Friday, February 26, 2010

Banquet & Catering: Best of H'or d'oeuvres Buffet!

H'or d'oeuvres service is up next from Banquet & Catering. Unlike Butler service, H'or d'oeuvres buffet service is all about putting it up, making it pretty, then telling them to come and get it.
There was plenty on offer from AOS 6. Beignets, Salad Lyonaisse, and much much more..............
Porchetta and White Bean Puree, Fried BBQ Wontons with Pineapple Salsa, and Pork Kebabs. 
Shredded Veal Breast Sushi............sorta.
Fried Oysters on Wonton Spoons
Lamb Sliders with Fried Quail Egg
Ceviche Cups
and Beer-Battered Fried Green Beans.
Next up, the all too populer Banquet Action Station.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Banquet & Catering: Best of Butler Service!

Banquet & Catering has come and gone, but their is plenty to review.  This is how it went down: Our class was broken into four teams of four and each team was limited to 2 proteins that had to be stretched over 3-days of service.  During these 3 days, the teams had to provide a banquet service with butler service, hors d'oeuvres buffet service, and then a day with both and an action station to boot.  Let's check out some of the highlights:
The key to butler service is providing one-bite wonders, aka finger foods. What do you do when you are given an entire pork saddle to play with? Pull off the tenderloin and pound out a tasty pork cutlets the size of silver dollars. Here we have a Mini-Schnitzel Sandwich with Bacon Aioli, House-made Sausage Gravy, Fried Sage, and Buttermilk Biscuit.
What do you do with a 5 pound can of lump crab meat? Make a filling for a Crab-stuffed Ravioli with Lemon-Chive Beurre Blanc, Wilted Spinach, and Micro-Green Salad.
 With all that crab meat to serve, out came a Southern Crab Hash on Toasted Brioche with Bacon Aioli, and Fried Quail Egg.
Don't forget that you always have to have some vegetarian options for those non-meat eaters. How cool is Tomato Soup and Fried Mornay Nibblets.
Seafood is probably the most challenging protein to keep fresh on a buffet. Therefore, you have to embrace its freshness and its versatility.  Here is a Mussel Shooter with Apple Dashi, Pickled Daikon, and Onion Froth accompanied with a Fried Littleneck Clam with Potato Puree and Cucumber Marmalade.
The Hors d'oeuvres Buffet presentation is next! 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! Since the Mrs. and I were heading back to Arkansas on V-Day, we had to get our celebration in a day ahead. As always, I stepped up to the plate and pulled out all the stops............sorta.
First up, flowers! Luckily we live in a garden oasis here in the Napa Valley and roses are already at full February.  It is like a garden of Eden around here. This beauty appears to be a hybrid-cross between a red and a white rose, and can be found directly in front of our patio.
Sorry, this isn't Dom Pérignon or even Schramsberg at that..............but rather a < $10 bottle of Segura Viudas Brut Reserve Spanish Cava. C'mon, this isn't Christmas!  I have to keep some kind of budget.
Why spend all of your money on Champagne when you can spend it on chocolate? No Hershey's, Dove, or Ghirardelli will do for my Valentine.  But some chocolates from St. Helena's own Woodhouse Chocolates will. 
I think the Mrs. is going to like it.
Bam!  We got Gianduja, Milk Chocolate Caramel Mouse, Mocha Cream, Passion Fruit, Peanut Croquant, Pecan Caramel, Praline Noisette, Wild Cherry, Brown Butter Ganache, Cinnamon Toast, and Espresso. Wait, is that twelve?  Oh yeah, and Fiori di Sicila!
And then their was none (elapased time 4 minutes).  Happy Valentine's Day Mrs. Walnofer. I love you.

And thanks for the Valentine's Day Socks. I love socks, really, I do.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Restaurant Experience: Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria!

Blame it on the economy, the rainy season, or just plain laziness; but the Mrs. and I haven't got out in a while. Even though that be the case, the time had come to search out for the next restaurant experience in the Napa Valley.  But why limit ourselves to the bounty of the Napa Valley when we have not even ventured into any of the neighboring valley's. Over to Alexander Valley it is.................................
...........but stop!!! Speaking of the rainy season! Let it be no more. As we crested the mountain and crossed the Sonoma County line, we spied out this amazing rainbow. Get back in the car Mrs. Walnofer..................
.................................and to Geyserville we went to check out Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria. First things first, Geyserville ain't much of a town so don't expect to spend the afternoon window shopping and frollicking about. Other than Diavola and the Bosworth and Son General Store, the only other main attraction seems to be the River Rock Casino (sorry no bingo). Enough with that rant, Diavola came well recommended as the "Top Pizza" in wine country according to several reputable CIA classmate sources that shall remain anonymously known as Ed Heathbar & Jenny from Cleveland. 
First rule when trying out a new restaurant that has a great reputation, start with an appetizer! Salami and Cheese platter with black pepper crusted Cacciatore, Capicola, Blood Sausage with pickled red onions, and aged Asiago (its not really Asiago, but I couldn't understand the servers American pronunciation of this Italian cheese). 
Even though we were full of blood sausage, we went ahead and ordered what we came here for, the pizza! Cicciona with Sausage, Pork Belly, Brisket, Roasted Red Peppers, Onions, and Truffled Pecorino cooked in the house pizza oven. What wine goes well with pizza you ask? We tried a Colosi Nero d'Avola from Sicily and Diavola's house red, Peterson House Dego from California. Both were tasty, but what isn't when you are eating, in my opinion, one of the best pizza's in all of wine country. Yes Mr. Heathbar and Mrs. from Cleveland, I concur.
Since Friday night Pizza night was spent at an actual restaurant, "Pizza & Pinot" shifted to Saturday at the Walnofer's household. By nature, we use a little less cheese, and a little bit more whole wheat; but I still challenge anyone to make a better pie than the Mrs. and I. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wines & Beverages: Schramsberg Winery Tour!

