Sep 222013
 

Come on Down for the Edible Escape in Marble Falls, Texas

Come on Down for the Edible Escape in Marble Falls on September 29th!

Edible Austin and Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce/CVB Present Edible Escape…”A Texas-style Artisanal Picnic”

On Sunday, September 29, Edible Austin and the Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce/CVB invite Central Texans to enjoy an escape from the city to discover all that Austin’s north and northwest neighbors have to offer. Edible Escape will be hosted at the beautiful Lakeside Pavilion (307 Buena Vista, Marble Falls, TX 78654) overlooking scenic Lake Marble Falls—bringing Edible Austin’s Travel Issue to life and benefiting the Helping Center of Marble Falls.

From 4 – 8 pm, this Texas-style artisanal picnic will allow guests to taste samples from regional chefs and food artisans, enjoy wine from eight featured local wineries and sip specialty cocktails mixed at the Tipsy Texan Cocktail Bar. The event will also feature a chef demonstration by Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen, an artisan demonstration by Sebastien Caillabet of Celtic Seafare and a wine makers panel moderated by Dr. Russell Kane, author of The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine. During the event you can purchase copies of The Wineslinger Chronicles and Russ will available to personalize and autograph his book.

Marshall Ford Swing Band will set the mood with Texan swing-style tunes along with Go Dance offering professional dance lessons to get the crowd moving. Other activities will include a good old-fashioned cowboy boot contest sponsored by Harry’s and some creative painting fun provided by Pinot’s Palatte.

Tickets are on sale at edibleaustin.com/edibleescape. A limited number of Early Bird tickets are $35. Prices will go up to $45 when the Early Bird tickets are all sold out.  Guests must be 21 to attend.

For guests planning to make a weekend out of it, Edible Austin has created a Guide to Marble Falls to help plan a weekend adventure. Guests may also call for room rates available at the LaQuinta Inn & Suites in Marble Falls (830-798-2020).

Chef and Artisan Tastings By: 87BakeShop, Alamo Pecan and Coffee Company, Aquasana, Celtic Seafare, Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Noon Spoon Café, Otto’s German Bistro, Saucy’s Restaurant and Catering, Spiral Horn Apiary, Turtle Restaurant and Veldhuizen Cheese

Wine Tastings By: Brennan Vineyards, Hilmy Cellars, Messina Hof Winery, Pedernales Cellars, Perissos Vineyards, Pontotoc Vineyard, Texas Hills Vineyard and Wedding Oak Winery.

Presenting Sponsor: Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce & CVB

Community Sponsor: Marble Falls Economic Development Council

Click here for more information on this event and for online ticket sales for The Edible Escape.

– — – — –

 Helping Center of Marble Falls Area, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, providing services specifically focused on food, financial support towards utility bills, antibiotics and short-term prescriptions to permanent residents of the southern Burnet County area. Non-residents, homeless and short-term residents can also qualify to receive food, assistance with lodging or other emergency financial support. The Helping Center is not funded through any form of government assistance or grants. Assistance is made possible solely by it’s volunteers and charitable donations from individuals and community organizations.

Edible Austin is a bi-monthly publication celebrating local food and food culture in Central Texas, season by season. Edible Austin is a member of Edible Communities, winner of the James Beard Foundation 2011 Publication of the Year Award and won the 2012 Austin Chronicle’s Readers Poll award for “Best Non-Chronicle Publication.”

 Posted by at 3:47 pm
Mar 292013
 
olivier-houston-duchman

Chef Olivier Ciesielski (photo via L’Olivier Restaurant)

Duchman Winery Dinner at Houston’s L’Olivier Restaurant: High Time for Texas Wines on the Gourmet Scene

A splash of Vermentino on a knee and hearty conversation around well-matched gourmet food and excellent wines made for a lovely evening this week at Houston’s French-inspired, Montrose-area L’Olivier Restaurant. But what if I told you this wasn’t a French wine affair, but rather a Texas wine dinner would you think any different of it?

Well, the consensus if those in attendance was you shouldn’t.  It was a delight. Famed Chef Olivier Ciesielski did his usual best; taking the finest of European cuisine and pairing it with the wine flair from a quite different part of the universe – the world of Texas wines.

