Archive for the ‘Food and Wine Pairing’ Category
May 8th, 2013 • No Comments
Portugal is Unique in that they produce 250 grape varietals unique to their region..
OK, I didn’t actually try to taste 250 new grape varietals (can you say “Alvarinho”, “Baga” “Trincadeira” or “Touriga Nacional” ?) but I did try to better understand the wonderful variety of wines coming from a country with a unique language and known more for fortified wines – their Ports – than for their still wines.
Trade Tastings can be a SERIOUS Affair!
The best part of my tasting was the seated seminar with Evan Goldstein
- I had seen him in videos, but it was great to actually meet the wine powerhouse in person. Passionate is not a wasted word on this wine lover – he really presented with energy and humor and a keen sense of fun and adventure – he popped a few key Portguese words into the presentation but for the obvious effect – few people understand the language!
Evan Goldstein of Full Circle Wine Solutions was quite engaging..
So what did I learn from the seated tasting of 7 wines (it was supposed to be 8, but one never made it through shipping!) ?
-Vinho Verde which translates as “Green Wine” does NOT mean green-hued wine, but rather a wine meant to be consumed “young”.
-Portuguese “Verdelho” is NOT the same as Spanish “Verdejo”
-There is a Rose Vinho Verde
-There are many micro-climates and the wines from the southern planes tend to ripen very evenly from year to year.
-Moscatel de Setubal is a Muscat Fortified wine other than Port from the southern Peninsula and has more of a golden raisin/apricot flavor than Ports more prunish, dark fruit flavors.
Overall I was impressed by the consistency of the wines – most had abundent acidity and enough fruit and flavor for backbone. Some of the reds such as the pure Touriga Nacional’s were quite tannic and “cedar box” spice, but still the average quality of wines was quite good.
I do want to mention that TasteDC was affiliated with the Consumer Grand Tasting that evening and helped to sell it out – although the wines were the same in the consumer tasting, the food was much better than the Trade got which is actually a good thing. Also the food was quite good – really tender carved Roast Beef, Ham Table, Specialty Taco Table and something I hadn’t seen before – a Ramen Noodle table with the chance to choose your own noodles and fixings- this kept the Vegetarians happy – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
April 24th, 2013 • No Comments
“In Order to Make Great Wine, the Vines Must Suffer..”
I attended a recent trade tasting given by the Bureau of Burgundy Wines on Tuesday, April 23rd at the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C. – it was taught by a very affable and precise Jean-Pierre Renard who took us through history, philosophy and ultimately a tasting of 9 wines from the lowest classification up to a Grand Cru – Corton Grand Cru, les Renardes, 2008 Domaine Maillard.
We covered the basics of Burgundy which can actually be quite confusing. In a nutshell, Burgundy is a region and the wines are named from their location in that region. The basic breakdown is Regional wines, Village wines, Premiere Cru wines and Grands Cru wines, each respective layer being more rare and specific to a smaller number of wines and thus normally costing more as well. If you purchase a regular Bourgogne with little more information on the bottle, it most likely can come from grapes grown anywhere in that region. Village wines have regionality, but are not specific to any site while Premiere Cru and Grands Cru grapes come from specified parcels. Add to this the complexity rule-wise of “climats” which loosely translates according to the speaker as the “DNA of the individual Bourgogne Vineyards” – I actually found a site in English that delves deeper into the climats concept – the “climats”. Climats equates closely with “terroir”..
OK, now that you’re probably totally confused, let me say that much of what the speaker said rang true with what I had learned over the past 15 years at various wine classes and courses.
Burgundy has been producing serious wine since the Roman times, and afterwards the plots of land came from Church donations by nobles – they always gave their worst sites (poorest and rockiest soils) to the local Monasteries. Ironically, the rocky soils and hills they donated actually produce the world’s greatest wines!
The concept of “terroir” has really been developed from the wines of Burgundy more so than any other region – why?
1)They pretty much only use Pinot Noir for red wines and Chardonnay for white wines (a few exceptions like Aligote, but these are not blended)
2)hillside vineyards grow very different quality grapes from vineyards grown in the valley – hillier/higher sites produce more intense wine flavors, valley grapes are more generic.
