landmark restaurant makes quite convincingly with its everyday prix fixe menus, which can get you a two-course lunch for less than $20 and a three-course dinner for less than $40.

  Ah, but what are you drinking? That's always the sticking point for these types of fine-dining deals. The menu might look like a bargain, but when you get to the table suddenly the pennywise plan of washing down your seared drum with iced tea doesn't seem so appealing. Next thing you know, you're ordering a bottle of wine and doubling your check total. Oh, well.

  But now Commander's Palace is running another special on wine that tilts things more in the bargain-shopper's favor. The restaurant is trying to move some inventory from its wine cellar, so its wine director has drafted what the restaurant calls its "Grape Nuts" wine list of special deals. It runs to more than 50 bottles, and each is available at half its original list price. So that $30 Alsatian Pinot Blanc is now $15, and that $225 Napa Cab is $112.50 (bargains are relative, after all).

  "We've done this for years and years, but it's sort of been under the radar before, something we offered every year to our regulars and friends," says Dan Davis, wine director at Commander's Palace. "It's a way of thanking locals for coming out and dining during the hottest months of the year."

  Fewer people have been taking advantage of this locals deal lately, Davis says, so this year the restaurant is publicizing it more. You have to jump through one hoop to get this sale-priced wine list, but in the age of Groupons and such people seem primed to play along for a deal. In this case, you have to mention the term "Grape Nuts" when you call for your reservation. Otherwise, the restaurant won't bring you the list.

  The special runs through the end of September and is available anytime. Naturally, the selection will narrow as the cellar runs through this stock.

  "These are great wines on this list, but as I'm planning our fall purchases these are places where I need to make some room," says Davis.

  At the end of the day, a pair of $35 prix fixe dinners and a $20 bottle of wine still adds up to a good chunk of change. But bargains are a highly subjective matter ... and so are the excuses, justifications and rationales for splurging on a nice meal out.

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