L'Olivier-Menu

More specifically, the wines were provided by Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas. Winery owners and fellow Houstonians Stan and Lisa Duchman attended and dined and conversed with friends, associates and the restaurant’s faithful patrons, some of which kept asking if their first wine was a Chardonnay.

OK, after hearing this, I had to take the bait and resurrected the comments I made previously in another winery’s tasting room who was pouring their Texas Viognier to another California Chardonnay drinker.

While on the restaurant’s patio during the reception, I said, “Try it, you’ll like it. It IS Texas Chardonnay! It just happens to be made from Viognier, a grape that does as well here in Texas as Chardonnay does in California.” With that, I saw a cringe from Duchman winemaker Dave Reilly. However, in a flash and with a shared wink, we both smiled knowing that this is how Texas wines will gain new followers…one California Chardonnay drinker at a time.

Dave-Reilly-Duchman

Winemaker, Dave Reilly  (photo via Duchman Family Winery)

During the evening, the Duchmans and Reilly provided point-by-point commentary on their wines along side Chef Olivier’s impeccable gourmet cuisine. On the patio,tThe hand-passed Hors D’Oeuvres accompanied the 2011 Duchman Viognier that showed a lighter, less aggressive style than found in many other Viogniers. Dave used one simple word to describe what he was after in this wine: “finesse”. Implicit in this statement is his working with properly harvested fruit (not over-ripe) and his personal style of providing a light hand in the winery, just as his mentor Mark Penna taught.

Duchman-Verm-Pea-Raviolli

We settled into our seats in the dim light of the restaurant. The serious food and wine pairing began with the Chef’s English Pea Ravioli teamed with the Duchman 2011 Vermentino, pairing herbal characteristics of both while also playing on the counterpoint of fatty pancetta and the white wine’s crisp acidity. Vermentino is a grape widely planted in Sardinia and in the Liguria region of Italy, but this slow ripening white grape has found a new home in Texas. This has mainly come through the initial efforts from Duchman Winery and Texas high plains winegrowers whose efforts have gained critical acclaim at international wine competitions and even from Oz Clarke during his wine sipping trip to Texas.

Next came a new Duchman release: the 2011 Tempranillo accompanied with a sliced veal chop, potato cake and morel sauce. Each was absurdly good separately and also incredibly fine together. Borrowing from Dave’s initial one word statement, this pairing could be characterized simply by the description: finesse on the plate, in the glass and in the mouth.

Duchman-Temp-Veal-Chop

I motioned to Dave to come over and have a seat beside me while I was concentrating on his Tempranillo (this being my first taste of this wine).

I said, “Dave, you know…I find that the people that pointlessly bad-mouth Texas wines the worst are Pinot Noir drinkers. They typically can’t find any Texas wines that satisfy their need for a light/medium bodied, red-fruit dominant wine with crisp acidity escorted with hints of smoke and earthy characteristics.”

I followed this with, “Dave, this Tempranillo’s got it all: red fruit, medium body, crisp acidity, and a light earthy smokiness on the finish. It could score big with that group of yet unsatisfied and potential Texas wine drinkers.”

Over hearing this, Stan Duchman said, “We had our Dolcetto (another well-awarded Duchman red wine) in a blind tasting with one of our tasting groups that was pouring high end Pinots one night. Our wine showed amazingly well, something that later surprised everybody at the tasting when the wines were revealed. Interestingly, the only person that correctly identified our wine out of the cast of high end wines featured that night was my wife Lisa.”

Finishing off the evening of fine dining were a Roquefort terrine and berry compote paired with the Duchman Canto Felice, a mildly sweet red wine. Who said, sweet red wines, can’t be serious? Nobody here. The pairing teamed up sweet red fruit characteristics on the plate and in the glass. The fifth and final course was the Chef’s strawberry soup with a personal favorite, Duchman 2009 Muscat, both of which were bright, lively, tart yet sweet.

– — – — –

stan-and-lisa-duchman

Stan and Lisa Duchman (photo via Duchman Family Winery)

For more information on tours, tastings and events at the Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood TX, click here.

For menu and reservations for Chef Olivier Ciesielski’s L’Olivier Restaurant in the Montrose-area near city center Houston, click here.

