Dinner Gang 8

The Calm Before the Storm

The Calm Before the Storm

Dinner Gang time rolled back around and it was our time to host.  We’ve decided that for our turns, we’re most likely going to focus on particular styles of wine, whether it’s a varietal or region, in order to lay out the theme of the meal.  The last time we hosted, we did Syrah, demonstrating three different ways it can be instantiated.  Following those same lines, we chose Pinot Noir, which comes across very differently depending on where it’s grown and made.

We asked the others to decide between them who would bring California and Oregon examples, and we took on Burgundy.

Kicking things off, Jim and Neal brought a bottle of N.V. Moutard Pere et Fils Champagne Rose de Cuvaison to pop first, celebrating their 34th anniversary.  It’s from 100% Pinot Noir, so it even fit in with the theme.  It was delicious, bright, rosy, and creamy.  It was a nice treat.

Appetizer:  Bruschetta Two Ways

Bruschetta Two Ways

Bruschetta Two Ways

Kathryn and David brought the pieces for and then assembled a great bruschetta plate.  The first had goat cheese with macerated fig in a reduction of balsamico di Modena, which brought out the raspberry flavors in the wine.  The other included mushrooms sautéed in garlic topped with parmigiano reggiano, which went quite nicely with the spice elements in the wine.  The wine started right away with a beautiful spiced nose and followed it up with bright red fruits and good length.  This was an excellent start.

Wine:  2011 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard

First Course:  Roasted Duck and Citrus Salad

Roasted Duck, Endive, Field Green, and Fruit Salad with Pecans

Roasted Duck, Endive, Field Green, and Fruit Salad with Pecans

Neal and Jim put together a perfectly-dressed endive and field green salad with pecans, orange wedges and raspberries, topping it all off with duck that they had roasted themselves.  They had hoped to find smoked duck breast, which might have made an even nicer contrast, but couldn’t find any locally.  The salad had multiple flavor elements:  bitter from the endive, sweet from the fruit, earthy from the greens.  I’m always skeptical about pairing wine with anything vinegar-based, but their deft touch with the dressing meant no worries.  The wine shone with the duck especially, fruit forward with a nice cranberry note to it.  It was light bodied, which was the right choice for the salad course.  Check out the Maysara web page for their thoughts on biodynamic agriculture.

Wine:  2008 Maysara Winery Pinot Noir Jamsheed

Main Course: Coq au Vin

Purple Chicken is Weird but Delicious

Purple Chicken is Weird but Delicious

To me, Burgundy is about the countryside and small winemakers as opposed to the massive houses of Bordeaux.  We wanted to capture that rustic feel, so we went with a classic rustic dish.   We started with Ina Garten’s recipe, then modified to suit our needs.  First off, we determined that everyone exception Gretchyn prefers dark meat chicken.  Instead of getting whole chickens cut up, we simply got a package of thighs and two split breasts.  We didn’t use any bacon in the first sauté, so I added enough olive oil to the pot to approximate the amount of grease we would have gotten off the bacon.  For additional flavor, I heavily salted and peppered the meat.  The other difference was using half cippolini and half shallots instead of pearl onions, putting them in right before the pot went into the oven instead of waiting until the last ten minutes, as the recipe instructs.  The comparative size of the cippolini and shallots meant that they’d need to cook quite a bit longer, and I wanted their flavors to infuse into the sauce.  Even though we took the Burgundy assignment, I used a California Pinot to cook with because I thought that it brought a livelier fruit character and sweetness to the dish.

For sides, we simply roasted some small Yukon Gold potatoes and some fresh green beans, both with just a touch of olive oil and sprinkles of salt and pepper.  We roasted the potatoes until the outsides nice and crispy to contrast with the tenderness of the meat.  We had never roasted green beans before, and were extremely happy with the way they turned out.  We mixed in some toasted almonds right before serving.  The roasted and toasted flavors they gave off hit exactly the countryside note we were looking for.  We were extremely happy with the way the dish turned out.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with the first wine we opened.  Being a 1995, I didn’t want to open it until right before serving it.  I knew that it wouldn’t take long to go downhill.  When I pulled the foil off the bottle, I immediately saw mold on the cork.  This isn’t a death sentence, but it’s an indication.  As I started pulling out the cork, I saw that there was seepage that had come all the way to the top.  Again, in older wines not necessarily the hangman’s noose.  Pouring it, the nose was fine.  It demonstrated that Burgundian funkiness that I wanted to highlight.  There was no wet cardboard or moldy smell to it.  The first sip was pretty much what we had expected—a fading expression of the terroir, coupled with an austerity that demonstrated the Pinot arc of style from California to Burgundy via Oregon.  After the first sips, things went bad fast.  We agreed that opening something else would be better, and it was.  The younger Vosne-Romanée put us right where we wanted to be.  The wine expressed the soil that it was grown in, topping it off with a rich fruit profile.  Nice pairing.

Wine (for cooking):  2011 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Meiomi

Wine (that didn’t make it):  1995 Domaine Rene Leclerc Griotte-Chambertin

Wine (that did):  2005 David Duband Vosne-Romanée

DESSERT:  Pecan Caramel Tart with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Pecan Caramel Tart with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Pecan Caramel Tart with Bourbon Whipped Cream

We knew what wine we wanted to serve with dessert, an Argyle sparkler that’s 59% Pinot Noir.  We picked up two bottles and last week tasted the first alongside some classic dessert elements—chocolate, raspberries, and caramel.  We agreed that caramel seemed the best, so we set out to find the right kind of recipe—one that wasn’t super-sweet, like pecan pie, but rich and with a residual sweetness.  We found one on the Southern Living page and ran with it.

The Bourbon Whipped Cream was just normal whipped cream—a pint of heavy cream and tablespoon and a half of powdered sugar—with a tablespoon and a half of bourbon added.  We used the good stuff—Pappy Van Winkle 12 year old—because I thought it had a little more candied flavor to it, which we agreed would set off the pecans.  It absolutely did.  Gretchyn put together individual tarts for everyone instead of a bigger one that would have to be cut.  The crust was perfect, the sweetness ratio dead on.  I couldn’t finish it due to the richness, but I loved every bite that I had.

Wine:  2009 Argyle Brut

Once again, six hours had passed like it was six minutes, always the way it happens with great friends.  There are some people you just can’t get enough of.  We laid our plans for Dinner Gang 9 and said good-night, knowing that we had put another outstanding evening into the books.

As Always, We Finish with a Shot of the Lineup

As Always, We Finish with a Shot of the Lineup

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About sheldonmenery

Sheldon Menery is a self-taught food and wine aficionado who has circled the globe in search of the riches it has to offer. He's wined and dined at some of the best (and worst) places in the world.
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