3)Each vineyard site has it’s own weather patterns, geology, geography and even human/historical conditions. This last point is very confusing to most Americans: wine is made by humans, NOT by nature! Choosing the right site and propagating the best grapes is a human endeavor, but Nature is always adding chance to the equation. There is science as well as mysticism in the vineyard, maybe even some witchcraft..
“People can’t wait for aging wine any more, they want to drink everything young..”
A sad refrain by Jean-Pierre, but the reality of the modern wine drinker – people today don’t want to age their wines, so they want to drink young vintages before they’re ready to shine. There is so much history in Burgundy and even though winemaking today is better than ever, to truly understand and appreciate a fine age-worthy Burgundy, you simply must wait – Patience!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Upcoming French Events on TasteDC April/May 2013:
-April 30th – French Cooking: French Basics 101 at Cookology, $65
-May 1st – Wine Maker Dinner at Eola, featuring Château Léoville-Poyferré, $135
-May 20th – French Classics: The Suckling Pig, $60
February 27th, 2013 • No Comments
Guest Post by Christina Portz “Just the Bottle”
Miner Family Winery Dinner – Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Last night, I was lucky enough to attend the Miner Family Winery Dinner at 2100 Prime at the Fairfax Hotel as part of the Capital Wine Festival.
Because one can never have enough wine, I had a glass of Chandon in the Lounge before the event. There was an interesting assortment of characters in the lounge including a gentleman who used to frequent the restaurant when it was The Jockey Club and two conservative women arguing about Obama. My bartender had lived in DC since the 1980s and used to live on 17th street.
After I finished my glass, I checked in to the wine dinner. I found out I was seated at table 40 – with the winemaker. That’s how important I am (or that I like to think that). The restaurant has been renovated, but still maintains the old school/old DC decor. There was a lovely display set near a bar area of the wines featured for the evening.
2011 Miner Simpson Vineyard Viognier
For the reception the viognier was poured. It really is the perfect aperitif. It was incredibly aromatic with the honey suckle notes strongest on the finish.
The general manager spoke briefly, thanked everyone for attending and introduced Gary Brookman, Winemaker, Miner Family Winery.
Gary spoke briefly about the 2011 Miner Simpson Vineyard Viognier and presented the 2010 Miner, Napa Valley Chardonnay and 2008 Miner Wild Yeast, Napa Valley Chardonnay.
He provided background and history as to the winery, the use of solar panels at Miner and the incredible amount of varietals planted.
I was surprised at how Gary was down to Earth and incredibly pleasant. Besides speaking to the group at large, he frequently walked around to speak individually to the attendees.
Mango and Avocado Salad, Coriander Cilantro Oil
The first course was paired with 2010 Chardonnay and 2008 Wild Yeast Chardonnay. The plating on this and all dishes was spectacular. The buttery notes in both wines went incredibly well with the lobster and avocado notes. There was a creaminess that as a person who normally hates avocado (yes I hate it and no, don’t try to change my mind) was incredibly harmonious.
I was excited to speak with Gary about these wines especially the wild yeast. Apparently, he likes using wild yeast and giving up that control.
He was quite entertaining explaining how wild yeast can start the fermentation and give up or burn out quickly. I imagined little yeasts partying too hard and then dying off as they made this amazing chardonnay.
The 2010 chardonnay did not spend any time in oak, but did go through some malolactic fermentation. The wild yeast had spicer notes on the finish and was more viscous.
Red Wine Lacquered Quail
Arugula, Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette, Toasted Pinenuts
2010 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
Garys’ Vineyard is a 50 acre vineyard that was planted in 1995 by friends and growers Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni.
I love anything that incorporates an egg especially quail egg. The quail was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The pinot noir and quail worked well together bringing out additional flavors.
Gary and I discussed the concept of masculine and feminine pinot noirs. I used to have a boss who hated that description. Gary felt that this pinot was more masculine due to the body.
It was somewhat bright with big cherry notes on the nose with some plum on the finish.