No class instruction about Wines & Beverages would be complete without a field trip!  Even after 21 consecutive years of education, I still get excited about field trips!  Whether it's to the Barling Lock & Dam with a lunch stop at McDonald's, or now-a-days with a trip to the local sparkling wine producer Schramsberg; I still look forward to getting out and seeing what I am learning about.
No barrel aging here at Schramsberg!  They produce their wines via the méthode traditionnelle, famously known as the méthode champenoise. Here, the bottles line the walls where they are aged on the lees. This means the wine is undergoing fermentation as the yeast is dying and undergoing autolysis. The breakdown of the yeast gives sparkling wine that bready, baked goods characteristic that it is so famous for. Sounds gross, but it is yummy!
Speaking of gross! Don't look up in a 150 year old natural cave. Don't worry, it's not mold.  Actually it is a natural lichen species that creates additional insulation for the cave. If it's good for the wine, it's good for me...........I think.
Once again, here is another example that the wine industry isn't quite as sexy as everyone thinks. These workers actually have to wear face shields to protect themselves from potentially explosive bottles of sparkling wine.  The backed-up pressure is the equivalent of 90 psi, or twice the air pressure of your car tire.
For all the bottles that don't blow up in your face (roughly 99.9%), they are then placed on riddling racks or pupitres where they will be slightly turned and hand!!! over the next 6-8 weeks to disgorge the remaining sediment.
The by-hand method, performed by a Riddler (not making that up), has been mechanized and now this task can be done using sophisticated, computerized gyropalettes. Interestingly enough, Schramsberg still uses a professional riddler who has been doing the same job for over 30 years! No matter which method is used, the end result is all that is important..................
..............and Schramsberg always seems to produce a great product. Would you like a standard bottle, or perhaps a magnum (2 bottles), or PERHAPS A REHOBOAM (six bottles).
No matter the size you pick, enjoying a tasting of California Champagne with friends is all that is important.  Cheers to AOS 6 as we conclude Wines & Beverages.  Thank you Schramsberg for capping off a really cool class here at the CIA. Back to the kitchen we go!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wines & Beverages: Restaurant Food & Wine Pairings!

After a class dedicated to the fundamental principles of food and wine pairing, it was now time to take this newly developed knowledge and put it into practice in a restaurant setting. Luckily, the Wine Spectator Resturant is located right next door to the CIA-Greystone campus so it wasn't too far of a walk.
So here is how this was going to work. We would be sitting down to a 3-course meal produced by the chefs at the Wine Spectator Restaurant with 3 wine pairing suggestions.  Our task, was to taste the pre-selected wines with each respective course and note our pairing preference. This has the potential of being the most rad day in culinary school history (excuse the California lingo).
First Course: Half Portion P.E.I. Mussels
Greystone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, grilled crostini, saffron cream.

  1. Gloria Ferrar Brut, NV, Sonoma County

  2. Araujo Sauvignon Blanc, "Eisele Vineyard," 2006, Napa Valley

  3. Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, 2008, Los Carneros
Here is how my ranking went for the first course.  The bubbly refreshingness of  the sparkling wine won best vote with the Sauvignon Blanc not far behind. Interestingly, this Sauvignon Blanc had a touch of malolactic fermentation thus replicating the all too familiar Napa-style Chardonnay. A New Zealand-style Sauvignon Blanc probably would have been the best pairing. Last but not least, the Vin Gris from Robert Sinskey. Don't get me wrong, a great, fun wine..............just not best with this dish.
Main Course: Braised Black Angus Beef Short Ribs
celeriac-horseradish puree, glazed baby carrots, pearl onions, natural jus, gremolata

  1. Seghesio Zinfandel, "Old Vine," 2007, Sonoma County

  2. Grgich Hills Chardonnay, 2006, Napa Valley
  3. Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, 2007, Russian River Valley
Upon scanning this list, you might be surprised to see a white wine in the middle. But, this heavily oaked Chardonnay actually held up quite well and created a nice acidic balance with the fattiness of the short ribs. It's ability to pair well with the accompaniments of the dish makes it a great choice for the "White's Only" wine drinker at your table.  The full-bodied Zinfandel won hand's down while the food-friendly Pinot was just too overmatched to pair well with the richness of this plate.
    Dessert Course: Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
    vanilla bean ice cream

  1. Blandy's 10 Year Rich Malmsey, Madeira

  2. Ojai "Roll Ranch", Viognier Ice Wine, 2006, California

  3. Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, Napa Valley
Everybody loves dessert, but this might be one of the hardest courses to pair with wine. Our past experience educated us on the fact that "the wine should always be sweeter than the dessert!"  This is a hard thing to accomplish when you are talking about ice cream and cake. By far the sweetest wine in the lineup was the Ice Wine, but its honey-syrup replicating flavor was somewhat contrasting with the sugar and cocoa flavors of the food. Once again, the "Cabernet and Chocolate Theory" was debunked as the Cab turned into a tannic bomb as the sweetness of the dessert ripped apart its fruity body and left it reaching out for help wherever it could (sorry for the wine geek personification). The Cab's rightful place is with the previous braised short ribs course, where it likely would have taken top-pairing of the day. The top ranked chocolate cake pairing went to the Madeira, but not with high acclaim.  This wine shared too much of its chard oakky and raisiny-tobacco flavors when it interacted with the dessert. But, it did accentuate the chocolate within the chocolate cake, and in my book, that is a winner every time.  Maybe we can find another bottle of that Chateau Siglas Rabaud 1973, Sauternes and see how it pairs with the cake.......................