Zing's Vegetarian Wine Dinner

Thursday, August 5, 2010 - 
Hubby and I had the pleasure of attending Zing's Vegetarian Wine Dinner earlier this week.  I had won two tickets to the event via twitter (you can follow too - @zingrestaurant) and it was a pleasant surprise to the hubs as he is celebrating birthday week.

I have been to Zing before for an Alzheimer’s event in support of QUASH (what is QUASH – read more here), so I knew the layout of the restaurant and was expecting some great small plates.  We arrived 10 minutes early and were able to grab a booth on the main floor (upstairs has more seating with a full bar – this is normally where I see most people go) where the event was taking place.  We did start the event a little late as we were waiting for others to join us, but this wasn’t a problem due to my company (yes, corny, love the hubs.)

J, co-owner’s of Zing, greeted us with a brief introduction of how the evening would play out.  Due to it being ridiculously hot outside (ugh, hello heat index of 110 degrees!), he let us know that we would have a really informal evening with basic descriptions of each course.  We then began with the first course - chilled watermelon soup with mint gelee.

The soup really seemed more like watermelon juice – I expected a puree of watermelon and other elements to make it more of a soup course than a juice course.  And mint gelee (really, it’s jelly) was dropped in, throwing off the consistency of the dish even more to me.  I ended up swallowing a glob of jelly, mint leaves and what I believe was a jalapeno slice at once.  It didn’t work for me or the hubs, he even said “Mmm, try again."  The dish was paired with Trivento Torrontes, a Chilean wine with a bit of a citrus bite.  It was definitely grape oriented, and because of the citrus, very light and refreshing.  It tasted better to me after a few sips, but I don’t know if the pairing was right with the soup for my taste buds.  Unfortunately, this was not the best dish for me of the evening, so I am sad to say it didn’t start well.  But I was pleasantly pleased with the next course – Haricot Vert, Baby Yukon Potatoes and Micro Greens. 

This dish was great – refreshing to taste with a tarragon vinaigrette.  It was vinegar heavy, but not in an overpowering way.  It may have been a tarragon vinegar mixed with olive oil and chopped shallots and (more) fresh tarragon.  It was a pleasant dish – something I would definitely order off a standard menu.  The haricot vert (pretty much a green bean) was crisp and those little baby yukon’s were cooked and cooled perfectly.  The winner of this dish – the vinaigrette - we both thoroughly enjoyed it!

To add to the vinegar love, the pairing was done so very well.  The chardonnay was the French Drouhin Macon – Villages.  With a creamy undertone, it provided a smooth finish the vinaigrette – fantastic.

I love beets, so I was excited for the third dish – Salt Roasted Summer Beets over Parsnip Puree.  J explained how the beets were slow roasted with salt, and the flavor they produced was great.  As hubs said, it left my tongue “beet red” and my tummy pleasant.  I really loved the parsnip puree with its “full and meaty” taste, yet complimented with some sweet back taste that I couldn’t pinpoint.  It may have been the balsamic that was drizzled in combination with olive oil, I don’t know, but it was divine.  A great substitute to your standard potatoes, I love it when veggies are pureed for my enjoyment. 

The wine – Acrobat Pinot Noir, lightly chilled from Oregon – was a fantastic match.  The spicy/pepper taste with undertones of cherry (maybe?) was perfect for the earthy flavors of the dish.  A spicy red with earthy food to match?  Can't go wrong – delish!

Cheese – I love it.  Probably one of the best things in the world (and this is not because I’m from Wisconsin.)  This is why I was anticipating the final dish – Char-grilled Portabella Mushroom with Crispy Baby Artichokes and Goat Cheese Mousse.  The artichokes were a surprise – fried and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I haven’t eaten artichokes like that, so they were fun to pick up and pop in the mouth like you would with a french fry.  The mushroom was uber juicy, maybe because of a marinate in olive oil before it was thrown on the grill, I’m not sure.  But the mousse was so incredibly light, but at the same time heavy with the wonderful goat cheese taste.  I was able to smother my whole cap with it.  The big item that stood out to me with this meal was the taste of lemon – I don’t know if thyme was used for the cap, or if there was a citrus touch to the mousse, but I tasted a lot of it.  At times, it was even a little overwhelming, but still a good dish.

We had two wines to enjoy the meal with: a red (Artazuri Garnacha from Spain) and a white (Pacific Rim Dry Riesling from Washington.)  J encouraged us to begin with the red and then move to the white – both adding their own complexities to the dish.  I have to say, I’m not normally a huge fan of Rieslings, but alas, this one was wonderful.  I even went back for multiple glasses after dinner as J and the Zing staff left out bottles for us to stick around and enjoy.

I wasn’t overly excited for dessert – Coconut Cream Pie – because I’m just not a huge coconut fan.  However, this cute (yup, cute) little tart that hubs and I shared was the perfect ending to the vegetarian meal.  There weren’t chunks of coconut (which I liked) so either they pureed it like no other or they used coconut milk to make the cream.  Topped with fresh whip cream (and lots of it!), my favorite was the sugar cooking tasting crust.  It was thick, like a cream pie crust should be (personal opinion of course) and I couldn’t get enough of it.  Thank you to hubs for letting me have the crusty side while he had the more cream side.   Wine served was a Prosecco from Italy, and to me, it was good with the dish, but not so good by itself.  But as I was gobbling up my crusty pie, I also drank down the prosecco so it definitely wasn’t a problem to me!

A successful evening, all those around seemed to really enjoy the food, drinks and atmosphere of Zing.  There was a table of women having a girl’s night out, a family, some older couples as well as younger, so the crowd was all over the place bringing a comfortable atmosphere to the evening.  Zing is having more of the events, so if you ever want an evening out at a new restaurant, check it out.  They will be doing the vegetarian pairings once a month, and no, you won’t miss the meat!