LOlivier_Restaurant_Bar

 Posted by at 1:07 pm
Feb 192013
 

Delia-Rodeo-Best-Bites

Houston Uncorking Some Good Rodeo Wines with a Few Best Bites, Too

For the past several years now, come mid-February, the best ticket in H-town has proven to be the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s, Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition. This year’s event was equal to that billing. It was held this past Sunday evening and included thousands of wine and foodie revelers at Reliant Center assembled to sample the top wines from the 2013 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition and to taste and vote on food from some of the area’s best restaurants and caterers.

When my wife and I walked into the hall, the spread was breathtaking in its expanse. I think that I even said….”Wow!” Many of this year’s over two thousand medal-winning wines were present for sampling having been submitted for judging by 943 wineries in Texas, across the United States and around the world. If that wasn’t enough, attendees went from table-to-table tasting and voting on their favorite eats for the Best Bites Competition.

The grand magnitude of this event made it necessary for me to focus. I reviewed the program, circled my intended stops. My attention was primarily on the award-winning Texas wines from the competition. As I have already written (click here), the Texas winners included 246 medals, 178 of which were made with Texas grapes with eight double gold medals and 32 gold medals for Texas wineries. Even focusing on just the medal-winning Texas wines at Sunday’s Best Bites event, it was impossible to sample all of them while trying to make a reasonable attempt to taste a hefty sampling of the bites.

Bonarrigos-MH-Best-Winery

Texas stars of the evening were The Bonarrigo family (Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo and son Paul Mitchell and his wife Karen) whose Messina Hof Winery (in Bryan, TX, and an outpost tasting room and B&B in the hill country) took the 2013 Best Winery Award in the Rodeo’s international wine competition. This gave Messina Hof a grand total of eight saddles garnered over about a decade of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s annual wine competitions. This is a remarkable record for a Texas winery playing on an international stage.

Hou-Rodeo-Best-Bites

After grabbing a taste of the Messina Hof Paulo Cabernet Franc, we moseyed around a bit to sample more bites.  The range of offerings included ceviche, Cajun cuisine, prime rib, beef bourguignon, BBQ, short rib sliders, smoked meats and oysters, and not to forget many cookies and pies. Winners of the best bites competition were:

Popular Choice Award

First Place – Royer’s Round Top Café

Second Place – Jonathan’s The Rub

Two-Stepping Bread/Cheese/Dessert Award

First Place – Mango Caramel from Cacao & Cardamom Chocolates

Second Place – Bread Pudding from Joyce’s Seafood and Steaks

Trailblazing Appetizer/Entrée Award

First Place – Barbecue Short Ribs from Killen’s BBB

Second Place – Mini Pork Crispy Tacos from Molina’s Cantina

Third Place – Short Rib Sliders with Shaved Ham and Debris from Frank’s Americana Revival

Showmanship Award

Catering to Your Tastebuds

Rookie Award

Mango Caramel from Cacao & Cardamom Chocolates

Tasty Traditions Award

Bread Pudding from Joyce’s Seafood and Steaks

Another Texas star in the 2013 Rodeo wine competition was the hill country’s Pedernales Cellars for their 2012 Viognier (the Best Texas Wine judged in the Rodeo wine competition). Equally impressive was the double gold awarded to Range Rider (a multi-vintage blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet from 2008 and 2009 harvests) made by Red Caboose Winery in Meridian, TX. Range Rider has been a favorite of mine since I stopped by there last summer.

These were two of my many stops. Even with that, I unfortunately missed an opportunity to taste wines from Perissos Vineyards near Burnet, TX, another of my favorites. I hear that they poured a great sampling of their Syrah, Petite, Viognier and Roussanne.

I also had a chance met up with Rick Nabor pouring his Flat Creek Estate Pinot Blanc with his typical flair.

Rick-Flat-Creek-P-Blanc

The most interesting observation of the evening was comparing the wine offerings from Texas wineries with those of the large contingent of west coast American wineries (from California, Oregon and Washington) and those from international wineries. Most of the wines poured from California, Oregon and Washington were the standard set: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. As mentioned above, the Texas offerings were lacking in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These are cool weather grapes that are very hard to grow here. What I did find were varietal offerings of Viognier, Roussanne and Muscat for the whites and Tempranillo and a host of red blends leading the way for Texas. In this regard, the Texas wineries were more like Mediterranean wineries present in the event like those from Spain, Portugal, Italy and southern France.

