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.......................

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