When wine pairings compete, everyone wins

Huge thanks to all of our guests for the Spring dinner this past Friday! We had a fabulous time meeting and eating with all of you, and we hope to see you again soon.

For those of you who couldn’t be part of the extravaganza, here’s how it went down.

Course 1: Pickled vegetables, ricotta, peas

We welcomed everyone with a cocktail of neighborhood-made Junipero gin and housemade tonic. (If you want to try making this at home–and you should, since it’s super easy and tasty–use Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe as a base.) We followed that up with our amuse bouche: a green strawberry gazpacho using unripened berries from Dirty Girl.

Then we dove into our first course. This plate featured lightly pickled strips of carrot and beet on a disk of basil-flecked ricotta. On top: fresh peas, pickled pearl onions, shaved raw kumquats, and onion flowers that lent a little bit of sharp bite. Dan paired this with a 100% chenin blanc 2009 Pierre et Catherine Breton “La Dilettante” Vouvray Sec. The wine contributed light, crisp fruit and a refreshing minerality to complement the fresh flavors of the vegetables.

Course 2: Roots and sprouts in soil

Then we moved on to our second course–roots and sprouts in soil, inspired by Rene Redzepi’s gooooooooorgeous book NOMA (available at Omnivore Books in Noe Valley). This dish involved a semi-ridiculous number of components, but it looked and tasted fantastic in the end. On the plate, in no particular order: Parsnip puree; “soil” made with powdered hazelnuts; roasted red and gold beet rings; blood orange gel; quenelle of kalamata olive tapenade; yellow carrot pickled with saffron and red pepper threads; orange carrot pickled with red chilis, black pepper, and oregano; purple carrot pickled with star anise, allspice, and cinnamon; pea shoots; and calendula petals.

This course is where the evening’s real fun began. One of our guests–an avid wine collector with a large, well-curated cellar–very generously offered to share several wines from his library as alternate pairings. Our pick: a 2009 Ehrhard “Rocken” Rheingau Riesling Dry. The alternate pick: a 2002 Alzinger trocken Riesling Smaragd, Loibner Loibenberg. This wine brought in a nice roundness that the younger wine lacked. Both choices offered a lovely lean counterpoint to the earthiness of the roasted roots and the nutty soil.

For our third course, we served a barley and chanterelle risotto made with Dan’s incredibly dense, savory mushroom stock. A bit of fresh mint, a pea puree, and foraged Douglas fir tips garnished the plate. Our wine pick: the very earthy 1998 Thomas Fogarty Late Disgorged Blanc des Blancs, which has been a big favorite around Hearsay HQ lately (we liked it so much that Dan bought out the stock at K&L, actually–but they should be reordering). Our alternate pairing: a delicious 2002 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St.-Jacques that paired very well but didn’t sing with the mushrooms quite the same way as the bubbles.

The fourth course gave many of our guests their first taste of lamb heart. This underappreciated meat is incredibly lean and tender, not at all gamy, and easy to cook. We roasted the hearts in a dry rub made with cocoa nibs, Vietnamese cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin, then served them with caramelized cauliflower in a brown butter sauce, preserved lemon and pea shoot gremolata, and ground pistachios.

We actually had three wine options for this course. Our pick–the Rare Wine Company Historic Series Savannah Verdelho Madeira–was chosen to underscore the warming middle eastern flavors of the dry rub with just a little sweetness and some resonant depth. The alternate, and extremely excellent, pairings: more of the Burgundy from the risotto course and a very elegant 1998 Domaine Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape, Cuvee Chaupin.

For dessert, we offered a cheese plate with a mild French blue cheese and an aged gouda (both from Cowgirl Creamery) along with apricot preserves, a red wine caramel, and crispy honeycomb candy. Our wine pick: a 2003 Chateau Pajzos Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos (another Hearsay HQ perennial favorite). Alternate pairing: a 1989 Chateau Rieussec Sauternes that tasted like liquid gold and is, to my mind, potentially the most perfect cheese wine of all time. A few housemade salted chocolate caramels finished up the evening on a sweet note.

So. An epically great night. Thank you again to everyone who shared it with us!

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