 Posted by at 2:49 pm
Jan 022013
 

Bill-Blackmon-WilliamChris

We Ate Our Black-eyed Peas (And Sampled Some Wine) At William Chris Vineyards

We drove into Fredericksburg on Monday afternoon knowing that cold weather was coming (with some much needed rain) and our car’s battery was weak. But, we made it and celebrated our New Year’s Eve in the comfy confines of our Texas hill country cottage provisioned with delights from Houston’s Central Market: three dozen oysters (to be freshly shucked), a healthy-sized slab sea bass and a bottle of McPherson Cellars (almost-Texas) Sparkling Wine. As you may know, it’s a cuvée made with Texas fruit, but the sparkle is added with a little California Charmant carbon dioxide. By 1 pm yesterday, we drive into Hye to celebrate New Year’s Day by judging a black-eyed pea cooking contest and sampling some wine at William Chris Vineyards.

It was a fun affair lead by winemeisters Chris Brundrett and Bill Blackmon, with live music and at least 7-8 contestants each with a different version of the venerable pea (or is it a bean) of good luck. My favorite was from Contestant #7: a chorizo-laced concoction of spicy black-eyed peas topped with homemade jelly. I dredged my chip into it and my topping of choice was a purple jelly made with Mourvèdre grape. This got all three of my votes.

William-Chris-Blackeyed-Pea

We roamed with other judges, some from near our little hill country homestead. This was the first chance to taste several of the William Chris wines. For starters, both my wife and I had a white blend called Mary Ruth from the 2011 vintage, a blend of Orange Muscat, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc. a
A great off-dry sipper to pair with spicy beans on a chilly January 1st afternoon. Chris pulled me aside and provided a tank sample of an upcoming white wine which was outstanding. I promise to blog more about this when it’s ready for release in about a month from now.

William-Chris-Tasting

The reds were uniquely William Chris in style: not fruit monsters, but medium-bodied wines of finesse driven by terroir (the sense of place – Texas high plains and hill country where the grapes originate) and aromatics that most winemakers long for. All small batch, artistically-done wines. Favorites for the afternoon were:

  • Artist Blend 2010 – Predominantly Mourvedre and Tempranillo driven by red berries and hints of vanilla and spice (everything nice)
  • Emotion 2011 – Another red blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Mouvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon showing lots of character and balanced structure from the Cabernet.

You might find them in a few select restaurants (like Mark’s American Cuisine in the Montrose-district in Houston), but they are not widely distributed. These wines highlight what I talk about in next week’s Texas Wineslinger column – the need to ride Texas wine trails to find the hidden gems. Make your resolution now!

William-Chris-Judges

More pictures and info on this event at:

http://instagram.com/p/T9gGHYLg2o/

https://www.facebook.com/william.chris.vineyards

 Posted by at 10:36 am
Dec 062012
 


TXwine Twitter Tuesday: Join Us Dec. 11th, Chat with Chef Josh Watkins on Texas Wine and Food Holiday Pairings

Happy Holidays everyone!  The holidays are always a fun, busy time of year – and shopping to find the right gift can sometimes be stressful. But there’s no reason to stress over picking out some great Texas wines to pair with holiday favorites! Austin’s Denise Clarke (@DeniseClarkeTX) with Jeff Cope (@txwineLover) and me (@VintageTexas) in Houston welcome you to participate in our December TXwine Twitter Tuesday taste and tweet event.

Chef Josh Watkins at The Carillon Restaurant

Join us for the December 11 at 7 pm Central for TXwine Twitter Tuesday chat when Austin native and Chef Josh Watkins will join us and share some of his favorite Texas wines to pair with a holiday menu.  Watkins (@chefjoshwatkins) is the executive chef at The Carillon Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.  His culinary education combined with his San Francisco and Dallas restaurant experience was a huge plus when he joined the culinary team at the historic Driskill Grill under the tutelage of nationally acclaimed chef David Bull. (Watkins and Bull even teamed up and appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef America).  In 2007, he was named executive chef at the Driskill Grill, which earned a consecutive five-star rating.

