TIDBITS: On the way out of Manee Thai, we noted that yet another choice for unusual dining is about to open just across Manchester Road, in the space briefly occupied by Mardi Gras. Alea's Place touts itself as an "Italian-Persian" restau-rant....Well-deserved applause to urban pace-setter Charlie Santangelo and his wife, Kristina, on the opening of the Bodega, a much-needed small grocery for downtown, at 1216 Washington Ave., just west of Tucker. Charlie was the clever entrepreneur who figured out a loophole in the prohibition against street vendors downtown and managed to snag a license for a vending cart in Kiener Plaza, providing a real-time model for Greg Freeman and Charlie Brennan's crusade to use vendors and musicians as catalysts for livening up downtown street life.... The pride of Potosi, chef Bryan Carr of Grenache, co-hosts a special wine dinner with importer Fran Kysela at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 19, in his restaurant, located at Jackson and Forsyth in Clayton. Mediterranean tapas, plus four courses and coffee and petit fours, will be accompanied by no fewer than six wines, ranging from Trouillard Champagne to Cascina Castle T Moscato d'Asti dessert wine. Food, wine, tax and tip are $70 per; for reservations, call 727-6833.
GRAPEVINE: It's a busy time for booze lovers, with events all over the area for the next few weeks. The Wine Merchant's Creve Coeur location (12669 Olive) is hosting free tastings of blended wines from 5-8 p.m. Friday, July 16; beers of the world from noon-5 p.m. July 17; German wines from 5-8 p.m. Friday, July 23; and "quaffing" wines from noon-5 p.m. July 24.... Brown Derby's (Clayton and Old Woods Mill) free Saturday tastings include the wines of France for a belated Bastille Day celebration on July 17 and a rare tasting of the wines of Greece on July 24. The next Brown Derby food-and-wine pairing is actually a food-and-beer event, co- hosted by chef Dan Conniff and brewmaster Jay Ottolini of the St. Louis Brewery Tap Room, to be held at Brown Derby on Aug. 18. Call 636-207-9463 for more info.... The Clayton location of the Cheese Place (7435 Forsyth) features eight top-quality white Burgundies at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 20, for $60 per person. That may sound steep, but the mean retail price of each bottle is about $85. Call 727-8788 for reservations.... Terra Nova Wines in St. Peters (3929 Mid Rivers Mall Dr.) hosts a tasting of wines from many Italian regions on Wednesday, July 21, for $20 per person and hosts its "Introduction to Wines" class on Tuesday, July 27, for $15 each. Call 636-477-1610.... A reminder to local wine stores: We need to hear from you if you want us to announce your events. Send your calendars and press releases to The Riverfront Times, attn: Jill Posey-Smith/Joe Bonwich, 6358 Delmar, Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130-4719. We need at least two weeks' lead time, so the earlier the better.