Archive for Food and Wine

Apr
30

Wine & “Small” Plates part 2

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More “small” plates & wine thoughts at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas……..

17Panko Crusted Mongo Cuttlefish with Asian caponata

WINE:  2012 CF Muller Thurgau–we needed a high toned, minerally pure, precise, highly refined white for this dish.  This one is crafted exclusively for us by Paul Furst of Franconia, Germany.  16

Crab Salad with grapefruit, cucumbers & pickled wasabi 

WINE:  2013 Birichino Malvasia Bianca–this winery made quite a big leap in quality with the transition from 2012 to 2013.  They were able to source some malvasia grown in limestone soiled vineyards, which apparently added minerality & ethereal-ness to the blend.  Furthermore, this wine’s innate aromatics just heightens the dish’s nuances in quite a magical way.

08Charred Waialua Asparagus with home-made mahimahi flakes, shredded ginger & a miso sauce

WINE: 2008 Gysler Silvaner Medium Dry “Estate”–in the old days, one would not consider pairing a wine with asparagus.  It is still quite the challenge.  We instead, therefore, look for an appropriate wine based upon its gulpability, meaning aptly wash the morsels down WHILE keeping the palate fresh & clean between bites.  A few years ago in Alsace, I truly re-discovered the food friendly merits of the Silvaner grape variety.  While it may not be the noblest of grape varieties, it does work wonders with a myriad of foods.  This one comes from Germany’s Rheinhessen region & has a tiny bit of age to round out its once upon a time hard edges.  07

 

Sliced Sous Vide of Vintage New York with mushroom medley, lemongrass scallion relish & kaffir lime butter

WINE:  2012 CF Riesling Medium Dry “Euro-Asian”–don’t let this dish fool you.  We find an off-dry Riesling to work best, especially because of the finely chopped picked wasabi top-ginger-scallion relish.  This particular Medium Dry Riesling is grown on steep, red slates hillsides in the Rheinhessen’s Nackenheim & Nierstein vineyards, right on the Rhein River.  It is crafted by Fritz Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch exclusively for our DK Restaurants & seemingly tailor made for dishes like this!

 06Okinawan Soba with spare ribs, grilled Tokyo negi, red ginger & truffle oil (not pictured here is the pork broth)

WINE: 2012 Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rose–when most tasters see the words Pinot Noir coupled with the word rose, they have visions of a pink, completely fruit driven wine.  That is not the case here.  Because of the extreme marine soils & metamorphic rock composition of the vineyards AND the close proximity to the extremely cold Atlantic Ocean nearby, this delicious rose is remarkably light, ethereal & minerally.  So much so, that in a blind tasting, one would be hard pressed to guess the grape variety used in its production.  This wine therefore is light enough for this dish & ethereal enough not to clash with its oriental components.

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Apr
25

Wine & “Small” Plates 04-20-14

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We looked to taste advantage of Easter Sunday at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, to do another night of “small” plates served on a cart.  Not only are the small plates tasty & craete an opportunity to try a bunch of different tastes, it is also a golden opportunity to try out different wine pairings too.  Here are some to think about–

14Somen “Nicoise” Saladyukari seared ahi, quail egg, Kalamata olives, haricot vert, grape tomatoes & soy sesame vinaigrette

WINE: 2006 Milz Riesling Medium Dry “180 degrees”–we needed a slightly aged (8 years old), ever-so slightly off dry Riesling, because of the slightly sweet & slightly salty sesame vinaigrette.  It is amazing what a little age will do to a wine like this!12

Seared Scallopserved on a bed of seaweed salad with Shinsato pork broth & wasabi-XO ragout

WINE:  2007 Theo Minges Riesling Medium Dry “Estate”–Minges is from the Pfalz region of Germany & his wines therefore have a little bit more round-ness, which we needed for the pork broth, with just enough sweetness to take off the salty edge created by the XO sauce which is mixed in.  13

Home-made Squid Ink Linguine with deep fried Kauai Shrimp, Manila clams, calamari & Asian Clam jus

WINE:  2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY–this 2012 Wirsching Scheurebe has a real lemongrass, green thing permeating through the minerality & lime-citrus character which mixes in well with the galanghal & lemongrass components fused in with the Asian clam jus.  Plus the wine’s crisp, lime fresh edge keeps the palate cleansed & refreshened between bites.

