Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Hawthornes Enjoy Yet Another 6-Course Wine-Paired Dinner At The Saltbox Café.

It's Tuesday, January 12, and the Hawthornes are at The Saltbox Café
for another one of their 6-course wine and dine series.

Chef Randolph surveys a hungry crowd.

My regular reader(s) know(s) the Hawthornes have been wining and dining around the world at The Saltbox Café's Vines Around The World Dinner Series.

For a recap:
October 2014, we visited Spain.
November 2014, we visited Argentina.
December 2014, we visited Paris.
February 2015, we visited Chocolate. (Why yes, Chocolate is a country.)
March 2015, we visited Italy.
October 2015, we visited Germany.
December 2015, we visited Japan.
Also in December 2015, we enjoyed a Réveillon Feast.
And again in December 2015, we feasted in France.
On January 12, it was our pleasure to have New Zealand and Australia come to us.
Our first course was Kangaroo Slider.  The intrepid team of Sprinkle and Dinkle bagged little Joey in the wilds of Colington earlier this morning and now I have this damn ear worm that's gonna bug me all day long. Along with this one in the other ear.  Now be sure to click on those two links so you'll know how it is for me.  Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport and My Boomerang Won't Come Back.  All.Day.Long.  And then that reminded me of the Star Trek episode in which Khan put the larva in Chekhov's ear so you can just imagine the sheer hell I'm in right now.  Thank you, Chef Randolph.

I requested to sniff the cork, then, when the sommelier looked away, I discretely palmed the cork, deftly slipping it into my pocket, saving it for yet another Pinterest project I'm not working on.

The lovely April, our hostess.
Oh...  Would you look at that picture frame on the counter?  Photograph by a local hack.

The wines tonight were provided and presented by Kerry and Cindy of Tryon Distributing.

I'm back in the kitchen watching the chefs plate our first course.

It's a kangaroo slider with beets, sprouts, charred pineapple, sweet onion chutney, wrapped in bacon.
After having this outstanding presentation, I'm thinking about raising my own kangaroos out here in Colington.  I don't think the Homeowners Association would have a problem with this.  No.  Not at all.

This was paired with a crisp, bubbly Tasmanian wine, NV Jansz Sparkling Rosé.

Kerry's Comments:  Australia actually has some of the oldest vineyard sites that have been continuously grown or continuously under vine in the world.  Because they're so isolated and they are an island continent in many cases in parts of that country they are free of a lot of vine pests which have destroyed vineyards throughout the centuries.  Australia is the fourth largest wine exporter in the world.  New Zealand is the first wine-growing area in the world that sees sunshine everyday.
We're starting off tonight with a wonderful bubbly, a Tasmanian wine, a sparkling wine done in the traditional method or the  same method done in champagne where the bubbles in the sparkling wine are produced in the bottle in the second fermentation.
This is produced in Tasmania, in the Pipers River area in the northeast corner of that island, an area influenced by the ocean. It's a fantastic blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, and being a rosé they left pinot noir red grape skins in contact with the wine to give it a little color.

Chef Randolph's Remarks:  For this first wine, my wife and I did extensive research on different things to make in New Zealand and Australia.  The first thing we checked out was the indigenous foods that are there - grubs, sugar ants - and we sort of ditched that.  We figured out that pretty much most of their food is English and Irish in origin and they have a lot of influence from Indonesia and Thailand.

We're going to hop right into our first course with kangaroo slider.  We found out that kangaroo is extremely lean so we wrapped it in bacon to give it a little fat and we served it with a charred pineapple and a sweet onion chutney and raw beet root.

Rosie's Wine Ramblings:
 See no evil.  Hear no evil.  Say no evil.  Pinot Evil.

Loved this little bubbly.
It had happy written all over it.
Forcefully bites you.

Crisp, but equally whimsical.

Wouldn't you agree, Chefs Amanda and Randolph?

On to our second course...

 Thai green curry New Zealand green-shelled mussels served with basil, serrano peppers, coconut milk, raw coconut palm sugar, and sticky jasmine rice.  This was paired with Pewsey Vale Riesling 2015.

Kerry's Comments:  Our second wine is from an area near Adelaide in the Eden Valley.  This is where Pewsey Vale winery resides, a winery which has been there for several generations.  This winery focuses just on Rieslings.  They started out back in the early 20th century doing several different varietals but they really focused in specializing the Riesling grape.  When you think Riesling, sometimes you think of something that's sweet, but it can be produced very dry like any white wine and this is a dryer version. This Riesling is really beautiful.  It's got lemon, lime, a little bit of minerality, a wonderful balance of acidity.