Watkins’ passion for farm fresh, ingredient-driven food has earned him significant accolades at The Carillon, one of the highest-rated restaurants in Austin.  Watkins suggests these Texas wines to pair with some of his holiday favorites:

Duchman Family Winery Viognier

  • Celery root-apple soup
  • Spiced apples with brandy syrup

McPherson Cellars Sangiovese

  • Free-raised veal tenderloin with sweet potato hash, and mustard greens with bacon gastrique
  • Beef tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and potato puree
  • Braised beef short ribs with grilled romaine and pickled radish

Fall Creek Vineyards Muscat Canelli*

  • Buttermilk panna cotta
  • Manchester cheese
  • Almond cake

*Fall Creek Vineyards Muscat Canelli is available at The Carillon Restaurant, but is not available in stores. We suggest that you either stop by the restaurant or try Messina Hof Winery Muscat Canelli (Tribute to Innocence) which is available in stores around Texas.

Make sure to pick up these wines to ring in the holiday season and to chat with Josh about pairing wines with food! Look for these wines at Spec’s, Kroger, HEB, Central Market or Total Wine or the wineries. Try a recipe or two and some wine/food pairing. Get some advice from the chef.

Here’s how you participate:  If you don’t already have one, just sign up for a free Twitter account at www.twitter.com. Go to the Tweetchat room set up for #TXwine (http://tweetchat.com/room/TXwine). No registration is required; you can login using your Twitter account info. In the Tweetchat room, participants are invited to follow tweets, add comments or tasting notes and share thoughts as participants taste and discuss the wines. On TweetChat the hastag will be added automatically. If using TweetDeck or another Twitter application, you will need to add #TXwine in your Tweets.

This month we are also going to be posting to Facebook before, during and after the event.  Click here and login and follow, post and discuss on Facebook.

 Posted by at 2:37 pm
Oct 082012
 

Lucille’s Restaurant in Houston’s Museum District

Texas Wines Being Served at Lucille’s Houston

Alerted to an impending change in the wine list at Chef Chris Williams’ museum district Lucille’s Restaurant, my wife and I stopped by early last Saturday evening for dinner. Because Lucille’s culinary roots date back to Chef Williams great-grandmother, Lucille Bishop Smith, and her widely acclaimed Chili Biscuits, we already knew one of two things we had to order. The other mandate for the evening was to select a Texas wine or two from the newly constructed wine list that features the wines from Lubbock’s CapRock Winery.

Lucille’s Chili Biscuits

Having visited the restaurant’s online menu, my wife had her dinner selection pegged prior to our arrival: braised oxtails, fingerling potatoes, caponata and braising jus. I wasn’t quite so fixated by one dish, but finally decided on an equally savory selection: Shrimp and grits, andouille, sherry tomato broth and stone mill grits.

As we awaited out selections, I asked for a wine list expecting to peruse a selection of Texas wines from CapRock Winery. But, search as I may, CapRock’s wines were no where to be found on the list.

Then, I summoned our waiter to to the table and inquired about the supposed missing wines. When I said that I thought the restaurant served Texas wines the waiter said, “We do. We just haven’t had time to change the wine list, yet. We should have our new wine list printed when we open next Tuesday.”

Shrimp & Grit ala Lucille’s

Then, we were offered a selection of three CapRock wines: CapRock Roussanne, a white unoaked wine from this Rhone varietal; CapRock Rosé of Grenache brandishing its trademark deep red-purple color; CapRock Merlot offering a medium bodied, well rounded red wine experience.

My wife selected the Rosé and I went with the Roussanne. The rest of the evening was a mélange of delight including the cuisine, the wine and later the fresh night air of Fall in Houston as appreciated from a small, sleek two-seater convertible.

Lucille’s Restaurant – The inside

 Posted by at 4:29 pm
Sep 152012
 

It’s Time to Put Their Money Where Your Mouth Is – 2012 Austin Food & Wine Alliance Grant Applications

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance will award three (3) grants (1 at $10,000 and 2 at $5,000) to selected organizations and/or individuals for the purpose of culinary innovation that contributes to the Austin and/or Central Texas community.