Seared Kampachi with pancetta risotto & English pea broth  11

WINE: 2012 Champalou Vouvray “Sec”–is an absolutely riveting, minerally, remarkably light & ethereal white wine from France’s Loire Valley.  We find the wine’s minerality very compelling & adds to the refreshing edge of this wine.  Furthermore, as we have noted in the past, these aromatic white wines really help to heighten vegetable & fresh herb character of dishes like this.

15Yukari Mochi with ume sauce

WINE: Filippo Gallino Birbet–is a fizzy, wonderfully fruity, low alcohol RED wine produced from the Brachetto grape variety, which is grown in this case in Roero, Italy.  (The same grape variety grown in between the towns of Asti & Alba in the more famous regions of Piemonte, which follow the appropriate governmental restrictions, can be labeled as Brachetto d’Acqui).  In many instances, however, I prefer the Birbet, because it is more joyous, unpretenious & fun lovin’!  This is one of those occasions.

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Apr
09

Thoughts on Wine 04-08-14

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It wasn’t that long ago when Hawaii’s best restaurants featured foods from Europe, especially France.   That was significantly changed when a group of 12 chefs, founded HRC (Hawaii Regional Cuisine).

From that day the concept of “fine” dining & high level foods changed.  For HRC chefs like Roy Yamaguchi & Alan Wong (& later on “new generation” chefs such as my partner DK Kodama) their foods often feature a real dynamic Asian flair.

In terms of wine, this created an incredible, new learning opportunity of pairing wines to foods.

From the classical French cream and butter sauces, we now had to, for example, consider what worked with shrimp served with a contemporary spin off of the pungent Chinese black bean sauce for one and a hoisin marinated duck for the other.

As one can see, this was a whole ‘nother ball game.

From all of this came three interesting revelations.

The first was the realization that different kinds of foods call for different kinds of wines.  The wine most apropos for a fish with a rich, classic French cream or butter sauce would not be, at least for me, as compatible with a salty, slightly sweet teriyaki glaze.

It became clearer as time went by & much experimentation that with salty, spicy and/or sweet

Asian inspired foods, off-dry to slightly sweet, fruit driven, lower alcohol wines, like German Riesling, seem to work well.  And on the red wine side, more elegant, really delicious, wonderfully textured, minimally oaked with no hard edges, especially from grapes such as Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir, were more advantageous.  These kinds of wines were less confrontational with the strong characteristics of Asian foods.

Then, when our restaurant group (for more info, go to www.dkrestaurants.com) opened VINO, with its contemporary Italian/Mediterranean foods, we again had to go back to rethinking pairing wines with the foods.  We learned that with rustic, heartier foods with so many earthy characteristics from tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, roasted peppers & fennel, we needed more rustic, earthy, higher acidic wines more common to the Mediterranean basin.  For white wines, this included grape varieties such as Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Vermentino from Sardegna & Liguria, Moschofilero from Greece and Albarino from Spain.  On the red wine side, we sought out indigenous grapes such as Sangiovese from Tuscany, Tempranillo from Spain and Mourvedre, Syrah & Grenache from southern France.

From all of this came the (second) realization that there are thousands of different grape varieties available in the world.  Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Merlot are but four.  To truly enjoy myself why would I want to limit myself to just a few?  Just as with dining, why would I want to eat only Chinese food and miss the diversity and pleasure of what Italian or Korean and/or Mexican food has to offer.

Since taste is so subjective & personal, let me close with the third realization…..the real fun of it all is experimentation.  There are no wrongs or rights and there should be no judgments.  Enjoying food (and wine) should be just that….enjoying.

