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Phoenix features fiction and food

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Patrons of big bookstores such as Borders and Barnes & Noble can almost always get a jolt of java or down a Danish between the bestsellers. But local indie shops don't typically go the refreshment route.

Phoenix Books in the Essex Shoppes and Cinema plaza is going one step further. Its café will pour portions of Hemingway's helper and Faulkner's friend: alcohol. After passing an inspection by the Department of Health, "we're permitted as a 25-seat cafe," explains co-owner Michael DeSanto.

There'll be food, too. "In the morning, we'll be offering pastries from a local bakery," DeSanto says. Light fare, such as Vermont artisan cheese plates and veggie assortments with fresh dips, will come from nearby Sweet Clover Market. "At this point, everything is going to be prepared and cold," DeSanto asserts. "If it looks like a soup or chili is going to work in winter, Sweet Clover will do that, too . . . We really think this is kind of a unique and special partnership between the two companies," he posits.

Look for local products - except on the wine list. "Right now we have seven proposed wines," DeSanto says, noting that the selections will change regularly. The current vini varieties hail from California, Germany and Italy. And, while they're not on the calendar yet, wine and food pairings are in the works.

Coffee? The Phoenix's barista hasn't yet settled on a house brand, but plans to soon. Stop in through Friday for a free cup of espresso.

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