Pepper Crusted Virginia Bison
Wine Sauce, Horseradish Cauliflower Puree, French Beans
2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
As you can see, I really wanted to try this amazing dish and forgot to take a photo before diving in (d’oh).
The 2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is almost entirely made of cabernet sauvignon with about 5% cabernet franc and 5% merlot blended in. It was aged for 21 months in 60% new French oak. Definitely exhibits some of that almost toasty, vanilla notes on the nose.
The wine was silky with a lushness that went well with the pepper crusted Virginia bison. This was my favorite wine of the evening.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Fresh Berries, Blood Orange Sabayon
2008 “the Oracle” Meritage Blend
The Oracle is a Meritage Blend utilizing Bordeaux style grapes (cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec,merlot and petit verdot). It spends 21 months in 55% French oak. It was incredibly balanced and full bodied. There were hints of cassis and blackberries.
I was surprised (like others) that this wine was paired with the dessert. But, it totally worked! I think worked best with the top layer of the dessert – blood orange sabayon.
The Chef, Chef Ferrier, and some of his staff thanked us at the end of the night. They also answered questions regarding Virginia bison. I think some people were becoming more difficult and drunk as the night wore on.
In the end, this was an amazing experience with spectacular food, wine and service. I would highly recommend attending a future wine dinner at the Capital Wine Festival.
Editor’s Note: here are some upcoming Wine Dinners in the DC Area on TasteDC:
-6-Course Texas Wine Dinner on March 2nd (This Saturday Evening) $70, http://www.tastedc.com/event/6-course-texas-wine-dinner-mayfair-pine
-Patz and Hall Wine Dinner (March 5th), $125, http://tastedc.com/content/4-course-patz-hall-winery-wine-dinner
-Pio Cesare Wine Dinner (March 12th), $125, http://tastedc.com/content/4-course-pio-cesare-wine-dinner
-Wine and Soul Wine Dinner (March 19th), $135, http://tastedc.com/content/4-course-wine-and-soul-wine-dinner
-Tres Sabores Winery & Calder Wine Company Dinner (March 26th) $125, http://tastedc.com/content/4-course-tres-sabores-winery-calder-wine-company-wine-dinnerine Company Dinner (March 26th)
December 9th, 2012 • No Comments
This dinner showcased how sparkling wines make flavors shine..
Top Chef Emily Sprissler
I love wine dinners – ESPECIALLY
Champagne Dinners! On Friday, Dec. 8th, 2012 I attended a 6-Course celebration of Champagne’s and Sparkling wines by producer Thibaut-Janisson Winery
paired with Top Chef Emily Sprissler’s Gastropublicious cuisine at her restaurant Mayfair & Pine
in Glover Park, D.C. I took pictures of each course and some of the wines as well, so you can skip to the bottom of this post to see how we dined – Very Well! A quick FYI – I actually had organized in the past many wine dinners and cooking classes in the same location when it was a French Bistro called Saveur. Glover Park is an area about 1 mile north of Georgetown on Wisconsin Ave., NW which is still trying to define itself. It has Whole Foods Market as an anchor, but it never had the right mix of restaurants – that is changing rapidly with some re-development and and also a Sweetgreen
which brings a quality demographic to the area.
The meal began with an aperitif which was the sparkling wine served also with the first course – Virginia Fizz. It’s a good starter wine which is light, crisp and not too minerally and with a touch of sweetness to get your taste buds going! The first course was a delicious slightly sweet pumpkin soup that Chef Sprissler said was “like pumpkin pie in a bowl”..it also had a nice aromatic touch of truffle oil, this was a very nice starting dish. Afterward we had the goat cheese which were little balls (I thought they were quail eggs!) like Mozzarella bocconcini with a spicy tomato almost salsa which contrasted nicely – creamy/sweet to spicy/savory..and of course those little toast squares! The third course was Chef Emily Sprissler’s own take on the bar food she ate when she worked as a chef in London and had little money for food – The samosas had handmade puff pastry (once a rarity, but great chefs like Sprissler are really starting to raise their game – one of the things Foodies can credit to both the TV show Top Chef and the fact that chefs travel the world to perfect their craft). The first 3 courses were paired with Virginia Sparkling Wines by Thibaut-Janisson – the speaker for the first 3 VA wines was owner Claude Thibaut who explained about the challenges of growing grapes and making wine in Virginia’s climate vs. in the Champagne region of France.