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Mar
14

Food & Wine 03-12-14

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We continue with the fun filled journey of pairing foods & wines.

234

“In House” Smoked Shinsato Pork with Hau’ula tomatoes, sliced Maui onions & lemon-fish sauce  (Keith Endo, VINO)

2012 Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rose–this is marvelous, light, airy Pink wine from the Muscadet region of France’s Loire Valley.  It wasn’t that long ago, when we were lucky to get 2 or 3 vintages out of every ten which would ripen the grapes.  Imagine!!!!…today now Pinot Noir!!!!  This rose gives the dish a real uplifting, palate cleansing fruitiness between bites.  MFP Beet Salad

Roasted Beet, Avocado & Surfing Goat cheese “Salad” (Ivan Pahk, Maui Fish & Pasta)

2012 Champalou Vouvray Sec–I have tasted a fair share of Vouvray over the years, but I always seem to come back to Champalou’s Sec, as that is home for me!  I just love the deftly crafted sweet sour tug of war this bottling masterfully features year in & year out.  I also adore this wine’s riveting minerality & amazing lightness & ethereal-ness.  It really is like no other!  It makes this dish just come alive, especially with the fresh herbs gently sprinkled on top.  MFP Parppadelle Pasta

Home-made Papardelle with wild mushrooms (Ivan Pahk, Maui Fish & Pasta)

2012 Drew Albarino “Anderson Valley”–who doesn’t love a more classic styled of Pasta once in a while?  Yes, one could readily pair this wine some kind of Chardonnay.  But if you want magic, I suggest a more aromatic white wine.  This one especially connects with the potpourri of fresh herbs sprinkled on top at the last moment before serving.  Just it uplifts the flavors & remarkably counters the dish’s richness.   238

Kula Strawberries with miso vinaigrette & micro arugula (Keith Endo, VINO)

2011 Filippo Gallino Birbet–in Piemonte, Italy between the towns of Asti & Alba, top caliber Brachetto wines can be labled as Brachetto d’Acqui.  Yes….& this is fastly growing wine category in terms of popularity.  I therefore also see the price quickly rising as well.  In Roero, this style of slightly sweet, fizzy, deliciously fruity Brachetto wines are called Birbet.  It does wonders with the smoked miso & especially the strawberries.  Boy, this was a fun pairing!!!

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Mar
08

Food & Wine 03-07-14

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One of the most interesting aspects of the restaurant industry is pairing wine to food.  The very complex matrix of understanding how they interact is really totally fascinating & compelling to say the least.  I am so lucky to work with a group of chefs who are continuously churning out new foods.  Here are some of the most recent–

MFP Tomato SaladFresh Island Tomato, stuffed with Surfing Goat cheese & served with baby arugula & a balsamic drizzle (Chef Partner Ivan Pahk, Maui Fish & Pasta)

2010 Gysler Silvaner Halbtrocken–most aficionados of fine German wine, would wince with the word Silvaner.  In fact, one lady the other night shared her real distain for the Silvaner grape variety.  Still, I distinctly remember dining at a restaurant & trying a myriad of wines/different grape varieties  with all kinds of foods & being the food friendliness of Silvaner.  In short, it may not be a noble grape variety, but good ones certainly have a place at the dinner table.  We needed a hint of sweetness to the wine, because of the innate fruitiness of the tomato & the saltiness of the goat cheese.  Silvaner seems to work well with earthy dishes like this.    230235

(On the right)–Bruschetta with porcini-olive tapenade, roasted peppers & sunny side quail egg. (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

(On the left)–Fresh Burrata with crab & charred tomatoes (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

2012 Domaine Skouras “Zoe“–this is a “quietly” exotic, absolutely delicious white wine from the Peloponnese of southern Greece.  We love these kind of aromatic wines (in this case of Roditis & Moschofilero) with these kinds of foods.  It really does heighten the earthy flavors & help top wash it down.  236237

