Last night I attended a wine dinner and experienced the true wondrous possibilities of combining complementary wine and food. The food was delicious. The wine was excellent. The two together transported everyone gathered around the table to an entirely new dimension.
Four "small plate" dishes, each paired with a complimentary generous sample of wine.
First course: Truffle Lobster Purse paired with Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse 2010, Burgundy, France
From the menu: "Claw and knuckle mean with a portabella cream sauce baked in spring roll wrappers and topped with white truffle oil."
|This is the only dish I photographed because once|
the eating began, I forgot all about photography.
The wine was a Burgundian chardonnay. Generally, I am not a big fan of chardonnay, although I have been introduced to a few that I have been willing to bring home with me. I'm pretty sure that this was the best I have tasted so far -- smooth, almost creamy, mellow, lightening up the rich food. The French just know how to make wine. That's all there is to it. Even more so than the Italians (but that may be because I tend to prefer lighter wines and have become rather fond of bubbles).
As soon as I tasted it, I couldn't help wondering what effect the simple, gorgeous, spacious, delicate feeling, probably actual crystal wine glasses had on the taste. The wine glasses in my house are fairly basic and functional (although I did make a point of buying flutes from which to drink sparkling wine), and as wine glasses go, not very large, or at least the bowl of the glass is not very tall. They certainly get the job done, but now that I have had wine in the "right" glass, I can appreciate how the appropriate vessel opens up a wine and allows it to reveal greater complexity and depth of character. (That being said, my cupboard space is limited, so I am going to stick with my current drink ware for now.)
Second Course: Wild Mushroom and Confit Duck Crepe paired with Byron Pinot Noir 2010, Santa Barbara, California
From the menu: Tender confit duck leg blended with porcini and shiitake mushrooms, cram and demi-glaze rolled in fresh herb crepes. Topped with creme fraiche and a blackberry port reduction."
This was my first experience with duck -- rich, but not as fatty as I expected. The tang of the blackberry complemented the richness of the meat, and the crepe added a touch of sweetness, all of which were enhanced by the pinot noir. Since I tend to like sour cream or cheese on just about anything and everything, the creme fraiche was a lovely touch. Meanwhile, the slight tannic qualities of the wine complemented and were complemented by the mushrooms. I think that the cream almost made the wine taste creamy. Or maybe subtly velvet. (I don't speak wine, yet. I only speak yum.)
Third Course: Korean Short Rib paired with Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel 2009, Lodi, California
From the menu: "Marinated and slow braised, served with scallion jasmine rice and braising liquids."
This was the piece de resistance, with the strongest aromas promising delectable things to come. The meat fell right off the bone and readily disintegrated into shreds of meaty goodness. The scallion jasmine rice was more of a garnish, adding subtle hints of flavor in the background. The braising liquids were savory, until you sipped the wine and the peppery chile flavors popped out. I don't care for sharp spice, but in this case it was a pleasantly surprising new experience. This combination offered the most layers and variations, distinct but woven into a cohesive whole -- a culinary example of the whole being so much more than the sum of the parts.
Dessert: Doughnut Bread Pudding with Espresso Ice Cream paired with Campbells Rutherglen Tokay NV, Australia (no vintage year given)
After the savory, spicy richness of the rib, something mellower and sweet was a welcome change and a delightful finish. The doughiness of the pudding enhanced the raisin, honey and vanilla flavors of the wine, which was not so sweet as to be cloying.
The group was a fairly big crowd of a about twenty-five at one long table, but multiple conversations carried on with ease as people bonded over a shared love of food and wine and branched out into subjects of family and occupations and travel and hobbies. Given that this event was such a success, the organizer has plans to make it a monthly offering, and I can't wait to do it again.