A Taste of Thanksgiving

Monday, November 29, 2010 - 
Though Thanksgiving was on Thursday, Tastings was celebrating the holiday with their own pairings the evening before.  I had the pleasure of attending with some friends who had never been before - even I couldn't explain to them the treats they were going to be receiving that evening. 

We arrived a bit late, but as we sat down, Brian began with the aperitif and our tastebuds were awakened.

Aperitif - NV Juve y Camps Brut Rose Cava
'Tis the season for sparkling wines, and I was pleased to see this as our aperitif for the evening.  There is something about the sparkling wine that brings out the celebratory feeling of the holidays, and this beautiful rose was the perfect way to kick off the season.  Both in taste and floral smell, this deep pink wine was bright with berry flavors.  Great on it's own, but I could see this complimenting a brunch mimosa brilliantly.  It wasn't an overly dry brut, but rather had a mild sweetness that everyone at the table enjoyed.

First Course - 2008 Arger Martucci 'iliad' White Blend & 'Green Bean Casserole'
This wine was complex as it was a blend of several whites, including Viogner, Gewurtztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.  At first taste, it was incredibly rich but cut by the sweetness of a tropical spice on the palate.  It was crisp and the acid was a pleasant contrast to the creaminess of the dish adding a perfect balance.  If you live in Indy, note that you can only try this bottle at Tastings, so make your way over for a sip.

For a green bean casserole, I was expecting a warm and creamy dish.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a light, citrus plate full of green beans.  Lightly poached to keep their crispness, the bean were then tossed with a parsley and citrus pesto.  Leaning heavily on the parsley for taste, the pesto had the perfect level of acid to help balance the creme fraiche.  A 'casserole' wouldn't be complete without mushrooms and crisp onions.  I would say my favorite part of this dish was the pan fried mushrooms as they lent an earthy edge to the plate while fried green onions finished the dish.  I really enjoyed the green onions and the crisp sharpness they brought to the citrus plate - they were a fantastic component to the dish.

Second Course - 2007 Patrick Lesec 'Rubis' Chateauneuf du Pape & 'Mashed Potatoes and Gravy'
The wine was the first of the reds, a well balanced peppery blend that sat well on the palate.  The wine had a creamy red fruit taste as well as an earthy edge.  A deep and rich taste, the wine was well balanced to be a great bold red.  Easily enjoyable on its own, it was brought up a level when paired with the well-seasoned dish as they complimented each other well.  And as I've mentioned before, I'm a marketer's dream as I was drawn into the bold colors of the label and embossing on the bottle.  I could see picking this one up on looks along and then being pleased with the bright, bold taste as well.

Yukon gold potato croquettes that were delightfully stuffed with cheese and speck were paired with this meal.  Lightly fried, the speck filling gave off a rich, smokey smell and taste while the Irish chedder was the perfect level of saltiness.  A crisp and sharp contrast to these two flavors were bits of green onion - perfect for the balance of the ingredients.  Basic breadcrumbs allowed these to be fried to perfection, and though I loved my tots, I could enjoy many more of these croquettes.  It was a creamy perfect mashed potato concoction that was seasoned well.  And to top it off, there was a strong mushroom flavor incorporated into the roasted mushroom gravy it was served with.  A touch of cream gave it a rich taste, which is another reason the wine worked so well with this dish. 

Third Course - 2006 Onyx Pinotage & 'Turducken'
A cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, the Pinotage is considered a highly revered grape of South Africa.  I had the pleasure to indulge in this smokey and woody tasting wine.  It was rich and mildly fruity (Brian tasted bananas, though I couldn't get my palate up to his!) and noted as a 'Scotch drinkers' wine.  I could see this as it was so rich in the smoke element.  It smelled delightful with the taste of red currants shining through.  Great wine - it couldn't have been matched with a better dish as the two made the best pairing of the evening.

Turducken is a turkey stuffed with duck and chicken.  Delish.  Steven did not disappoint with his dish giving us a trio tasting of a deconstructed meal.  Beginning with a pan seared duck breast (which was my favorite of the dish) it had a subtle spicey outer layer to the medium rare meat.  Perfectly tender, it was not fatty how duck tends to be - just rich in all those flavors.  In the middle was a sage gorgonzola bread pudding under turkey confit.  The dressing smelled rich of the sage flavors and was mild in the creamy gorgonzola unless you had a crumble in the specific bite.  The turkey was rich in flavors with a hint of cajun spice.  Additonally, we were presented with a buttermilk fried chicken 'wing.'  Deep fried, the chicken was incredibly tender as the crispy outer layer locked in the juice and buttermilk.  To tie all the flavors together, they were drizzled with a smokey and perfectly sweet syrup of chipotle-cranberry.  Best dish - the flavors worked incredibly well together as I couldn't resist a bite of all three in one.  This would have been a delight on any Thanksgiving table.

Fin - 2006 Olivares Dulce Monastrell & 'Pie-fecta'
A dessert wine, the Dulce was a bit too much for me.  It smelled thick of spice and raisin aromas which carried through with a thick taste.  I believe I am beginning to really appreciate all the complex flavors of wine, but when I'm presented with something like this, I remember I still have a lot to learn on how deep flavors really can be.  I'm not a huge raisin fan, and the taste was extremely thick on palate.  However, a few of the patrons I was dining with did enjoy it, so they had no complaints of me passing it their way after trying it with the dessert.  As I have learned, flavors can really change with the food, and unfortunately, this wasn't a case for me.

Though I didn't enjoy the wine, I don't know if I would have been able to appreciate it even if I did like it.  This is because in front of me was a layered piece of delicious work.  A cinnamon graham cracker crust was the base of the three layers: a roasted apple layer of Braeburn and green apples lent the earthy taste of an apple pie followed by a crunchy layer of pecan pie filling.  Sweet, crunchy and delectable, this was topped with a creamy layer of pumpkin cheesecake.  Smelling of all things fall, the pumpkin layer was baked perfectly with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whipped vanilla cream and a warm, salted caramel topped the dish.  I loved the crunch of the pecans and apples as it fused together with the creamy cheesecake and vanilla cream.  Delicious.  I was even lucky enough to walk away with more and share with friends and family the following day (thank you Steven!)  If you are like me and debate between apple, pecan and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, this is the pie for you!

A great evening with friends and my Indy 'family,' I was knees deep in thanks for all the great food and drink that we shared together.  I even had the pleasure of meeting the lovely owners of Tastings and promised I would be returning for more sip and dine delights with more patrons in tow.  Cheers to another great evening Steven, Brian, and all the staff of Tastings - I'm thankful to be able to share in these delights with you!
Make your reservations for these upcoming events - they are going fast: 

December 1 - Regional Series: The Wines of Italy
Italy is a country infused with wine culture, come enjoy an evening on why many people say Italian wine is their favorite! 

December 8 - Truly Progressive
Part of the monthly series, a full-course meal is designed with wines to match.  Enjoy from aperitif to dessert and celebrate the food and wine relationship.

December 15 - Stocking Stuffers
To help find the perfect gift for the wine lover, stop by for an evening of great wines that come in small packages.
December 22 - White Christmas
Tastings twist on the classic Yuletide tune, an evening of cold weather white wines will be sipped upon.
December 29 - Sparkling Tasting
Sparkling wines to discover in celebration of the New Year!