(On the left)–Kampachi Crudo, with avocado puree, chili pepper water aioli & ogo  (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

(On the right)–Curried Cauliflower with truffled aioli & pickled Maui onions  (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

2012 Birichino Malvasia Bianca–here is another example of a terrific, wonderfully food friendly “aromatic” white wine.  You really can have alot of fun with these kinds of wines with a whole myriad of foods.  The real challenge is finding good ones.  231

Lobster “Roll” with baby arugula pesto & cole slaw (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY– by reputation, Hans Wirsching is the top producer of the Franconia region of Germany.  (I would also add Rudolf Furst).  Wirsching excels in dry white wines, which in this case is light, airy & iressistable.  It also scores high on the gulp-ability scale.  233

Duck Confit with home-made linguine, XO sauce & Sumida Farms watercress

2012 CF Euro-Asian Riesling Medium Dry–in case you are not familar, the XO sauce is some kind of scallop reduction–salty & full of dried scallop character, which is why we are pairing it with a medium dry Rheinhessen Riesling, which was crafted by Fritz Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch.  It certainly can stand up to the duck with enough sweetness to offset the XO sauce & still keep the palate fresh & alive between bites.

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“NEW AGE” KAISEKI MENU

JANUARY 28, 2014

1 Mekajiki Carpaccio

first course

Mekajiki Carpaccio–sesame oil-chive relish, chili pepper water vinaigrette, micro greens and truffle oil

 wine:  Birichino Malvasia Bianca  2 Island Tako

 second course

Braised Island Tako–seaweed salad, yuzukoshu, shiso and yuzu vinaigrette

wine: Gysler Silvaner Medium Dry  3 Papaya and Foie Gras

third course

Marinated Island Papaya & Seared Foie Gras–green papaya, sweet Thai chili and Thai basil chiffonade

wine: Elio Perrone Bigaro  4 Surf and Turf

 

fourth course

“Surf and Turf” 

oxtail chawan mushi spoon & Kauai shrimp with Chinese five spice dust

5 Kampachififth course

Crispy Skin Kampachi–saffron- kaffir lime broth, crab salad, Manila clam and micro shiso and lemongrass

wine:  Domaine Skouras “Zoe”

 6 Pork - Mapo Tofu

sixth course

“Mapo Pork & Pork Tofu”–Shinsato Farms Pork shoulder, local wild pig and Mrs. Cheng’s tofu

wine:  CF Euro-Asian Riesling Medium Dry

7 SV Beefseventh course

Sous Vide of Kulana Beef –miso glaze, yukari, pickled wasabi tops-cauliflower puree, roasted vegetables & scallion pesto pasta

wine: Chateau Fontanes “Coteaux du Languedoc”

 8 Chazuke

eighth course

Pepper Seared Ahi Chazuke-ikura, house made tsukemono and truffled green tea broth

9 Bavarois Dessertsweet course

Kaffir Lime Lemongrass Bavarois–coconut anglaise, pineapple sorbet & Surinam cherry streak

 WINES

One of the things I have learned more & more about over the years is understanding, when pairing wines with foods, is the window of opportunity is much bigger, when one approaches with wines more “country-ish” is style.  Meaning, we don’t need lots of alcohol, we don’t need lots of oak, or declassified Auslese.  What we need is for the wines to be delicious, lighter bodied, well balanced & gulpable.   Save the trophy wines for another day.

In the case of dealing with Asian inspired foods, we have to adjust even more.  Fruit, fruit, fruit…..lightness….lower, more moderate alcohol & UN-oaky, UN-bitter.

With that spirit in mind, here are the pairings for this Kaiseki.

 

Birichino Malvasia Bianca–A VERY aromatic, DRY, amazingly light bodied, wonderfully food friendly white wine. 

GRAPE: Malvasia

ORIGIN: Monterey

WINEMAKER: John Locke (former, long time winemaker at Bonny Doon)

We have found such aromatic grape varieties really connect with the herbs in dishes like this.  BOTH highly brighten a dish.  This version also has a distinct lime-edge to it which keep the palate alive & fresh with each bite.

