It's over! What a day. Started at 8:00 am, setting up AV equipment for the video presentation and microphone. Actually got in the kitchen at 9:00. I had started the consomme the night before and left it simmering over night. Had to deal with that right away. I also realized I should have scheduled another cook. I almost forgot about the luncheon for 29. I called Rey and he was nice enough to come in. He'll be working a double as a result. I was never so happy to see him. As it turned out we had a very busy lunch. (wouldn't you know it) There was never a moment during the day that I wasn't working on a task, The problem with wine dinners is that most of the prep is technical and I don't have skilled enough staff to do it properly so as a result I must do it myself. All in all the wine dinner went great. I think our guests enjoyed it and had a great time. I'll talk about each course below and offer my thoughts.
New Zealand Abalone Ceviche:
What a pain in the ass. First you have to clean the abalone then slice it super thin because it is tough. Then we julienned it. Marinated it with fresh lime juice along with mango, cilantro and jalapeno. I was happy with the dish over all and made for a great presentation served on the half shell. I felt the fume blanc was a perfect match.
Lobster Dumplings in Consomme:
Another pain in the ass. Rolled the dough and hand made 70 of the ravioli-like dumplings. I was very happy with the veal/chicken consomme. No short cuts with it. Made it the old fashioned way. If you've ever made one you know what I mean.
Grilled Hearts of Romaine:
The boys in the kitchen were like "you're going to do what with the lettuce?" This will be on the menu soon. I love it.
Ballantine of Free Range Chicken:
Prepped this the day before. Very technical process of de-boning the chicken, stuffing and tying it. I reduced the consomme to make a demi to serve with it. Other than being a little over cooked it turned out great. My favorite dish of the evening. It's very difficult timing roasts because you're never really sure when it's going to be served. We had a little delay due to the wine rep getting stuck in Chicago traffic. Adding merlot to the pearl onions was a last minute thought. Seems obvious now.
North American Elk:
Lingonberry demi is also a no-brainer. I was mentored by a Scandinavian chef who taught me about game and lingonberries, It paired very well with the cab. Also tricky timing this one. The last thing I wanted was over cooked elk. I thought it was perfect. I baby sat those all night.
Very simple but effective. It came out pretty good. The dried cherries went well with the Humboldt fog goat cheese, the chocolate and the wine. The Zinfandel was my favorite red of the evening and was perfect with the dish.
My wife Patrice worked extremely hard as always and gets little credit. She is my rock and the glue that keeps this place together. She deserves a standing ovation.
I'd like to thank Dave Kouzmanoff from Grgich Hills. He did a great job and drove to Indianapols to get the Zinfandel.
Probably the happiest I've been after a wine dinner.