Grant Eligibility

Grant recipients must meet the following criteria:

  • Food and beverage artisans, producers, culinary professionals or represent a culinary/food-focused non profit serving the Austin and/or Central Texas community
  • Must be located in Central Texas (within in the following counties) – Bastrop, Bexar, Blanco, Burleson, Burnet, Caldwell, Comal, Gillespie, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hays, Kerr, Kendall, Lampasas, Lee, Llano, Mason, Travis and Williamson
  • Must demonstrate how the grant will be used for culinary innovation in their respective fields (including wine, beer, spirits and food industry)
  • Represent fiduciary responsibility and transparency
  • Must follow the reporting and accountability guidelines
  • Attend Grant Awards ceremony on December 12, 2012
  • Agree to participate in PR initiatives to promote AFWA & Grant Program
  • Agree to AFWA website presence and mutual promotion of AFWA & grant program
  • Must provide three (3) written reference letters as to why organization or individual should receive an AFWA grant and detail the reference’s relationships with the organization and/or individual

– — – — –

All applications must be received or postmarked by midnight, October 19, 2012.

Recipients and non-recipients will be notified no later than November 30, 2012.

Grants will be awarded at a ceremony on December 12, 2012 at AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

For questions, contact Mariam@AustinFoodWineAlliance.org

Click here to download the AFWA grant announcement press release.

– — – — –

Mission of the AFWA….The Austin Food & Wine Alliance is non-profit organization* dedicated to fostering awareness and innovation in the Central Texas culinary community through grants, educational programming and events. Guided by an all-volunteer board of directors and committees made up of culinary-and-community-minded professionals, the Alliance’s commitment is to promote Texas food, wine, spirits and craft brews and to increase appreciation of Texas’ culinary impact.

 Posted by at 12:19 pm
Aug 042012
 

Narin’s Bombay Brasserie Wine Dinner: It’s Time to Set Aside Some of the Old Rules, Get Some New

When asked how does Indo-Asian wine pairing compare to the meat-dominated western approaches (e.g. red meat, red wine; white meat, white wine), Narin Sehgalm owner of Narin’s Bombay Brasserie in Houston Texas responded very matter of factually…

He said, “Western cuisine and meats, however innovatively they’re prepared, have unwritten rules about which varietal wines go best. Indian cuisine is very different, so you are able to play more with the pairings.”

And, play they did on a sweltering mid-week evening at Narin’s Bombay Brasserie located in Houston’s Galleria district. As my wife and I entered the restaurant, it was obvious that wine dinners were a frequent and fun feature Narin’s establishment. The crowd was already assembling around a massive table in a banquet room. People were milling about, greeting friends from previous wine dinners. One guested asked us if this was our first Narin wine dinner, then said without a pause, “You’re going to love this. The food is superb but different and the wines are always an unexpected pleasure. Oh yes, and there is no shortage of wine, too.”

Those familiar with my eclectic tastes know that I’m always up for something different when it comes to wine and food. Afterall, I’m big time into Texas wine, and if that wasn’t different enough for you, I’ve sampled clay pot wines and paired my Tokyo store bought Japanese dinner with French Beaujolais on the night of the Beaujolais Nouveau.   This evening, all it took to get me here was the call to dine on gourmet Indian cuisine and have the food paired with a selection of fine European wines. And, at $65 per person, it was a good value, as well.

While we hadn’t been to these wine dinners before, my wife and I know Narin’s Bombay Brasserie very well. We’ve often found their lunch buffet a true delight of fresh and aromatic northern Indian cuisine…that usually leave us ready for a mid-afternoon nap. There, Sanjay Sehgal serves as manager and Executive Chef Gary Grewal have reeled in “excellent” ratings and “top Indian Restaurant” accolades from both the local and national press.  Their evening’s wine and cuisine was designed for enjoyment:

First Course – Marinated Beet and Roasted Walnut Cornucopia (wine – Chateau d’Aqueria Tavel Rosé, Rhone Valley, France)

I commented that evening that this pairing was all about color – the red in the beet and the joyous red color of the Rosé wine, but then followed by the earthy characteristics of the beet and the minerally character of the wine.

Second Course – Lobster Samosa with Ginger Tamarind Sauce (wine – La Craie Vouvray, Loire Valley, France)

This pairing was my wife’s favorite especially from the standpoint of the wine (French Chenin Blanc) that was slightly off-dry (not overly sweet) all balanced with crisp acidity that integrated well with the Asian cream sauce. Evidently, Narin liked my photo because it’s now on his Facebook page (like here). I call it…Narin’s Lobsta Samosa!