 

Gysler Silvaner Medium Dry

GRAPE: Silvaner

ORIGIN: Rheinhessen (red sandstone—converting to biodynamic farming)

WINEMAKER: Alexander Gysler

The octopus dish has slight sweetness, saltiness & a subtle pinch of heat, which is why we needed some residual sweetness in the wine in addition to lower alcohol in the finish.  Another important factor to consider….is this style is much more light & “country” ish….rather than being beefed up with declassified Spatlese or Auslese, which some people say is because of Global Warming & the regularity of warm vintages & ripe grapes.  We didn’t need star power for this dish, just food friendliness

 

Elio Perrone Bigaro

GRAPE: Brachetto & Moscato

ORIGIN: Piemonte

WINEMAKER:  Stefano Perrone

Because this is a foie gras dish, we felt we needed some sweetness to the pairing.  In the old days, people looked to French Sauternes.  For me, that is like 2 Sumo wrestlers going at it.  How would one follow such a pairing?  Here is a fruity wine, which is an innovative blend of Brachetto (red) & Moscato (white), which would be like fresh fruit with the foie gras.

 

Domaine Skouras “Zoe”

GRAPE: Roditis & Moschofilero

ORIGIN: Nemea, Peloponnese, Greece

WINEMAKER: George Skouras

Here is yet another wonderfully aromatic “country” styled white wine.  George Skouiras is Burgundy trained & is leading the charge in Greece to contemporize the wine movement in his country.  In this case, he combines 2 indigenous grape varieties which he ferments in stainless steel to retain the aromatics (jasmine & mint nuances) & innate liveliness of the wine—to create something light, delicious & gulpable…..ideal with fish & seafood dishes.

 

CF Euro-Asian Riesling Medium Dry

GRAPE: Riesling

ORIGIN: Rheinhessen (red slate soils)

WINEMAKER: Fritz Hasselbach

This is a collaborative wine project with Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch.  In the beginning, Fritz would send me bottles of different cuvees, & I would make a blend while sitting at the bar & using a jigger.  I would then forward the “recipe” back to him.  The different lots were from his 3 main top echelon vineyard holdings—Nackenheimer Rothenberg, Niersteiner Pettenthal & Niersteiner Hipping.  The blend would change every year.  After, we got into a groove, there was no need to go back & forth, as Fritz would just send me a bottle of what he knew we were looking for.  Because of a very long string of warm vintages, however, the wines started rising in bitterness & alcohol levels.  Last year, Cheryle & I returned to look at adjusting the recipe.  For the 2011, Fritz allowed us to belend in 15% Auslese (7.5 alcohol) to balance it better.  For 2012, we asked if he would raise the yields.  The bottom line…..the wines have never been better.  This wine with the food, would be like biting into a cold pineapple, which would counter the heat or saltiness while cooling & soothing the palate between bites.

 

Chateau Fontanes “Coteaux du Languedoc”

GRAPE: 40% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault & 10% Carignane

ORIGIN: Pic St Loup, Languedoc

WINEMAKER: Cyriaque Rozier

Because this meat dish has some oriental-ness to it, we did NOT want a heavy red, nor one with much oak, alcohol & grand-ness.  The wine had to have flavor & intensity without showiness.   We also want to serve this wine cool (65 to 70 degrees).

We first met Cyriaque at his day job, running Chateau La Roque.  Cheryle & I just fell in love with this young couple, their 2 kids & their vision of wine.  “Rozier first started his domaine in 2003, and undertook the ultimate labor of love in the Languedoc—planting a vineyard. For many years, this plot of land was best known for olive trees, until the great frost of 1956 decimated groves by the hundreds. The land is hard as a rock, quite literally, and composed primarily of limestone and clay. To plant a vineyard here is a game of patience and incredibly hard work. Over the last few years, Cyriaque has been slowly building stone terraces to better protect this challenging terrain from erosion. In addition, he has taken to farming biodynamically, a noble task that forgoes the shortcuts that most vignerons have at their disposal today in favor of producing organic grapes in a rich, healthy soil. In total, he works 4.5 hectares, which are planted with forty-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines, as well as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault. He cannot help but love his plantings, as the original cuttings for his vines were all selected from his favorite domaines in Côte-Rôtie, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Bandol.