Chef Randolph's Remarks:  What I really loved about this wine are all the great things you taste with this Riesling - a lot of fruit, a lot of floral notes, but this didn't have quite the sweetness I was expecting so it's intriguing in that way.  We paired this with New Zealand green-shelled mussels, with a green curry, not really spicy, and some sticky coconut rice.  Now the coconut is unsweetened so  you're not going to get a lot of sugar there, but it's cooked entirely in coconut milk.

I slurped the sauce out of the mussel shells to get every bit.

Rosie's Wine Ramblings:
A complex funky wine that defies you to describe it so I won't.

On to our third course...

Grilled tuna collar and bibb lettuce wrap with herbs, Asian noodles, macadamia nuts and purple sweet potato hay paired with Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

Kerry's Comments:  Our third wine is from New Zealand.  This is a property called Mount Nelson which is owned by the Antinori family, an Italian wine-producing family with a passion for Sauvignon Blanc. They had all these wonderful properties in Tuscany that they weren't allowed to grow Sauvignon Blanc on and they had to find a place to produce Sauvignon Blanc, so they turned to New Zealand.  The majority of wine produced in New Zealand is white wine although they are known for wonderful Pinot Noirs as well.  This Mount Nelson property comes from the Marlborough region, the northern tip of the southern island.  This area is 60-70 feet above sea level right on the Taylor River which runs into the Cloudy Bay.   Cool air along with the soil composition is perfect for Sauvignon Blanc.  You'll notice with this one a beautiful sort of fresh cut green herbs and then grapefruit. It has a nice lingering finish for a Sauvignon Blanc.

Chef Randolph's Remarks:  This particular wine is Amanda's favorite.  She likes the nice citrusy, grapefruit flavor.  It also has those nice grassy notes that you'll find in a lot of California Sauvignon Blancs.  We paired this with a lettuce wrap.  It has soba noodles and tuna collar that's been marinated for 24 hours and grilled and it's finished with macadamia nuts and purple sweet potatoes which I'd love to say came from New Zealand, but they're not.  They're from North Carolina.

Rosie's Wine Ramblings:  I stuck my nose into the glass, swirled, the wine, and breathed in deeply, then blurted out, "This shit smells like pot!"  I must have the nose for it because Kerry mentioned "fresh cut green herbs" and Randolph talked about "nice grassy notes." 

On to our fourth course:

Vegemite and balsamic marinated lamb chops with parsnip puree and grilled asparagus paired with Mitolo 7th Son Grenache/Shiraz.

Kerry's Comments:  This is one of the outstanding wines from Mitolo wines from McLaren Vale in South Australia, an area that is fantastic for producing Shiraz, Grenache, and Cabernet.  The Mitolo family immigrated to Australia a few generations ago from Italy where the family had produced wines there for generations.  Frank Mitolo, the son of the first immigrant who moved to Australia decided to continue his family's legacy of producing wines so he started making wines in this area.  This is a wonderful blend called seventh son.  Its name comes from folklore of a seventh son that's born of a seventh son.  And Iron Maiden has a song Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. 
The story goes that the seventh son of a seventh son comes from an unbroken line in a lineage without female siblings or something like that and if this occurred the seventh son resulted in having magical powers that would develop over time, such as second sight, healing powers, and luck. 

 This is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Sagrantino, an Italian varietal.  This is a beautifully aged wine, 18 months in old French oak barrels.  The difference between older barrels and newer barrels when aging wine is a little bit more of a subtle influence on the wine, more of an elegance added to it, imparting a more toasty flavor.  This is rich, deep, great raspberry and berry flavors and an outstanding red.  And let's not forget Johnny Rivers' Seventh Son song.

Chef Randolph's Remarks:  For this course I took lamb chops and marinated them in vegemite, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and rosemary and it's going on top of a parsnip purée with grilled asparagus.

Rosie's Wine Ramblings:  Do not allow this wine to inspire you to drunk-dial your ex.  Very fine grapes gave it up for this wine so show some respect.  This wine was enticingly layered - gravel, dirt road, melted asphalt, smashed elderberry on granite countertop. It was a hedonistic wine reeking of sex and sunshine with eucalyptus notes and the legs of a Vegas showgirl.  Coastal redwood forest meets the KittyKat ranch.  Well-handled, like a Welsh barmaid, it was mesmerizing and melodic, angular and austere, with a sweaty chinchilla finish.  Smoky, seductive, with the distinct aroma of broken hearts, you know this wine came from a well-hung vineyard.

