Though highly credited by Food & Wine as stated by the presenter, I wasn't fully impressed with the wines this time around. However, I really did learn an extreme amount on how the varietals really do impact the grapes yielded for each year. All were small blends of approximately 9% of Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc with the remainder being Cabernet Sauvignon. My least favorite was the 1997 - it was crisp but the complexity of it was drowned out with a confusing finish. My favorite was the 1998 I enjoyed because it was full of berry flavors with a slightly spicy finish to it. One year - that is all it took - amazing how that works isn't it?
First Course - 1996 Pairing with Caesar Salad
Endive and other bitter greens were lightly dressed with an anchovy vinaigrette. This mellow dressing had great flavors of lemon and dijon mustard, a perfect accompaniment to the lettuce. With the anchovy, another salty surprise were the fried capers - giving a balance of saltiness to the dish with the bitter greens. The black pepper - parmesan crisp brought an overall seasoning to the dish. The wine was a good, basic wine to mellow out the play on the chop house salad.
You may have noticed there was no apertif as there normally is. I think it was because an actual winery was there, and not Mr. Brian. I also look forward to his return in a few weeks - he is just so personable and you can see his passion for wine - brilliant.
Second Course - 1997 Pairing with French Onion Soup
I already mentioned how I wasn't a huge fan of this wine, but I really didn't need it. What I needed was another bowl of the french onion soup (with a twist) Steven prepared. Hubby and I have decided Steven is amazing at upgraded comfort food - he brings it up one level to make you really say "wow." He had braised some mushrooms, seasoned with thyme, in a coffee base to give it that "meaty" beef bouillon flavor. What a success as the brown buttered croutons soaked up the juice in the bowl. And what is french onion soup without cheese? Swiss cheese-cipollini (which are small onions) fondue was spooned on top - it was extremely creamy rather than tangy as a Swiss cheese can be. This was because mascarpone cheese was added - making it even more homey than it already was. Delish.
Third Course - 1998 Pairing with Potatoes Au Gratin
Deconstructed - beautiful - 63 Degree Egg. What else do I have to say besides that it was amazing? Fingerling potatoes (purple ones too!) were poached in cream, adding a richness to the starchy base. Goat cheese mouse with a flair of cheddar giving it a creamy sharpness. Crispy peppered bacon (which I normally lean away from) cut the creaminess with a spicy seasoning. And of course, a 63 degree egg. Eggs are hard to cook (and if you don't think so, I highly recommend you really look into the world of eggs), but a 63 degree egg? I can't even wrap my head around how it was perfectly done as the yolk dabbled over the dish. And for those who are asking what it is, a 63 degree egg is just that, an egg cooked in 63 degrees celsius. It was a beautifully plated dish that my mouth also was happy with.
Fourth Course - 1999 Pairing with 'Steak Au Poivre'
When I think of Steak Au Poivre, I immediately think pepper. From what I've experienced, it is a cut of beef crusted with peppercorns then covered in a sauce made out of the drippings, cognac, cream and onions. From hubby's comment "Oh lord - you don't have any comments?!" and JN's explicit comment of how delightful the dish was - you can imagine that I will never think of it again in that way (which could be a mistake, because I don't think I'll ever get something like this again.) The steak was actually a duck breast, seared with butter and herbs. It was fatty like duck should be, but not in an overwhelming way at all - if you never had duck, you should have had this. I have a pure love of earthy veggies pureed, so the yam puree was absolutely divine. Earthy and creamy, the yams were cedar roasted than pureed to perfection, topped with the duck, and finished with generous dollop of cognac and shallot butter. Heaven. It was also the best wine pairing of the evening, as the 1999 was a good, solid wine that was exceptionally sweeter when paired with the food.
Final Course - 2005 Pairing with "Death by Chocolate"
RN will say it - I was drooling as Steven presented the dish. I wasn't really expecting a "fluffy" doughnut but alas, a deep fried doughnut "hole" that was warm and fluffy in the center. Best Chocolate in Town makes some amazing truffles, and this local establishment was part of this chocolate death because of the creamy chocolate centers. The truffle and doughnut rested on a blackberry strip, but with that warm chocolate sauce dribbled on top, I didn't really notice. I love chocolate. I was in heaven. I could have licked my plate. I think chocolate and wine are an amazing pairing and was happy to see it part of the menu.
It was great to get back (after a few weeks, last time seemed so long ago!) to Tastings as it has become a weekly Wednesday tradition. And for all of the nights to return, I was very happy it was this night as it was some of Steven's best cooking yet. Cheers to you - looking forward to this Wednesday with Sun King Brewing!
And one final note - we unfortunately didn't get to sit in the circle of it all (that is what happens when places get popular!) for the evening's pairing. Thus, we couldn't quite hear everything and the lighting wasn't optimal for me to showcase how great the food really was. Thank you to my talented friend, RN, for helping with the photos - I appreciate you!