Being rebellious seems to come naturally to a man of such innate talent, and the elegance of his wines are proof enough in a region where bigger is often considered better. Make no mistake, raw terroir and spicy garrigue abound in these wines, with rich, juicy fruit and silky tannins”.

 

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Dec
17

Food & Wine

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Pairing wines & foods can be such fun!  Here are some of our latest examples.babc5

On the Left, we have Sous Vide of Kuahiwi Beef “Poke”….& on the Right, Kampachi Roll-a-Tini, both from Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas (Chef John Iha & Doug Fujii respectively).  The wine we chose is the Oroya, a dry, amazingly light & crisp white wine from Spain.  This highly innovative wine is produced from 3 indigenous Spanish grape varieties & crafted by Japanese national Yoko Sato specifically with contemporary Japanese foods in mind.  The wine’s innate minerality & citrus like edge just heigthened the foods, like a fresh squeeze of lemon would.  We also loved how this wine was delicious, light bodied & gulpable by itself.  Sadly, this wine is NOT produced any more.  babc7 

 This is one of Chef John Iha’s new dishes in Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas–Braised Octopus with shishito peppers, charred tomatoes & a smoked miso dressing.  The ideal wine would be a slightly aged German Riesling, such as the 2001 Künstler Kabinett “Hochheimer Reichestal”.   First of all, Gunter Künstler is one of the Rheingau’s top, New Age winemakers.  His Hochheim Rieslings have lots of depth, earthy & base notes & are much more forward in style, which is what we needed for the meatiness of the braised octopus.  The wine’s once apparent sweetness has now changed into a more tactile creaminess which works much better with the smoked miso dressing & the wine’s innate acidity & minerality freshens the palate well between bites.  Choosing which wine to pair was really a toss up.  We could easily have worked instead with a slightly aged Gunderloch “Jean Baptiste”, which has more apparent minerality because of their vineyards’ red slate soils.  Babc1

 Oven Roasted Maine Lobster with porcini, asparagus risotto

One of the most interesting pairings with lobster for me is the Champalou Vouvray.  There are lots of Vouvrays out there, but there is only 1 Champalou.  Their Vouvrays are so effortlessly light & rivetingly minerally with NO hard edges whatsoever.  This really is a match made in heaven.babc4

 Crispy Skin Opakapaka with Italian butter beans, pancetta, garlic & tomatoes.

The wine we paired with this dish was the Domaine Skouras “Zoe”, which is a blend of 70% Roditis & 30% Moschofilero from the Peloponnese.  This wonderfully aromatic, light white Greek wine just accents the dish & uplifts the flavors.  In addition, because of the Moschofilero, this wine has more viscosity than many other Mediterranean white wines, which can handle the beans & the tomatoes.   babc2

 Sous Vide of Duck with a patty of shredded duck confit & taro with duck jus

We felt we really needed a complex, yet well rounded red wine with this dish, so we opened the 1995 Serafini & Vidotto “Il Rosso dell’Abazia”.   This Cabernet blend from Italy’s Veneto region can be quite a Bordeaux wanna-bee in size & weight.  The 1995, however, is very fine, refined & surprisingly delicate.  The earthy flavors work well with the jus.  We were also thinking about serving an older Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir.  Because BC does so much stem inclusion in their winemaking style, it is amazing how with some bottle age (like 10 years) how the wine REALLY changes & opens up.

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Dec
13

San Francisco Chef Alexander Alioto

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Last night, we did a guest chef dinner at our Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas & VINO Restaurants,  Alex5featuring San Francisco Chef Alexander Alioto. 