On to our fifth course:

Seared Wagyu Beef with warm potato salad and a kiwi vinaigrette paired with Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Kerry's Comments:  For our second red wine of the night, we're moving  all the way over to the western coast of Australia, just south of Perth.  This is a more late-blooming winery established in the late sixties.  Vasse Felix winery was one of the first and one of the few that produces Cabernet Sauvignon.  They've been producing Cabs since the 1972 vintage.  This is aged in French oak.  Now what is the difference between French and American oak when producing wine?  Usually French oak has a tighter grain of wood than American oak which imparts a more subtle flavor - a little less vanilla and a little less toasted coconut like American oak has - a little more powdered spices come through with French oak, and also a little cedar.  Cabernet Sauvignon is usually a little less fruit-forward with very balanced and approachable tannins.  The red fruits that come through are more like your dark fruits - black currant, blackberries.

Chef Randolph's Remarks:  I thought this was a very elegant wine.  My wife is very pleased with me because I went out and bought Wagyu beef.  I don't know if you guys know what Wagyu is, but in Japan they have something known as Kobe beef, and Kobe is the highest quality beef in the world.  Beautifully marbled all the way through.  These cows get massages, they listen to fine music, they get beer as part of their daily victuals.  They're cared for like children.  If you want to be born as a cow, Kobe is the way to go.  Japan has never exported Kobe beef.  What you do get it is Wagyu beef.
Wa means Japan and yu means beef.  It's the same cow, but it's grown somewhere else.  And the Aussies know how to massage a cow.  It's $35 a pound so I hope you won't mind the two-ounce portions.  We seared the beef and have a warm potato salad with a little bit of kiwi vinaigrette.  But there's no vinegar in here to clash with your wine. It's made simply of puréed kiwi fruit and extra virgin olive oil.

Rosie's Wine Ramblings:  The overall character of this wine demands that you reassess your life and once again I question my palette's aptitude to truly appreciate the full clutch and magnitude of its otherworldliness.  There's an edginess, a sophistication, and, dare I say, a domination.  This wine rubbed me the right way, like a man's hand sliding deliciously between my thighs in a corner booth in a dark vaped, not smoky, restaurant as a neon sign flickered outside.  Oh wait.  That was Mr. Hawthorne's hand.  Never mind. It screamed koalas to me with a eucalyptus finish and memories of my mother spreading Vicks Vapor Rub on my chest. 

Life through a glass of wine is lovely.

That is not a cell phone on the table.
It's my recorder.
I do not own a cell phone.
I refuse to use one.

On to our 6th and final course.
Non-traditional lamington, which is an Australian dessert.  Sponge cake, dark chocolate ganache, dehydrated flaked coconut, black cherry chantilly cream, and coconut ice cream paired with Yalumba Museum Muscat.

Mike and April.

Chef Amanda and Josh Naser.

Kerry's Comments:  Our final wine of the evening is Yalumba.  Yalumba means from the land all around. They've been producing since 1849 and produce all types of wine. They've also always done dessert wines and fortified wines, like port as well.  This is made with Muscat.  A late-harvest wine, the grapes are taken very late into the harvest when the grapes are almost in a raisin-like state, so when you press those, the juices are extremely concentrated.  You'll notice notes of ginger qualities, raisiny qualities, a little bit of rose petal there.

Chef Randolph's Remarks:  When I tried this wine, I was brought immediately to flavors of sherry, tawny port. We have a beautiful dessert.  This is called a Lamington - a butter cake tossed in a Peruvian chocolate ganache.  It's supposed to be finished with dessicated coconut, but Amanda used fresh coconut, dried it with no sugar added, then she did a dark cherry whipped cream on the bottom, and then gave it a coconut gelato.  I, of course, made none if it.

Rosie's Wine Ramblings:  This tasted like the hair of a wet dingo.  It would be fantastic with Fritos.  Arty, funky, hint of Goth.


I don't think it bothered anyone that I licked my plate.

Thank you, Chefs Amanda and Randolph, for another amazing meal!

See you next month!


Marilyn said...

How lovely to be able to travel the world without ever leaving the comfort of one's favorite restaurant!

And thank you, Rosie, for your florid descriptions of the many wines! Brilliant as always.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thanks, Mar. Looking forward to February's dinner. California.