Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wine Dinner Thoughts

Wine dinners are interesting for me because I'm cynical about the whole "wine pairing" thing. Actually I'm cynical about wine in general. For me, I like what I like. I don't buy into the "hints of licorice or green pepper" and similar flavor profiles in wine. Maybe my palette is weak but I miss most of those subtle characteristics oenophiles talk about. Quite frankly I think most of my customers do as well. So I concentrate on the bigger flavor signatures when I pair my food with wine. Tannins, body, oak, butter, grass and other fairly obvious tasting notes. Admittedly I know a whole lot more about food than I do wine and I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to the wine/food relationship. Sure I believe wine compliments food and vice versa but I also think it's a little over done. So with that being said I decided to choose a wine region that I'm not that familiar with nor very fond of. I did that as much for my education as I did for my guests enjoyment. As a result it was difficult choosing the wine for this dinner. No big names, no obvious pairings, no big Cali cabs and chards I've come to rely on. I stepped out of my safety zone for this one and it seemed that the guests had no problem making the leap with me. Not that we did anything bizarre with the wine pairings but we did serve two pinots, one of which came after the cab. I also changed the order of courses at the last minute. I realized at the last minute I would have to serve the scallop on a round plate because of "plate logistics" so I changed the order. The scallop would have to come after the ravioli because I wasn't going to serve the scallop on a round plate. That in my opinion was more important than the wine progression which I planned. The riesling and pinot gris were close enough in the "big picture flavor profile" that I felt I could get away with it.

I wasn't aware going in that Washington State cabs were on the lighter side. I really wanted a big cab to go with the beef and bleu course. As a result I served the beef roasted (as opposed to grilled) and chose a big a pinot to match with it. I also threw in some wild huckleberries to bring some of that mystical "berry" profile out of the Rex Hill reserve pinot.

I'm familiar with Big fire pinot gris and already knew what it would go with. (More about that later)I also knew the scallop would need some heat to go with the off dry riesling. I got the impression from some pundits that that was a questionable pairing but it turned out to be a crowd favorite.

The dessert wine was a little disappointing. I prefer a more syrupy profile so I decided to do a pear tart with goat cheese rather than the peaches (sans cheese) I was planning on.

All in all it was an educational experience for me and what appeared to be a very successful dinner for our guests. Logistically speaking things went well and a few lessons were learned on the food side as well. I will post a my thoughts on the food and the team effort in my next post.

I would like to thank everyone who attended and hope you had a good time.


Anonymous said...

Only a mdoerate dessert wine fan, but I thought that pairing was the best of teh evening. The wine was a little flat, but the creamy/not so sweet dessewrt really brought out the acidity of teh wine that it needed.

The beef was also really nice - and that wine was the hit of the night.

Overall, a really nice evening. We brought guests that had not attended a wine dinner before and they were really impressed

Anonymous said...

ack - should have re-read. Need to work on my typing!

Salty said...

I'm more of a Sonoma Pinot Noir fan but I really like the Oregon Rex Hill. The reserve and the non. Thanks for your comments and I'm very happy you enjoyed the evening.

P.S. I agree completely about the dessert wine.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for switching subjects, but since TYR was closed, we've really been missing those braised pork shanks that were a menu mainstay there.

The other item we miss is the pork tenders with the smoked gouda inside from a few menus ago at sebastions

Any plans to have bring either of these them back as a special?

Salty said...

Actually we planned to feature the shanks during the colder months. So any time now.

You may see the Gouda stuffed pork tenders as a special as well. Maybe a three course Friday special.

I appreciate the suggestions. It makes my job a little easier.

Unknown said...

Since you are discussing menu items of past..... I recall seeing on the TYR menu when I had perused it online, a shrimp stuffed chili relleno. I've been wanting to attempt to make it myself and am curious what your was like. I think i'd like to try a play on a southern classic "shrimp & grits" but use polenta instead with maybe a queso fresco mixed in. Any thoughts?

Salty said...

FYI about that rellano. Grill the peppers until some char on the skin appears, place in a covered bowl until cool enough to peel the skin. (they will continue to cook in the covered bowl) Take the top off and seeds out and stuff with cooked shrimp cut in half length wise and cheese. I use chihuahua. Dip in a light batter and pan fry. I served it over sauteed black beans with onions, etc. I also served it with a smoked tomato butter sauce but you can serve it with what ever you like.

The polenta idea sounds interesting. Maybe top with chopped roasted red peppers mixed with the queso fresco. Then add some green somewhere.

Michael Walsh said...

scott, you have inspired me to do another wine dinner soon. I understand that the wine dinner we did at Nemo two months ago was the only one in the past two years. This seems odd since we sold out. If we can sell these things out then why arn't we doning more because a normal thursdy is nothing to really scream about. My situation is that, while i order all the food, i have nothing to do with beverage purveyors. And it's my understanding that there is some wheeling and dealing to get wine in the door at the right price. so, what is your advice for me get the ball rolling. and i must say i'm always pleased to give my input on a wine and food pairing... and like you, i'll take a sip and rip off a pairing opposed to anylizing every last nuance of the wine down to the lenght of the grass is tastes like. thanks!

Salty said...

Check your e-mail

cuisinier said...

hey scott, nice post. the interesting thing about a wine pairing si that it seems to be mostly in the eays(and palates) of the beholders. You and I can say that this pairing is the best and if they do not like it, well then they do not know what good wine is about, but in the end, if they do not like it, they do not come back, or at least hold as much trust in things with you as they used to or you would like them to. The same goes with food. We try our best to come up with great pairings and dihes, but we should always keep an ear to the ground of our customers. Being one who does not drink, it is always an interesting subject when doing pairings. bill

Salty said...

Very true. It's one of the reasons I encourage feedback.

Lo said...

I happened upon your site through the Eat Wisconsin blog, and thought I'd check it out. Glad I did. You guys are doing some fine things over there in Caledonia... we might have to make a trip out to check you out sometime!

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

The Wine Dinner was awesome Scott, thank you for all of the hard work! Our group thoroughly enjoyed themselves and are looking forward to the next one. Hopefully they'll be more frequent again now that the distractions of #2 are behind you.

While we certainly enjoyed the wine pairings, don't worry as much about satisfying the wine snobs. It's too subjective based on each individual's tastes (or lack thereof).

It's all about the mini food samplers for us. We could make a meal out of 3-4 appetizers ala carte or 'tapa' style as an alternative to the Spanish or "Sushi" places in town. The first 3-4 courses should be regular appetizer menu items! They were superb!! -John P.