The last three dishes were paired my Manuel Janisson who is the Champagne side of this wine producer – as you may or may not know, Champagne is actually a region and unlike American wines, the French tend to label according to region/appellation (like Bordeaux and Burgundy). Interestingly, it was difficult to tell the wines were French vs. Virginian – although acidity levels and minerality tend to be higher in the cooler region French Champagnes, these winemakers are so expert that they know how to make great wines from their respective vineyards.
My favorite dish had to be the Lobster Béarnaise – it was exquisite luxury with that buttery sauce and the rich lobster combined! The richness of this dish was perfectly offset by the acidity/minerality of the Champagne which made each bite go from creamy to refreshing and again – something you have to try! We had the richest of the Champagnes with the richest of dishes which are always served last – the fall-apart succulent Braised Short Ribs and the decadent Chocolate Pear Tart (with a scoop of ice cream). The idea of pairing a Champagne with red meat vs. the traditional rich red wine worked for an interesting reason: the grapes used for Rosé wines are Pinot Noir and sometimes Pinot Meunieure (but not in this case) making for a richer wine. Of course after 5 or 6 flutes of sparkling wine, I think my taste buds weren’t very active, and the banter and chatter of an enjoyable evening took over the event – as should be – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
6-Course Champagne Dinner Menu
Thibaut-Janisson Virginia Fizz Blanc de Blancs NV, Virginia
Tomato Goat Cheese Napoleon
Thibaut-Janisson Cuvee d’etat 2008, Virginia
Samosa Pie with Date Sauce
Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay NV, Virginia
Janisson et Fils Tradition Brut NV, Champagne
Braised Short Ribs
Francois de Rozay Brut NV, Champagne
Chocolate Pear Tart
Janisson et Fils Brut Rose NV, Champagne
November 24th, 2012 • No Comments
A Lazy Fall Saturday Afternoon..
I attended a LivingSocial sponsored event “Wine + Cheese at Black’s Bar & Kitchen” (Bethesda, MD) on Saturday, November 17th, 2012 from 1 – 3 pm – actually, it was the first event I had attended through LivingSocial even though I had purchased many restaurant deals from them in the past. The event had 2 flights of cheeses, 12 cheeses in total and wines were paired with them, a total of 8 (See list of wines and cheeses with Photos below). It was a seated event and guided tasting with main presenter Chef Mallory Buford speaking about the cheeses and Black’s Sommelier Anderson Plunket discussing the wines. Chef Buford was very knowledgeable about cheese, but each cheese producer also had their own representative/distributor to talk about each cheese’s qualities. It was a nice combination of class and chance for people to talk amongst themselves – I would call it “lecture light” and more of a chance for people to try everything and make their own conclusions. This restaurant is really known for seafood so it’s kind of interesting that they decided to try a cheese and wine event – my understanding is that all of these cheeses are on their existing menu, so that makes sense..but don’t ask an Italian – they claim that seafood and cheese should never go together!