Third Course – Artichoke Chicken Mushroom Cannelloni  (wine – Antinori Bramito del Cervo Chardonnay, Umbria, Italy)

By the third course, those of us around the table were all good friends with our conversations gaining in volume and punctuated with laughter. The delicious artichoke-chicken-mushroom filled cannelloni and cream sauce were made for Chardonnay, but not just any big oaky Chard. This Chardonnay was just like the Italians like it: clean, restrained and exuding mouthwatering acidity.

With this wine and food pairing in mind, Narin relating some of his Indo-Asian wine insights. He said, “Matching wine with Indian cuisine can sometimes be a little bit difficult because of the complexities and strength of the spices and aromas in Indian ingredients. You don’t want to overpower the wine or vise-versa. That’s why it’s such a unique and exquisite experience when done right.” To this, all I could add was that I agreed.

Fourth Course – Savory Indian Squash Roll & Stuffed Creamy Nutty Lamb (wine – Tormaresca Torcicoda Primitivo, Puglia, Italy)

In this course we were getting into a serious red wine, but again one that had old-world charm and balance. In this case, we were drinking Primotivo (the Italian equivalent of Zinfandel but without the brawny bold biceps – an alcohol level – of a California Zin). The tantalizing red fruit in the Primotivo added bright notes against the lamb dish.

Fifth Course – Chocolate Ravioli with Indian Rabri Sauce (wine – Tenuta Polvaro Dulcis, Veneto, Italy)

The dessert paired well with the fruity sweet wine with scents of flowers, honey and vanilla. But, you know what, I held back my red wine from the previous course. Despite the fact that some wine experts don’t recommend dry red wine and chocolate desserts, this was a fine pairing, too. The sweetness of this particular dessert was muted; the red berries provided the linkage to the ruby red color and red fruit in this dry red wine. The pairing of these two disparate wine with the dessert illustrates how many incalculable options there are in wine and food pairing. If you include Indo-Asian cuisine, the options appear infinite.

After the event, Narin reminded me that Indian cuisine is all about blending different and often very potent spices. Often spicy and sweet come on the same plate. Therefore, the varietal type of the wine really depends on each specific dish.

For typical spicy Indian dishes, like Narin’s  Lamb Vindaloo or tandoori meats, he says that sweeter or fruitier wines such as Riesling or Chenin Blanc accompany well. Red wines are often difficult to pair because their tannic or bitter qualities run counter to many of the Indian flavors. However, creamy dishes such as Narin’s tangy Chicken Tikka Masala pairs well with red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir.

Well, so much for red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat. I’ll make sure to remember a few of Narin’s new wine pairing rules…and his upcoming wine dinners, too.

 Posted by at 2:13 pm
Jul 212012
 

Whitehall Lane Wine Dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse Houston: The Palate Dance

I will have to acknowledge that for Whitehall Lane Winery presented last Thursday evening, the Frog’s Leap wine dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in May was a hard act to follow. For that event, everything seemed to hit on all cylinders: the wine, the food, the service, and the dark ambiance of Sullivan’s party room.

But, at this event, right out of the box the combined forces of Whitehall Lane Winery & Vineyards, the cuisine of Sullivan’s Chef Teli Trikilis and Sous Chef Horacio Degante, and the wine service lead by Sommelier, Kristie Farmer, hit it out of the park. Right now you’re probably saying, “With what? Was it a big, bold and brawny Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon? Was it a deep, dark and mellow Napa Merlot? Or possibly, a Carneros barrel fermented Chardonnay?” Wrong, wrong and wrong, again! Getting great palate-popping Cab, Merlot and Chard from Napa Valley has become no surprise, at least for me.

Whitehall Lane’s first wine at Sullivan’s called my attention back to what is now a reoccurring theme of northern California wine tastings that I have attended during the past year; not once, twice or three times. It’s been four times now that I’ve been surprisingly impressed with the sleeper wine of the region: Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. At this event, it was the Whitehall Lane 2010 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (9% Semillon added for body, partial barrel fermented for mouthfeel, aroma and complexity). It was crisp and refreshing, really hitting the spot on that humid Houston night.

