Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Late-Spring Bounty = Vegetarian Deliciousness!!

Welcome to the 2nd Lula Wine Post! Just a bit of background about last night's Farm Dinner before we get to the good stuff:

Every couple months Jason and the sous chefs (sounds like a mo-town act) do an all-vegetarian Farm Dinner, which keeps our herbivorous friends happy and updates the Dinner Specials menu with a vegetarian option that is more reflective of the local farmers' current offerings. After all, what better way to showcase produce than to put it in some super-yummy all-veg dishes?

Monday, 6.15.09

Course 1: West coast mushroom consomme with stinging nettle and ricotta toast

Preliminary Pairing: 2006 Domaine de la Folie Rully Blanc Clos la Folie

To me, "consomme" means "clean tasting." (It actually means "clarified broth," but since when have I operated in the real world?) Also, to me, "consomme" says "French." So when deciding a wine to pair with a consomme, I reach for a clean tasting French wine. Ahem, Bourgogne, anyone? Nothing says "French" and "clean flavors" to me like a good ole white Burgandy. Plus, since the consomme in question here is vegetarian, a Bourgogne Blanc fits the bill in terms of body and flavor profile as well. The Clos la Folie is delicate and fruity with a hint of minerality. Chardonnay can sometimes be too big for its britches but the Rully Blanc is quite dainty, with restrained green apple flavors and a nice, food-friendly medium body.

I wasn't looking for super-high acid when pairing the mushroom consomme because it isn't fatty. I did need to consider the stinging nettle and ricotta toast, which is basically a grilled and garlic-ed slice of Red Hen Bakery French Baguette spread with a liberal swoosh of a scrumptious stinging nettle greens (from Spence Farm) and house-made ricotta mixture, topped with pickled radish, West Coast porcinis and morels, and these lovely little rapini flowers (which, incidentally, made the whole dish look like an impressionist painting when dunked and swirled into the broth. Beautiful).

Clos la Folie has a gorgeous, supple mouthfeel, achieved from the malolactic fermentation technique, which is the process of introducing lactic acid during fermentation and which results in a round, unctuous mouthfeel. This replaced the effects of natural grape acid and stood up to the ricotta cheese spread and the oil on the toast. The Rully Blanc did itself proud, with the green apple flavors providing a nice compliment to the freshness and tartness of the green (tarragon, parsley, nettle, rapini flowers) and pickled (radish) aspects of the dish.

Favorite (duh): Rully Blanc

Course 2: Spring pea and dill sformato with heirloom carrot and focaccia, carrot vinaigrette, summer blossoms, and fregola

Preliminary Pairings: 2007 Jean-Luc Colombo Cotes du Rhone Blanc La Redonne, 2008 Couly-Dutheil Chinon Rose, 2006 Bodegas Protos Roble Joven

"What is sformato?" you ask. "Fregola?" you say. Molded custard and pearl shaped Sardinian semolina pasta (similar to Israeli cous cous) respectively, dear readers. Specifically, the sformato from last evening is made from a puree of the most delightfully pale green Klug Farm english peas, eggs, and cream, and set into a mold. It nests on a salad of house-made focaccia, Wisconsin pea tendrils, and sous-vide poached Werp Farm carrots, dressed with the carrot poaching liquid and Cava vinaigrette. Crowning the sformato is a squash blossom stuffed with the fregola. Hints of dill, lemon, and shallot, interspersed throughout, compliment the flavors of the dish.

Again (and as usual), I wanted to present several wine options for the entree: a white, a rose, and a red (readers, get used to this). I'm brimming with reasons and thought processes here, but I'll try not to be too verbose:

Colombo La Redonne, in a word, ROCKS. It is a fantastic food wine with lively acid, an aromatic nose of peaches and honeysuckle, and exotic flavors of almost tropical fruit balanced by (the ever-popular) slight minerality. With viognier adding aroma and roussanne lending structure, this wine always pleases with a little something for everyone. While delicious with the bread salad and squash blossom, La Redonne left something to be desired with the sformato (to be honest, we all felt it was a little boring. Tasty, but no "wow factor").

Couly-Dutheil Chinon Rose, however, kicked major tush. New to our wine list, C-D Rose is experiencing its 15 minutes of fame at Lula as the new staff favorite. (We do get wine "crushes" and this little number is the hottest thing since our love affair with a certain 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau). Made from 100% cabernet franc, berry fruit is the name of the game, but delightfully the Chinon Rose also packs elements of black pepper (typical of Chinon Rouges) and spice. Something magical happened when we tasted this wine with the sformato dish. I think the body of the wine, coupled with the fruitiness and those mysterious secondary characteristics, created an unexpected twist and a truly unique flavor combination (you'll just have to experience it to believe).

Finally, the Bodegas Protos: a roble joven (young red from Ribera del Duero, Spain), the wine has fruit, structure, and spice, a medium body, and is food-friendly, just how we like 'em. I think the juicy-fruitiness of the Protos is what made the pairing so delicious, because it truly was. Also, Italian-inspired dishes often pair nicely with Spanish wines, which mimic the fruit and spice of Italians but possess slightly less gusto and therefore are easier to drink with lighter fare.

Favorites: Chinon Rose, Protos

Course 3: Pecan tart with bourbon-brown sugar ice cream and black currants

Preliminary Pairing: Alvear Solera Cream Sherry

Bourbon. Pecan. Currant. Caramel. Molasses. Um, are you kidding me? Get this: the tarts are basically individual sized pecan pies with a custard of molasses and brown sugar and topped with bourbon-soaked pecans, all encrusted in short-dough for extra richness. The bourbon-brown sugar ice cream is studded with bourbon soaked black currants, and finishing the plate is a treasure-trail of bourbon-caramel sauce with more bourbon soaked pecans and currants floating in it. I'm actually getting a little teary-eyed with joy reminiscing about this dessert.

Now, Solera Cream Sherry is good. So good, and the Alvear has nutty, caramel-y, flavors that also reflect a raisined quality. Hello! Nutty flavors of sherry = pecan pie. Caramel flavors of sherry = bourbon-caramel and brown sugar. Raisin flavors of sherry = bourbon soaked black currants. I will say no more.

Favorite: Alvear Solera Cream Sherry

Get in while the gettin' is good! All of the above wines will be open on Wednesday and Thursday evenings this week, and the sformato will be appearing on the Dinner Specials menu, and I hope the pecan tart sticks around, because, well, duh.


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