Alexander was the founding chef/co-owner of the highly lauded Seven Hills restaurant on Hyde Street in the Knob Hill/Russian Hill cusp.  2 weeks ago, he left the restaurant & is now looking to open his own place.  His food is contemporary Italian with real classic roots.  alex1Here is the menu & wine pairings of the night. 

Crispy Polenta with seared Bay scallops & a chanterelles mushroom reduction

We tried many wines in an effort to find the right pairing.  As it turned out surprisingly, we ended up using the 2011 Birichino Malvasia Bianca.  Produced from Monterey grown grapes crafted by former long time Bonny Doon winemaker John Locke, this wonderfully & exotically perfumed, DRY & crisp white wine really proved to be a very dynamic partner.  Working with aromatic wines like this, has the same kind of heightening effect with the food as does throwing on some roughly chopped Thai basil would……just uplifting the dish’s flavors & accenting the nuances.  The wine’s innate aromatics also connected with the onion chive component AND the wine’s lime like edge just deftly cleansed the palate between bites.  Furthermore, with too many of the wines we tried with the dish, a real bitterness came out of the closet, which was not noticeable when one tasted the wine or the dish by itself.  That was NOT the case with the Birichino.  alex2

Braised Octopus with caponata & Italian butter beans

This was a pretty tasty, interesting dish to say the least.  The octopus was braised with white wine, bay leaf & peppercorns for 2 hours….AND then quickly grilled/marked to add flavors & texture.  Pairing wine with this component is fairly easy & straightforward.  The real challenge, however, is finding a suitable wine which will also work with the sweet & sour caponata.  A very noticeable & detracting bitterness becomes VERY glaring with so many white & rose wines we tried.  It has become almost cliche-ish in our VINO restaurant to say…..when all else fails try the My Essential Rose.   Guess what?  It certainly worked its magic again.  At least part of the reason I would surmise is because this wine comes from limestone/calcareous oriented soils in this case down in Provence, France.  Furthermore, because this wine is vinified first by direct press, the resulting wine is VERY light in color & drama leaving little to clash with.  PLUS the wine’s soil driven minerality is a riveting foil for the octopus’ meatiness  & the earthiness of the caponata.  This pairing again showed how incredibly food friendly this wine really is.  alex4

Raviolo Uovo with brown butter, Parmesan cheese & truffle oil

Here is one of Alexander’s signature dishes.  The runny egg hidden in the ravioli adds richness & impact to this dish without gaudiness or fanfare.  The wine we actually paired, was the Sommariva Prosecco, a light, delicately nuanced, amazingly light & airy Italian bubbly produced from the Balby heirloom selection of Prosecco grown in the Veneto region.  Quite an amazing dish & pairing.  alex3Delicate with delicate.

Crispy Skin Kampachi with brussel sprouts, barley & almond cream

This dish actually proved to be the most challenging to pair wines with, eventhough on paper it looks so easy & straightforward.  It must have been something about the almond cream.  In any case, we selected the Domaine Skouras Moschofilero.  Grown at roughly between 1000 & 2000 feet elevation in the Peloponnese, this colored Moschofilero grape variety has such “quitely” exotic perfume, with surprising viscosity &  a lime edge to it.  The lack of perceived bitterness is because the grapes are direct pressed, with negliable skin contact.  Working with these kinds of aromatic grape varieties can really uplift the flavors & aromatics of dishes & give it a much more dynamic & standout edge.  alex6

Poached Apple with sweet biscotti, apple puree, grated cinnamon, caramel & upside down tuile (photo courtesy of Jo McGarry)

This is how we ended the evening.  Although we did not pair this course with a wine on this night, a natural pairing would be with the effortlessly light, minerally, deliciously fruity Elvio Tintero Moscato d’Asti.

 On behalf of our customers, our staff and my wfie Cheryle, we say thank you to Chef Alexander Alioto for a wonderful & amazing evening.

Categories : Food and Wine, Wine
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