In fact, last year the San Francisco Chronicle called out the Ten Best Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs and Whitehall Lane’s was in the pack. They said, “2010 Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($16, 13%): A lean, fresh effort from this St. Helena name that shows off its charming dry-grass presence – hay and apricot skin aromas, with a mineral edge to ripe lemon fruit.” This wine is not in competition with the intensely “grapefruity” New Zealand wines. It is more a step back into time and place of central France – the classic wines of Sancerre and Graves. My hat’s off to winemaker Dean Sylvester and thanks to special guest Edd Lopez for making a stop back in his old stomping grounds of Houston, Texas, to present the wines.

One last point that needs to be made is the great food pairings by Chefs Trikilis and Degante in each and every course, but particularly the fine accompaniment to the Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc. With a wine of this finesse, it would have been easy to overshadow the wine with the passed appetizers. But, their creations were both flavorful, yet in balance and complementary with this wine. Shrimp on Grit Cakes (with tomato basil and balsamic reduction) and Togarashi Tuna on Cucumber (with chipotle lime aioli) worked their magic. Both the wine and appetizers did their palate dance to my delight, as well as in the following courses of the dinner.

 Posted by at 2:49 pm
Jul 042012
 

Houston’s Finest: L’Olivier Hosts Château la Nerthe Tasting

I jumped at the chance to sample the cuisine of acclaimed executive chef Olivier Ciesielski for Tony’s restaurant fame now in his own L’Olivier Restaurant & Bar with partner Mary Clarkson in the heart of Houston’s Montrose district. Equally appealing was the chance to revisit the wines of Château la Nerthe that I have admired since my visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape almost a decade ago. It was an evening that focused on the artistry of the kitchen woven into a tapestry with the artistry of time and “le vignoble de pierres et le Pape”. My comment of le vignoble de pierres (or the vineyard of stones) is obvious if you have every walked the la Nerthe vineyard or even if you have Googled a picture of it.

The evening’s tastings took me back to a 2003 trip to the south of France. On that trip, I had my first experience with the chock-full-of-rocks estate vineyard and wines of Chateau la Nerthe, one of the most highly-regarded properties in the region. In fact, Château la Nerth has a deep connection to Texas being one of the first chateaus in France to replant with American rootstock following the widespread phylloxera vineyard disaster of the 1800’s. The rootstock that saved many French and European vineyards was from Texas wild grapevines sent by T.V. Munson of Denison, Texas.

Doc Russ, Texas Wineslinger sans gray hair!

A glass of Prieuré de Montézargues Rosé from nearby French region of Tavel AOC welcomed and refreshed me on my arrival at L’Olivier. The pleasantly tart red berry characteristics of this wine fit so well into my memories of southern France. After the first sip, I confirmed that this wine also fits quite well, better than most libations, right here on a sweaty summer evening in Houston.

From there, the fare was ceviche done with L’Olivier flair and two white Rhone blends, la Nerthe’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 and its single vineyard, Clos de Beauvenir 2009. The latter lingered with lemon drop, crisp acidity and the classic minerally character featuring Roussanne, the dominant blending grape and classic grape variety of the southern Rhône Valley.

After repartee from our hosts, presenter’s comments from Christophe Bristiel (Ex. Manager, Château la Nerthe) and two quaffable and quite enjoyable red wines (Domaine de Renjarde Cote du Rhône Village Rouge and La Petite Fontaine Cote du Rhône Rouge), the main players of the evening were on the table. In a blink on an eye we were into the serious red wines of the southern Rhône region: the la Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2008 and the classic Cuvee des Cadettes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005. The wines were expertly decanted and prepared by sommelier James Watkins over two hours prior. The Cuvee des Cadettes was striking by its deep purple color, full body and overall balance, well appointed with an overlay of aromatic spice, vanilla extract, game and leather. There was almost too much in the glass to behold and appreciate.

I think that you can tell, it was a night not be forgotten any time soon. If not, please read more comments from Tanji Patton (click here).

P.S. For those that following VintageTexas for tips on where to find Texas wine, don’t overlook our “In the hood” French restaurant L’Olivier. They feature Duchman Family Winery’s Vermentino, Viognier and Sangiovese.

L’Olivier Restaurant & Bar
240 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006
Phone :   713.360.6313

 

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 Posted by at 2:48 pm