A Fall Progression

Thursday, October 21, 2010 - 
This past Wednesday evening, hubs & co. were were treated to another 'truly progressive' pairing with a fall theme at Tastings.  I love autumn (or fall, whatever you want to call it) flavors.  After all, two of my favorites (pumpkin and cinnamon) are abundant all over the place.  So I rejoice during this season and all the flavors that I get to nibble one.  The staff at Tastings delivered with some great wine and culinary creations.

Aperitif - Fall Orchard Fizz
The return of the aperitif was a good one - this orange colored drink wasn't bubbling in the glass like I thought it might, but the prosecco definitely had a great fizz to it when sipped.  The smell was intoxicating - like you stepped right into an apple orchard.  This was because of the combination of fresh (and local!) apple cider mixed with some Captain Morgan rum.  In addition to the rum, prosecco, and apple cider, there was Absolute Pears, a smidgen of ginger ale and another local ingredient, W.H. Harrison bourbon.  If the flavors of autumn could explode (or in this case, fizz) in your mouth - this was the drink that did it.

First Course - Apple & Pear Carpaccio with a 2009 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre
Don't think meat for this course - it was thinly sliced gala apples and d'anjou pears.  Once again, I'm not a pear lover, but these were so thinly sliced that the "dirty and grainy" textures that I don't like weren't apparent.  A simple herb salad, containing the bitterness of Italian parsley, cut the tartness of the apple and pear while the sweetness of honey in a ginger oil and orange foam complimented the fruit.  I wasn't a huge fan of the first bite, it didn't seem to have huge depth to it as I was looking for thicker slices (thus, there would go the carpaccio, touche) but after I sipped the wine, the two made a great clean and fresh pairing.

By first look, I thought we were being served a chardonnay.  By first smell, it was intense but fresh at the same time.  And after a quick taste, I was brought into the world of crisp and clean Sancerre.  This was a food friendly wine if I have ever had one.  After a sip, the smooth, clean flavors really shined, especially when alternated with the apples and pears.  Will I drink this again?  I sure hope so...

Second Course - Cornish Hen and Squash Polenta with 2006 Wente 'Reliz Creek' Pinot Noir
You had me at polenta - I love the stuff.  And when it is made with roasted acorn squash and blended to an almost porridge consistency with the creaminess of heavy cream and mascarpone? Delicious.  Served on top was a tempting confit of Cornish hen.  Confit is a slow cooking style which locks in so much moisture and the perfect level of salt - my hen was absolutely fantastic.  I scooped up the polenta with the meat and scrapped my plate until it was gone.  But what I really loved about this dish was the garnish, if it can even be put in that category.  Spiced pumpkin seeds gave the perfect crunch to the butter finish of the polenta.  The pepitas (pumpkin seeds without the hull) were pan fried to get that earthy, nutty flavor and then sauteed in butter before being seasoned with chipotle, paprika and other spices.  It tasted almost like brittle in the beginning stages with a slight heat rather than sweetness.  I would be snacking on this right now if I had some.

What I believe was the best pairing of the evening, we were matched with a pinot noir.  The flavors matched well, bringing a taste of almost cherry to the plate.  No Syrah in the mix (I do love Syrah's though) Wente Vineyard provided a strong and balanced pinot noir that stood up to the "heaviness" of a Cornish hen.  But really, I could drink this all night.  It matched the food so well with a back hint of spice, it really was a perfect compliment.

Third Course - Figgy Piggy with 2008 Maycas Del Limari Syrah
If the name 'figgy piggy' doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will.  A pork tenderloin was sous vide (another cooking style where food is placed into plastic bags and submerged in water to be cooked at low temperatures) making it difficult to be dry as it is intended to maximize the integrity of the flavors.  Because of this, I was slightly surprised my pork was a little dry, but the port-poached fig and the sauce reduction cured that as the pork soaked up the thick sauce providng great flavor.  The smell of the port was intoxication and the crispy bites of fig were a great accompaniment.  A carrot confit (and no, I normally don't like cooked carrots, but this was the first thing I ate and it was divine) and crispy speck were layered on top to complete the dish.  After all, what's pork without more pork?

Matched was a slightly chilled syrah from Maycas del Limari.  Lending a strong and smokey flavor, this bold red was perfectly paired.  There was the spice that I love from syrah's, as well as some real fruit elements that played well with the pork tenderloin we were served.  With each sip, my tongue was covered with hints of berries.  There was an elegance about this wine that I just couldn't put my finger on as I happily sipped.

Dessert Course - Upside-Down Pumpkin Pie with 2008 Yalumba Botrytis Viognier
I feel as thought I don't have to say anything.  If you follow me on twitter, you know that I adore pumpkin.  So when I saw this on the menu for the evening, to be honest, I was anticipating it with every course.  I was not disappointed as I enjoyed not one bowl, but more nibbles as friends passed down a little bit more for me to indulge in.  A pumpkin panna cotta was the creamy base (standing as the pie filling) perfectly spiced with tastes of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.  A scoop of buttermilk-honey sorbet served as the 'whip cream' and probably the best compliment of the panna cotta.  I absolutely adored the combo of the creamy panna cotta with the cold sorbet - it was so refreshing and delicious, I seriously couldn't get enough. To add to this delicious dish, there was a sweet spice caramel drizzled everywhere it needed to be.  The caramel was perfect in texture and had hints of bourbon - never once did I think it was overly sweet in the dish.  A sugared puff pastry was baked between two silicone sheets to get it thin and crispy as the "crust" of the pie.   Did I mention I loved this dish?

And because I loved this dish so much, I have to apologize because I really didn't get into the wine pairing.  It definitely wasn't as sweet as a dessert wine could be despite the sweet smell.  It was great to sip on between bites of the dessert (okay, I wasn't taking bites, I was kind of inhaling, I admit it) as a break from the creamy deliciousness.  Interesting point about this - fungus.  Brian mentioned fungus being used on the grapes somehow (once again, I was distracted, forgive me.)  Want to learn more?  Check out all of Yalumba's tasty wine treats.

A great evening where I was served pumpkin not just once, but twice (we are not counting my double dessert love.)  A BIG thank you to my dear friend LE and J who joined us for this great evening of delicious fall treats!  And of course, this pairing wouldn't have happened with out Brian and Steven - great job again!

Have you made your reservations for next week? 

Tastings: A Wine Experience
50 West Washington (located in the Conrad)

Final Note: Happy Anniversary to a lovely couple - the N's - also known as RN & JN.  I adore you both - cheers to many more years as you continue to grow and love together.