There were 12 cheeses and 8 wines:
1st Cheese Flight:
1)Cherry Glen Farms Monocacy Silver – Soft-Ripened Goat’s Milk
2)Cherry Glen Farms Monocacy Ash-Soft Ripened Goat’s Milk with Ash Rind
3)Vermont Butter & Cheese Bonne Bouche – Ash-Ripened Goat’s Milk
4)Vermont Butter & Cheese Coupole – Aged Goat Milk
5)Vermont Butter & Cheese Cremont – Aged Goat and Cow’s Milk
2nd Cheese Flight:
6)Jasper Hill Farm Weybridge – Organic Cow’s Milk
7)Jasper Hill Farm Cabot Clothbound Cheddar – English Style Cow’s Milk
8)Jasper Hill Farm Landaff – Semi-Firm Raw Cow’s Milk
9)Beehive Creamery Promontory – Irish Style Cow’s Milk
10)Beehive Creamery – Espresso and Lavendar Rubbed Cow’s Milk
11)Beehive Creamery – Cayenne Rubbed Cow’s Milk
12)Jasper Hill Farm – Raw Cow’s Milk Blue
1)Prosecco, Tenuta S. Anna, NV (Italy)
2)Sancerre, Paul Prieur 2010 (Loire, France)
3)Pinot Gris, Elk Cove 2011 (Williamette Valley, Oregon)
4)Chardonnay, Windracer 2007 (Anderson Valley, CA)
5)Pinot Noir, Domaine Carneros 2010 (Carneros, CA)
6)Merlot, Truchard 2008 (Carneros, CA)
7)Cabernet/Syrah Blend, Treana 2009 (Organic) (Paso Robles, CA)
8)Riesling, Poet’s Leap 2010 (Columbia Valley, WA)
So these 2 young ladies taught me a new term “Drink Until Your Sober” – I sort of understood what they meant, but they elaborated that this is when you keep drinking, especially wine, and you no longer feel drunk/act drunk..not sure if this is true, but it’s an interesting perspective none the less – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
June 21st, 2012 • No Comments
Even with this heat wave, I’m seeing alot of food and drink events in the DC Region and some interesting cooking classes as well. I thought the Blog would be a fun place to post these events every once in awhile (until the TasteDC Food and Drink Event Calendar is completed in the Fall), enjoy!
Photo from 2012 Fancy Food Show
5-Course Belgian Beer Dinner
June 25th (Monday) 7 pm
Mad Fox Brewing Company, 444 West Broad Street, Suite I, Falls Church, VA 22046
Menu with Beers
Our culinary team, led by Executive Chef Andrew Dixon, has an exciting menu for our first Belgian themed beer dinner. We’ll have a 5-course meal paired with Mad Fox’s Belgian-style beers, including the soon to be released Abbaye des Chutes and the Witte Vos Witbier.
The cost is $75 excluding taxes and gratuity – seating is limited,
Reservations with a credit card are taken at 703-942-6840.
Gluten Free Wine Dinner
June 26th (Tuesday) 7 pm
Wildfire McLean, Tysons Galleria 3rd Floor, McLean, VA 22102
Join us for an evening of gluten free dining, featuring a four course custom menu, each paired with a hand-selected
wine to complement the dish. The event begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m., follwed by dinner at 7:00 p.m.
Guest speaker, Vanessa Weisbrod, Executive Editor of Delight Gluten Free Magazine, will be on hand to share her insight on living and dining gluten free.
Tickets Are $65/per person exclusive of tax and gratuity
Make Reservations by Calling Elissa or Amanda at (703) 442-9110
6-Course Sushi-Ko Beer Dinner
June 26th (Tuesday) 7 pm
5455 Wisconsin Avenue Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Six-course menu created by owner and creative director of Sushi-ko, Daisuke Utagawa, together with beer expert Jocelyn Cambier.
The beer dinner is $85, all inclusive. Here’s the menu:
Edamame paired with Port City pale ale
Lobster and Asparagus Suimono (clear soup) with Brasseurs Illimites double porter
Flounder Carpaccio with White Soy and Truffle Sauce complemented by a surprise beer of Brasseurs du Monde
Honey and Soy Roasted Duck with A l’Abri de La Tempete Corps Mort
Spicy Broiled Mussels and Coronado Islander IPA
and a final course of Nigiri Sushi paired with Brasseurs Illimites Imperial Stout
Call (301) 961-1644 for tickets
Wine Tasting 101: Champagne Deutz & Maison Delas (Rhône) Class
June 26th (Tuesday) 7 pm
French American Cultural Foundation, La Maison Francaise, 4101 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007
Charlie Adler Shows How to Open Champagne
Our monthly Wine Tasting 101 soirées — with veteran wine journalist Claire Morin-Gibourg – explores the regions (Burgundy, Champagne, Rhône Valley, Languedoc and Bordeaux) and vineyards in France, as well as tasting techniques. List of wines for this session include: -Champagne Deutz Brut Classic, Champagne Deutz Brut Rosé nv, Champagne Deutz Blanc de Blancs, Cuvée William Deutz millésimé, Delas Frères blanc Saint Joseph ou Condrieu, Delas Frères rouge Hermitage; Also included: a fine assortment of cheeses.
