Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Goat Meat, Pancetta, and Shortcake. Oh, my!

As if the fact that it's so sweltering outside the sidewalk is melting isn't enough indication, last night's Farm Dinner further proves that summer is officially upon us. A smattering of various local meats and fresh produce delighted last night with dishes possessing favorite warm-weather flavor combos: smoky meat, tangy dressing, and well, shortcake. Hello, hotness!

Monday, 6.22.09

Course 1: Crispy goat rillettes with chicory salad, brown butter vinaigrette, and grilled bread

Preliminary Pairings: 2007 75 Wine Co. Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 Prager Gruner Veltliner

I know that "crispy goat rillettes" sound good. But somehow that little phrase doesn't do justice to how ridiculously tasty they actually are. Let me explicate: Slagel Farm goat, braised, emulsified with duck fat, molded into patties and pan-fried. I'm going to say this again. Slagel Farm goat, braised, emulsified with . . .

Ok, you get the idea. But really, OMG. Sometimes people are a little afraid of goat meat (Mom, I know you're out there) due do its texture and tendency to be slightly gamey, but we're talking about tender, lovingly raised goats whose meat exudes excellent smokey flavors and takes on characteristics of other items on the plate; in this case, a grilled Nichols Farm radicchio and endive (both hearty and delicate) salad with roasted shallot and a sherry and brown butter vinaigrette, and a grilled baguette slice topped with another swoosh of awesomeness. This time Nicole dreamed up a snazzy little version of gribiche, adding diced sopressata and extra virgin olive oil to the usual yummy capers and hard cooked egg, giving the spread a less-mayonnaise-y constistency and making it a brilliant, zippy counterpart to the deep smokiness of the goat and chicories.

My preliminary musings on this course led me to consider only white wines for pairings, but after seeing the dish I wished I had grabbed at least one red to try with it. (I'm usually wary of pairing red right off the bat with a prix fix because I like to start with light-bodied wines and work up to the fuller ones--consistent with the light-to-heavy progression of meals--but sometimes only a red will do)! Luckily our 2nd course red favorite turned out to pair well across the board with this Farm Dinner (but more on that later). For now, the whites: Giavanna, Aaron, Tracey, Kendal, and Dave (my illustrious Monday night staff) and I were divided, point blank, on our favorite pairing with the goat rillettes. Well, not exactly our favorite, because we ended up liking both wines equally, but we disagreed on the reasons.

Liberal use of lemon juice throughout the rillettes dish added a nice citrus component, which I thoroughly enjoyed with the 75 Wine, a fantastic and reasonably priced sauvignon blanc from Napa with super clean grapefruit, grass, and mineral characteristics, lively acid, and a lingering finish. My staff, however, argued that it was the smoky notes of the chicories and goat that tasted so well with the 75. I liked those very same deep, smoky, earthy (and slightly bitter) flavors best with the Prager GV, quite possibly the best food wine we have on our list at Lula. Austrian wines are always nice go-to pairing wines due to their aromatic noses and clean, austere, high acid palates, and the Prager (from Kamptal) is no exception. Of course my staff just had to contradict me, contending that it was the citrus, not the smoke, that they liked best with the Prager. Well, I'm the boss so my word is bond. Just kidding.

Favorites: 75 SB, Prager GV

Course 2: Pancetta and goat cheese ravioli with green garlic agrodolce and Oregon porcini

Preliminary Pairings: 2006 Buglioni Valpolicella, 2007 Tenuto Garetto Barbera d' Asti

So I mentioned earlier that upon seeing the rillettes I wished I had grabbed a red to try, and the opposite held true with the ravioli! I hadn't chosen a white for my preliminary pairings, just on a whim, and the flavors of the dish are light enough that a white would've done just fine. Good thing we had all of our 1st course whites open and available and it was easy to take a swig of each of those, just to make double sure we were crossing all of our t's and dotting our i's. Indeed, both the 75 and the Prager were delicious with the ravioli, but I was more concerned about the red wines since the whites were such no-brainers.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. First of all, let me just say that this dish is slightly deceptive. Only 5 or 6 raviolis dot the plate, which sounds skimpy but turned out to be a perfect portion size, due to the heartiness of the house-made noodles and the richness of the goat cheese. Anyway, our Gunthorp Farm pancetta, green garlic from Spence Farm, and Capriole goat cheese (from Indiana!) make a delicious filling for the ravioli, and Jason's agrodolce (an Italian sweet and sour dressing) is always delicious. This time he used the same Spence green garlic, and topped the whole thing with the earthy West Coast porcinis and a little parmesan cheese. It's interesting, because after the pow! bam! zing! of the goat rillettes dish, the raviolis, simple and straightforward, seemed a perfect follow-up.

My original pairing idea was the Buglioni Valpolicella, which is like a confected fruit explosion with light body and a juicy mouthfeel, very straightforward and drinkable, but not super complex. But, like everything in my life, I started over-thinking and went in search of a more complicated option (this is starting to sound like my love life). Turns out the simplest choice was the right one! The Tenuto Garetto Barbera is a great wine, fruity at the start, but but turning mysterious and brooding at the end, with a little tannic bite on the finish to remind you its feisty. I wanted the TG Barbera to be the favorite here, with the earthy aspects matching up to the goat cheese and porcinis, but the sunshine tanginess of the agrodolce, the brightness of the green garlic, and the bacon-y happiness of the pancetta just tasted too good with that yummy little fruit-bomb Buglioni. Done and done. Also, as I mentioned above, good ole Bugs turned out to be delicious with the rillettes as well (and thank you to some guinea pig customers for trying that out for me)!

Favorite: 2006 Buglioni Valpolicella

Course 3: Milk and dark chocolate biscuit with raspberries and marshmallow ice cream

Preliminary Pairings: NV Vin du Bugey-Cerdon Rose, M. Chapoutier Banyuls, Novaia Late-Harvest Valpolicella

Melissa is going to yell at me but I have to say this (especially for my Dad, who will love what I'm about to tell you): This dessert is a deconstructed shortcake. And it is awesome, and you'll agree with me Wednesday when it hits the dessert menu. Instead of all of the components layered on top of each other in true cake form, a dark-chocolate biscuit lies on a bed of milk chocolate ganache. Next to it, raspberry fool (fruit puree with chantilly folded in) studded with fresh Klug Farm raspberries, and next to that, homemade marshmallow ice cream on top of chocolate short-dough cookie crumbs. Yeeaw!

Ok, so I always reach for Vin du Bugey-Cerdon for a berry fruit and chocolate dessert. Why? Because it is sweet sparkling gamay from Burgundy and it is quite possibly one of the best things on the planet. I've heard people describe it as "jolly rancher in a glass", but I don't think it is as cloying as that. It does, however, seem to take on the particular characteristics of whatever berry you might be eating with it at the time. So this time, it tasted like raspberries and it was lovely with the chocolate, as well, because berries and chocolate go together like freakin' Lennon and McCartney.

Just to stick it to me, the staff was divided about the Banyuls and Novaia. Gia, Tracey, Kendal, and I like the Banyuls (slightly lighter than the Novaia), which paired deliciously with the berry aspects of the dish and stood up to the chocolate. Dave and Aaron argued that the Novaia was the better choice (admittedly, that stuff is like heaven with chocolate). Personally, I think the Novaia overpowered the berries . . .

But come in and taste for yourself! It'll all be waiting for you at the bar. Dave will be working Wednesday (not his normal shift, but lucky us) and can chat you up on our tasting discussions. Enjoy, and of course, e-kisses.

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