Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas In Paris. A Night At The Saltbox Café.

The Hawthornes are at one of their favorite restaurants.
It's a special evening.
They're having their third
multi-course, wine-paired dinner.
The first dinner we experienced was from Spain.
The second dinner was from Argentina.

Tonight, it's France.
Christmas in Paris.
French wines, presented by Tryon Distributing,
were thoughtfully paired with each course.

The appetizer course is laid out on the counter. 
I run to the bar,
pushing old ladies out of my way,
to get there first.
I can do that.
I'm an old lady woman.
I get there.
About eighth in line.
I'm losing it.

There's a delightful sausage in there,
with heat that sneaks up on you.

There are assorted cheeses.
A couple of bleus
and I don't know what other cheese.

A sweet brown cake/bread?
Correct me Chefs Sprinkles.

The thing I loved most -
crostini with what I thought was whipped butter.
Mr. H. said, "No, I taste bleu cheese."
Chef Randolph, as always, came to our table,
and I asked him.
It was whupped BRIE!
Gotta do this!

One of the nice perks of being a food blogger
is that certain restaurants actually grant my wishes.
They let me come back into the kitchen to shoot pics.
Can't do it at the table.
Not enough light.
And I never do flash in a restaurant.

for six presentations,
someone on the Saltbox staff
would come out to me,
make a camera gesture with their hands and fingers,
and I would be ushered into the inner sanctum,
where all the magic happens.

The first course was a poached oyster in puff pastry
with a champagne cream sauce and spinach.

This was paired with a bright, dry, clean sparkling wine,
not a champagne,
NV Champalou Vouvray.

One review of this wine described it thusly:
Peach and pear on the nose, 
along with a hint of honey;
 not very expressive today.
 Juicy pit fruit nectar flavors
 are given a bitter edge 
by a touch of lemon zest, which adds grip.
 Finishes with an echo of citrus skin."

OK.  I'll go with that.

Our second course was steamed baby bok choy
 with monkfish,
 napped with a heavenly orange Moscato buerre blanc
and topped with delicate threads of potato.

The monkfish was paired 
This was a crisp wine with a buttery flavor
and notes of cantaloupe.
Very nice with the beurre blanc in the monkfish.

Can I just get a side of the sauce?

nicely complemented a winter salad of escarole frisée, 
lardons of panchetta, a fried quail egg,
with a lemon vinaigrette.
This bright and crisp wine is produced 
by a winery established in 1639,
operated by 13th generation vintners.
It was described as "biting into a grape."

Quail eggs, which I'm sure Chef Randolph
foraged for in the wilds of Colington.
Loved watching him crack these into the pan.

My favorite picture!

On to the fourth course.
One thing I always notice at these events -
the evening starts out rather quietly
and by the third - fourth courses,
it's hard to hear your own tablemates.
That's always a good sign.

nicely complemented a classic duck à l'orange
and duck confit with green beans 
and potatoes roasted in duck fat.
Salt-cured legs were slowly cooked in duck fat
for the confit.
The earthiness of the wine paired well
with the earthiness of the duck
and delivered a clean finish.

On to the fifth course.

Beef filet on top of an earthy parsnip/potato purée
with fois gras and a truffle demi-glace.

Yes, I resisted the urge to turn the plate around
so I could get the tips of the asparagus.

We figured out what was sprinkled over the plate -
Nice touch.
A 2010 Chateau Belair Haut Medoc was served.

I'm not a fan of a sweet wine,
was perfect with this French Opera Cake -
a butter cake with coffee buttercream, ganache, 
orange chantilly cream, and raspberry.

Once you had a taste of all the dessert elements,
we were instructed to take a sip of the wine.
The balance of all the flavors in combination with the wine
worked beautifully together.

I love it when culinary synergy happens -
when the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Thank you, Chefs Amanda and Randolph,
for another exceptional dinner.
You've outdone yourselves.

Chefs Sprinkles' multi-course meals with wine pairings
have become quite popular.
In fact, another Nuit en Paris
is scheduled for Tuesday, December 9, at 5 PM.
Call The Saltbox Café at 252-255-5594 for reservations.


Catherine said...

Looks wonderful. xo Catherine

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Catherine, it's always wonderful at The Saltbox.

Marilyn said...

How delightful! Now I feel the need to come visit again just so I can go to this restaurant. Oh, and I'd love to see you and Mr. H as well! ;)

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Come on down, Marilyn! The Hawthorne Boys are going tonight for a repeat dinner.