Tickets Are $70/per person
Purchase Tickets Online
June 26th (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
The Washington Hilton Hotel
1919 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC
Enter through the “T Street” Entrance
VIP Reception for Sponsors & Special Guests, 5:30pm
Main Doors Open, 6:30pmMore than 1,300 guests will enjoy tastings from 60 of the region’s brightest culinary stars while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support children and adults facing HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. In addition to a menu filled with one-of-a-kind delights, you’ll enjoy bidding on live and silent auctions featuring travel opportunities and other great adventures.
Tickets Are $250/per person (Table/Sponsorships Available)
More Info and Purchase Tickets Online
Sold Out-Whiskey Cocktail Making Class
June 27th (Wednesday) 6 pm
The Gibson, 2009 14th Street NW,Washington, DC , 20009
One ticket to The Gibson Whiskey Cocktail Making Class on Wednesday June 27, 2012 at 6 PM
Whiskey-blending tutorial with premium single malt whiskeys
Take-home custom blended whiskey
Tickets Are $60/per person
6-Course Spanish Wine Dinner
June 27th (Wednesday) 7 pm
Tuskies, 203 Harrison St., Leesburg, VA 20175
Guest speaker Alicia Geiser will showcase some of the delicious wines coming from Spain. Chef Patrick will be hard at work pairing these wines with his interpretation of Spanish cuisine. $95 inclusive
Tickets Are $95/per person inclusive
Purchase Tickets Online
Catoctin Creek – The Art of Summer Cocktails
June 27th (Wednesday) 6:30 – 8:3O PM
J&G Steakhouse Wine Bar, 515 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20010
Scott Harris, general manager of the award-winning Virginia distillery Catoctin Creek, will demonstrate how to make three whiskey-based drinks that are sure to be a hit at your next summer soirée. Guests will also enjoy paired bites and receive a gift bag of Catoctin goodies after the event and then show off your newly acquired mixology skills later this summer.
Tickets Are $41/per person
Purchase Tickets Online
Great Lakes Brewing Company Beer Dinner
June 28th (Thursday) 7 – 10 pm
Dino’s, 3435 Connecticut Avenue NW
Cleveland Park, Washington DC, 20008
The Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Mission Statement: “Great Lakes Brewing Company is a principle-centered, environmentally respectful and socially conscious company committed to crafting fresh, flavorful, high-quality beer and food for the enjoyment of our customers. We aspire to maintain our status as the premier craft brewery in the Great Lakes region and are dedicated to uncompromising service, continuous improvement and innovative consumer education.”
See Complete Menu http://www.dino-dc.com/2012/06/great-lakes-brewing-company-brew-dinner.html/#start
Tickets Are $55/per person exclusive of tax & gratuity
Call for Reservations 202-686-2966
Essential Knife Skills
June 30th (Saturday) 2:30 – 4:30 pm
Sur La Table (Pentagon City), 1101 South Joyce Street Suite B-20 , Arlington, Virginia 22202
One of our most popular classes, join us as our expert instructor helps students become confident at the cutting board with the chef’s most important tool. Students will hone basic knife skills and practice the fundamental cuts for vegetables—mince, dice, brunoise, batonnet and julienne—as well as learn some advanced techniques. We’ll also show you how to select a knife that best fits your needs, and share tips for keeping all your cutlery sharp and well maintained at home.
Tickets Are $59/per person
Purchase Tickets Online
BBQ and Smoking Cooking Class
June 30th (Saturday) 2 -5 pm
Culinaria, 110 Pleasant Street Northwest Vienna, VA 22180
TasteDC BBQ 101 Class Video
Summertime and barbecue – they just go together. Chef Mike will discuss brining, rubs and the various cuts and preparation of smoked meats including pork shoulder, ribs and salmon. Come learn how to make and, most importantly, taste some great BBQ and smoked items.
