Paired wine dinners have become very popular over the last few years. Generally, there are two types of wine dinners that I have attended – those that feature the wines of one winery (or family of wineries) and those that focus on a particular region. I’ve written a number of posts on a winery focused wine dinner, but recently had the opportunity to attend one focused on the food and wine of South America hosted by the Cork and Crust in Madison.
Since the dinner was the day before our anniversary, we turned this into a nice evening out for us. The choices certainly did not disappoint. Our first course was a Shrimp Ceviche with tomato, cucumber, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and corn chips. If you aren’t familiar with ceviche, it is generally a seafood dish that is “cooked” using acid, such as lemon or lime juice, instead of heat. The challenge of making a ceviche is getting the timing right – if you leave the shrimp in the acid too long, it starts to break down and turns dry. The other part of ceviche is the additional ingredients you mix with the seafood. Believe it or not, I am not a fan of hot and spicy food. The ingredients really complemented the shrimp, even the jalepeno which was even a bit hot for me. This dish was served with the Laplaya Viognier/Chardonnay blend from Chile. The blend worked well and complemented the ceviche, not being overpowered by the acidic citrus juice in the dish.
The second course was a Braised Pork Belly served with hominy, braised kale and a black mission fig reduction. Starting out, this menu item has one positive and two negatives going for it. This is not a reflection on the dish, just my preferences. I don’t like hominy nor kale. The hominy ended up not being that bad, but I could still do without it. The kale, however, was another story. This was the first time I had tasted kale that had been braised. I happily ate all of the braised kale and could have had some more. Of course, starting with pork belly you just can’t go wrong. The fig sauce with the pork matched very nicely and was paired with the Piattelli Reserve Torrontes from Argentina. Torrontes is a white grape local to Argentina. While it was a very nice wine, it was not my favorite.
The third course was Grilled Flank Steak with roasted red potatoes, asparagus and chimichurri. Flank steak can be a bit tricky to cook as you can’t cook too much or it becomes very tough. The steak had been marinated before cooking and was sliced thin on the plate. The potatoes and asparagus went very well with the chimichurri with the steak. The paired wine was the Prisma Pinot Noir from Chile. This was a lighter style Pinot with very nice flavors. It matched the dish well. For me, this was the wine of the night (although the Malbec we are about to have was a VERY close second).
The dessert was one that I wan’t sure about when I saw the menu, but once I tasted it, I was sure it was a very nice dish. It was Coconut Creme Anglaise and Spiced Chocolate Mousse Napoleon. I discovered that the coconut was lightly flavored and did not overpower. Somehow, my first bite did not really taste that spicy, but the second one had a definite kick. The top of the dessert had been dusted with chile powder which gave the dessert the spicy kick. Once it was mixed with the dessert it was quite pleasant and even I enjoyed the little spice it gave. This was paired with the Tinto Negro Malbec from Argentina. Malbec is a traditional pairing with chocolate and this one went with the mousse nicely.
Overall, the evening went together extremely well and the wines selected complemented the food very well. The dishes chosen were all very well prepared and flavorful. I always enjoy these wine dinners because the chef can get creative and use ingredients and flavors that would not work well for the regular menu. These dinners are often educational as Eric explained about each dish, information about the wines and the reason the wine was selected to complement the particular dish. I look forward to the next dinner we are invited to……