A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wine dinner

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending a wine dinner. The setting was a beautiful spa on the Connecticut side of long Island Sound. The chef in charge of the dinner was Shea Gallante from CRU restaurant in NY. Shea Gallantes recipes (about 11 pages of them) had just been featured in Food and Wine magazine. Chef Gallante, who had worked for Lidia Bastianich and David Bouley had also just been featured on Calamecos food show. I couldn’t wait to try everything.

The dinner started with a selection of passed Hors D’Oeuvres. We all gathered in several small, but quaint rooms to sip (Bouvet, Rose Excellence, Cabernet Franc, Loire valley, France) and to sample Pumpernickel Crostini with smoked Trout, Buffalo Mozzarella with Asparagus and Duck Proscuitto, Vitello Tonnato, Cocoa Tuille with Squash Ricotta and Saffron Arancini. Though at first it seemed as though there might not be enough food for all of the 130 guests who were slightly crammed into the small rooms, it turned out the at there was plenty for everyone. I really enjoyed the smoky flavor of the trout Crostini with the sweet flavor of the beverage. Since I often make my own version of Arancini (rice balls) with my children it was nice to try the chefs more refined version. The cocoa Tuille tasted a bit odd, with a bitter flavor, which was too bad because I really wanted to like it.

All guests then moved to the catering room. I must at this point tell you that I was a bit surprised. We have eaten in the hotels main dinning room on prior trips and had assumed dinner was to be served there. We thought that we would be enjoying an intimate table for two, looking out at the ocean, while we savoring our wine and food parings. We were not. Much to our surprise, the hotel has a large room used for big parties and catering. We entered and noticed that all tables were set for about 8-10 people. At this point my heart sank a little because I had intended to concentrate on the food, rather than making small talk with eight strangers. Fortunately, our table was in a far corner of the dinning room and joining us, was only one other couple from the New York area.

Amuse Bouche
The Amuse Bouche was a Peekytoe crab salad with cumber Gellee and Wasabi Caviar. As it was served, a wine expert spoke and began to explain the wine parings. I honestly don’t recall any cumber Gellee but, did note how subtle in flavor the little green beads of Wasabi Caviar tasted.

First Course
Carpaccio Japanese Madai, Spicy Herbs, Yuzu and an oak aged soy Vinaigrette. My hope was that once the wine guy was finished talking the chef might make an appearance and give us a clue about the spicy herbs on top of the Madai. I guess he was too busy cooking and keeping away from annoying foodies.

Second Course
Olive oil poached Halibut Artichokes, Crosnes and Sunchokes Paddle fish Caviar and Horseradish emulsion. During this course I learned something new. The other couple at our table liked to collect wine and suggested we try to taste the wine before and after trying the food. The food will change the taste of the wine. I knew this to a degree, but had never before experienced this transformation course after course. Interesting.

Pasta Course
Tortelloni stuffed with Oxtail braised in Barolo with celery root Soubise and Parmigiano Emulsion.
Boy. I will tell you, this blew me away. It was absolutely fantastic. With one whiff I was back in my childhood eating my grandmothers homemade pasta- but dare I say- this was even better! This version came with lovely airy foam, and it had nutty deep flavors of good aged cheese. You know how people who love food always play the “what would you pick for your last meal on earth” game? I have found it. I want this for my last meal.
This course made the wine dinner. It was paired with a Pinot Noir.

Gently cooked veal loin with lavender, roasted spring garlic, white asparagus and Porcini. The Veal was perfectly cooked. Again, I would have liked to ask the chef, or anyone from the kitchen staff, how the veal had been cooked, but the wine guy was up talking again. Had they used a C-Vac?

Chocolate tasting of Chocolate Raisin Cake, Black forest Parfait, Baked Ganache.
There was the raisin cake, and a light as air whipped chocolate parfait, but what I could not quite figure was the rather odd egg roll filled with chocolate. It had been deep-fried and was served with a bitter green sauce. I still can’t get my head around that one aspect of dessert but the meal ended nicely with a Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.
All in all a great experience.

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