Tickets Are $85/per person
Purchase Tickets Online
June 14th, 2012 • No Comments
As part of the Fancy Food Show which now is in Washington, D.C. annually at the Convention Center (it has been temporarily moved from NYC’s Jacob’s Javit’s Center until renovations are completed), I was invited to a fun chef battle between Iron Chef competitor RJ Cooper and Cordon Bleu Chilean chef Pilar Rodríguez, to take place on Thursday, June 14th, from 1-3pm, at Rogue 24. It was an invitation only media event, in which was able to taste food prepared with authentic Chilean ingredients, paired with Chilean wine and pisco. The new Ambassador of Chile, Felipe Bulnes Serrano, was there to add to the importance of the festivities, but all in all, it was just a fun time!
Here are some photos of the drinks, the Chilean wine, some of the dishes and of course the Ambassador (although, RJ Cooper was in true form, check out the photo!).
December 25th, 2011 • No Comments
Weird as it may seem, a “wine dinner” is conceptually as confusing as a wine tasting to most people – it’s a very foreign concept to many Americans – literally! A wine dinner is in essence a multi-course dinner served with several different wines – this is the simple explanation. A GOOD/GREAT wine dinner is when the various elements come together in a wonderful symphony of an event: wine, food, timing, pairing, educational component (this usually means a speaker), and impeccable service. It sounds very snooty, but that’s primarily because it’s based on the fine dining traditions of the Old World – particularly France and Italy. So what IS a wine dinner?
“A Wine Dinner Is a Meal Divided by Courses”
Most wine dinners include a menu of dishes served in three or more courses. For example, when you go out to eat at a fine dining restaurant, the menu is often broken down into Appetizers, Main Dishes, and Desserts. A Wine Dinner is a smart way for a restaurant to showcase both great wine and delicious dishes that showcase their chef’s talents. And yes, there is a formula: according to the traditional European format for a dinner (actually, any serious meal!) is begin with the lightest dishes, move on to richer dishes and finish with dessert – and yes, often there is a cheese course before dessert. A very simple multi-course dinner (with or without wine, but in the European tradition, food is pretty much always served with wine) would begin with some hors d’oeuvres, a seafood or pasta dish, a light meat dish (chicken or pork), a rich meat dish (beef or lamb) and dessert. Each course would be served with a different wine in a wine dinner and possibly even more than one wine per course. This would be called a 4-course dinner because hors d’oeuvres are usually not considered a dish, so don’t count in the number.
“Each Dish Should Be Paired with the Appropriate Wines”
I’ve been to wine dinners where there is only one wine paired with each dish, and that can be very satisfying! But I’ve also been to wine dinners where there are two, three, even four wines paired per dish (that’s a single dish!) and those can be very fun – albeit confusing at times. I want to touch upon the concept of pairing: pairing wine and food means there’s a synergy of flavor that is 1 + 1 is GREATER than 2. There are some classic examples of pairings: Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese, Pinot Noir and salmon, and Cabernet Sauvignon and steak, etc. that work but I’ve had pairings that stretch the limits. The original old school formula for pairings was “white wine with fish and red wine with meat” but this is extremely outdated – creative chefs today don’t serve simply prepared dishes that are formulaic, they often prefer to add unique flavors and cooking techniques to their dishes that can be difficult to pair. To keep it simple (I wrote a whole chapter on pairing in “I Drink on the Job” entitled “A Meal Without Wine is Breakfast”). Just like with food, most wine dinners begin with lighter-style wines (like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling) and move to heavier-bodied wines later in the meal – this makes sense – you wouldn’t want a Big Cab with your shrimp dish/course at the beginning of the meal, that would be way too heavy early in the meal (and a poor pairing!). Also, later in the meal, your palate needs richer and bolder flavors or you won’t notice a dish, so big wines and red meat (or dishes that are braised/slow cooked to increase the rich flavors of a meal) make sense.
