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My mystery wine pairing dinner


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Those of you that were following my blog last week will remember that I left you just as I was about to produce a wine-pairing dinner for a group of super high-end wines that I'd never tasted.

So, I survived, and even thrived, and it was a kick-ass event that I want to share with you. Without having the opportunity to taste the wines in advance, I queried the Wine Forum here, and Googled the heck out of every little bit I knew about the wines in advance. Six people drank well over $500 worth of wines in a shockingly short time, and lived to tell the tale. Thank the food goddess that I was one of them!

First up was a Lillet course. I wanted to keep this very light, so I served just herb and spice roasted nuts, and manchego with quince paste that I made according to jackal10's eGCI instructions.


Then there was a Chardonnay course, a Kistler 1998 Durrell Vineyard Sonoma Valley. What a brilliant wine - I'd gladly drink it every day, and I'm not even a white wine person. I paired this with a pea, leek, and Parmesan ravioli in a Dungeness crab sauce, with pan-roasted corn, and chanterelles and shiitakes sauteed in duck fat.


Then we did a Pinot Noir course. This was the weakest wine of the evening, being a 2003 David Bruce Sonoma County, which the wine guy had provided as an example of good value. I paired this with Paula Wolfert's Duck Confit Salad with Red Cabbage, Chestnuts, and Watercress, which was delicious, as always. I did substitute red verjus for the red wine vinegar, thinking that we had a more demanding wine, and the salad suffered a bit as a consequence. Somehow the verjus and that particular Pinot really emphasized the salt in the confit.


Next up was the Cabernet Sauvignon course, a 2002 Leonetti which had a pretty daring pairing. JohnL on the wine forum suggested roasted root vegetables, instead of the more usual suggestions of Big Beef to go with a heavily oaked cabernet. I did a galette filled with roasted turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes, roasted with a lot of rosemary, with a little brush of mustard, topped with a melting of Stilton, and with a few olives on the side. That was the absolutely best pairing of the evening, and so unexpected.


We proceeded to a Syrah course, a 1999 Cayuse, probably the nicest Syrah I've ever tasted. Restrained, close to European, but with a little something extra. I paired this with Paula Wolfert's (sense a theme?) Catalonian Fall-Apart Lamb Shanks, which are enhanced by a picada of cocoa and almonds, and her celery root and apple puree.


And finally, a vin de noix course for dessert. I made this vin de noix myself, so was a little hesitant to put it up against all of those great wines, but in its own context it was wonderful. I paired it with a panna cotta that I spiced with speculaas spices, for a slight gingerbread flavor.


All in all, this was a great evening of food and wine, and proves that if you can't taste in advance, research and your eG buddies will pull you through!

Edited by Abra (log)
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It's gorgeous, Abra! Thank you so much for finishing the story!

As I recall, all the wines were supposed to be heavy on the oak. Were they? Were some more oaked than others? And in retrospect, were there some pairings that would have fared better with less oaked wine?

My other question is more of a stagger: that looks like more food than we had at Thanksgiving yesterday! The food looks too fabulous for restraint, but I can only imagine myself waddling out after all that! Was it a 4-hour meal? I realize I must sound like a bumpkin! :rolleyes: But I am curious about the mechanics of this event.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
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Abra, thank you for posting this. I was waiting for the rest of the story and I'm glad I found it. It seems like this was a very successful evening, to say the least.

Michael aka "Pan"


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That is an amazing dinner... I was just thinking about you yesterday "I wonder how Abra's dinner went" :smile: , I'm so glad you posted this!

That roast vegetable galette with stilton looks gorgeous. Forgive me if this was already mentioned in the blog, but what kind of pastry is that?

I can see that this worked well with a big red.. and this would also make a lovely vegetarian main course I think.

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That's an interesting question, about the oak. Although I know, because the experts have said so, that there was a lot of oak in all of the wines, I really only tasted it in the Pinot. The others were so well-crafted, so deep and complex, that to my palate, admittedly not the finest-tuned, there was no distinct oak presence. I suppose that the only way you get that certain gravitas in a wine is with oak, but it wasn't screaming out, as I'd feared it would. I wish my daily life could include wines like that, oak or no.

The pinot and the confit were not a perfect fit. I'm not sure how much of that was the wine itself, which I thought was only adequate, and how much the absence of vinegar in the salad to temper the salt. I've served that salad with a nebbiolo, with the vinegar in the dressing, and found that an excellent pairing. If I had it to do over I'd probably have tweaked the pinot course. The others were irreproachable pairings.

The galette dough was just flour, butter, and egg. It was a very short dough, and as the photo shows, I browned it to the max, because I wanted to echo what I imagined would be toasty flavors in the wine.

It was a lot of food, but those were small plates; the extreme close-ups make it look super-abundant. I made the galettes too big, instead of six I should have made ten with the same amount of ingredients. But I encouraged everyone to feel free to take home part of theirs, so as not to be too full for the remaining courses. Some people ate every bite, several saved half of their galette, and a couple left a few bites of dessert. Other than that, and a leftover pile of the herbed nuts, it was a vanishing food act.

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Abra, thank you so much for taking the time to post "the rest of the story." The wine pairing dinner looks fabulous! Your clients are extremely lucky to have you.

Dear Food: I hate myself for loving you.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Abra,

I have a couple of questions on your galette. My brother recently offered to open up some pricy red wines he has including some Cal. Cab if I would cook for a group. The catch is that his wife is a semi-vegetarian will eat some fish type of person which makes this a challenging meal for me. Remembering this thread, I thought the gallete could make a good and interesting course.

Did you undercook the vegetables in the initital roasting process so they would not overcook while baking in the gallete? How important and prominant was the mustard on the veg and how important were the olives? Is that a bit more raw cheese used as garnish? Did you put enough stilton on the gallete to make it a primary flavor or a lesser amount to be an accent flavor?

Sounds like this was a clear winner at your meal but if repeating this, would you change anything?


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Hi Nathan - I did slightly undercook the vegetables, but not too much, because I wanted them to caramelize and release their juices before they got into the pastry, so it wouldn't get soggy. The mustard was quite subtle, and mostly helped the bottom of the galette stay unsogged, but I liked the bit of flavor it added with the Cab. Same thing with the olives. They were there as a accent for the wine, primarily, as is the little extra Stilton. The melted-in Stilton served as an internal sauce, pulling the whole thing together. I probably used about 2 teaspoons per galette, so you can see that it wasn't a lot, but it provided a richness that was set off by the buttery crust really nicely.

Let us know what you do, and how it turns out.

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