A quick note on pairing/wine dinners – most have a theme like “Italian Wines” or “California Boutique Wines” that create the expectation of a special celebration of a wine region or theme. This is important because a wine dinner is a “showcase” event – a chance for a wine maker to show his/her best efforts in the vineyard or a display of a chef’s talents to create gourmet offerings. The point is that usually either the wine or the food is the main center of the wine dinner, one almost always overshadows the other. For example, I attended a wine dinner a few years ago with MacArthur/Addy Bassin’s Liquor where there were over 20 boutique California wines served – yes, the food was excellent at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. (I think it was 7-Courses, but I forget!), but every wine was introduced before each course by either the wine maker or a representative who intimately knew the wines – educational and exhilarating!
“A Speaker Needs to Introduce the Wines at the Wine Dinner”
Not particularly profound, but someone needs to talk about the wines at a wine dinner and the more knowledgeable, the better. Normally, the wine maker or a representative from the wine community talks about the wines with each dish. Some speaker’s introduce the wines before each course, but this can be detrimental: it can add too much time to a dinner and it can get tedious for attendees! Most people don’t want to sit for more than three hours or so at a wine dinner (including breaks – hey, with all that wine, you may need to visit the bathroom!) so the length of an event is important. I always suggest that the wine professional speaker introduce their wines at the event, maybe speak once in the middle of the meal and then at the end of the meal. Most people at these events would rather talk privately to the speaker, so walking around and “schmoozing” with dinner attendees is a smart move.
Things I haven’t covered in this wine dinner discussion include the importance of speedy service, event duration, popular themes for wine dinners, and the myriad of service issues with this type of event. Staffing is VERY important – experience really makes a difference. One of the most impressive wine dinners I ever went to with the wines of Chateau Pontet-Canet at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. was because of one factor: the Sommelier Caterina Abbruzzetti decanted every one!
Of course, there aren’t only wine dinners: In 14 years at TasteDC, I’ve attended craft beer dinners, whiskey dinners, Tequila Dinners, Cocktail Dinners, Rum Dinners and innumerable conceptual “dinners”, often unique and unusual, but one thing they all had in common – the dishes and the beverage were paired in some way..Hope this all whets your appetite – Cheers!
Charlie Adler, Managing Editor
TasteDC Food and Drink Event Calendar
“Educate Your Palate”
December 11th, 2011 • No Comments
I’ve organized or promoted over 1,000 wine tastings and wine classes in the Washington, D.C. area since 1997 through my organization TasteDC.com. A few times a week I get a phone call at headquarters (a room in my Georgetown townhouse with 2 computers, a color printer and a Fax..but it IS Ground Zero for DC wine tastings!) asking me to organize a wine tasting or class for a group of say maybe 15 people. What’s funny/unfortunate/amazing is that the call is almost always the same – THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A WINE TASTING IS OR WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR!
A wine tasting is an event from the TasteDC perspective – it has a beginning time, an ending time and a theme to fill the middle of the tasting. Say for example, a wine tasting of wine styles: rent a room, supply it with glassware (maybe a little food – cheese, crackers and bread would be nice!), a selection of wines with say three different “styles” (could be anything, but normally it might be light-bodied, medium-bodied and heavy-bodied wines) and put them at their own tables with volunteers pouring the wine..or people could pour their own wine – then we suggest you put out an information tasting sheet on each wine..
- Do you have a Date?
- Do you have a Venue?
- Do you have a wine “theme”?
There are literally thousands of ways to organize a wine tasting! I do want to make note – if you use the term “wine class” that most likely means a seated event with a speaker. Does a wine tasting necessarily need a speaker? No – the simple answer is sometimes (most of the time!) a speaker ads an unnecessary expense to a tasting – speakers charge for their services and the fees range significantly (I start at about $500 per event, but I have other ways to increase my profitability – hey, don’t attendees want a copy of my book “I Drink on the Job” ?
I’m going to write more about what to look for in a wine tasting – both for a private group and for a fun public form of entertainment – keep checking back – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler