Friday, January 1, 2016

The Hawthornes Enjoy Yet Another Six Course Wine Dinner At The Saltbox Café.

Hello, Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle.
We want to thank you for a most remarkable meal Tuesday night.  We were so happy to share it with our dear friend Maxine who was visiting with us.

Before I start on my dinner and wine ramblings, I must tell you something I noticed that night.
I always look around and notice all the people who are there.  Before, I've noticed a few people whom I've seen at our North Carolina Aquarium cooking classes we attend, and then and now, someone else we know vaguely, but this night had a whole new passel of people!

The Hawthornes have had the pleasure of attending The Saltbox Café's  6-course wine dinner events for the past year.  Has it been that long?  A country is picked and regional dishes are expertly paired with wines from that country.

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.

Tuesday night, the 29th, we feasted in France, once again.

The wines were presented by Dee Nolan of Artisan Wines in Point Harbor, NC.  We're doing 6 different wines tonight, four from the southern part of France.

 We had the great pleasure of meeting Dee.  Of course, Rosie, being Rosie, asked Dee, "You ain't from around these parts, are you?"  "Why, yes," Dee offered pleasantly.  From Birmingham   ...  Alabama..."

HAHAHA!  I believe Birmingham, England.  Must find out.

The magic, as always, was provided by Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle. 

Our party, consisting of Rosie, Mr. H., and our dear friend, Maxine, was the first to arrive, since last time parkin' pickin's were hard to get,especially when you have an Avalanche, which is sort of like driving a freight train. The parking lot was empty and I instructed Mr. Hawthorne to drive to the ramp in front of the Saltbox and back in so we'd have a straight shot out when leaving. Mr. Hawthorne doesn't follow directions well. First he backed into the handicapped parking space on the side of the building. I told him he couldn't park there, even though he may be somewhat handicapped. He proceeded to back across the parking lot and parallel park in the front of the ramp, taking up 4 or 5 parking spaces. While he argued with me and Maxine laughed hysterically, I finally got him to understand what he was supposed to do and he grudginly backed the truck in. Thank goodness for that little sensor on the back of his truck that starts beeping when you're getting ready to run into something. So don't worry, Sprinkles, the ramp, steps, and railing are all intact.

Upon being seated, we were served a complimentary French bread basket containing a sesame bread, a poppy seed bread, and a plain wheat baguette. A deliciously sweet honey-kissed butter was the perfect spread for the breads.
A medley of artisan cheeses was also served - St. André, an opulent, dense, buttery cheese, Chaums, rich, creamy, and full-bodied, and fol epi, a sweet nutty cheese.

From Dee:
This was paired with Veuve du Devienne NV Rose Brut, a pink sparkling wine. The grapes in this are cabernet francs and gamay. This comes from a long generation family owned winery originally known for premium white table wines.  They were getting a lot of response about doing a sparkling wine so they've produced a brut white and rose sec.  Light pink with fine bubbles, bright, citrusy, with a hint of strawberry, it's clean on the palate with vibrant entry and soft finish, with fruit driven hints of berries and lemon and a nice way to start the evening off.

Rosie's Wine Notes: 

Reminded me of strawberry sweet tarts and trudging through the Malbec's strawberry farm licking strawberry stains off my fingers along with a bit of the terroir.  Whispers of a grapefruit run over by a lawnmower lingered on my palate.  Where are my 5 pieces of lemon?!!?

On to our first course:

 Our first course consisted of a delicately poached, buttery, almost melt-in-your-mouth flounder
with a champagne cream sauce and kale chips.

From Dee:
This was partnered with a 2014 Chateau Petit Roubie Picpoul de Pinet, from the Languedoc-Rousillon region in southern France.  It's noted for its high acidity and lemony fruit. This wine is going to be very mineral. The vineyards are right on a high plateau overlooking the Mediterranean where they harvest oysters and mussels, so the soil has a natural minerality to it, which definitely comes through this wine.
Château Petit Roubié is family-owned by Olivier and Floriane Azan. He bought this land back in 1981and in 1983 it received the AOC appelation,or "controlled designation of origin." It's the French certification granted to certain geographical locations for wines, cheese, butters, and other agricultural products, based on the concept of terroir, meaning the habitat or set of all environmental factors that have an effect on the products' "character." It is presumed that the land where the grapes are grown and the environmental characteristics impart unique qualities specific to that growing site.
In 1995, Château Petit Roubie was certified 100% organic. Azan's vineyards are free of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.

Happy Vines = Happy Wines.

This wine will enhance any seafood dish. Oysters would do it for me in a heart beat.
France may serve turbot with this,but Chef Randolph served our local flounder.

From Chef Randolph:
The fillets were poached very slowly with a minimal amount of seasoning,
allowing the fish to shine through. It was finished with a champagne cream sauce
with a lot of butter, so that acidity and minerality in the wine will cut through all that richness
and reveal that true, clean flounder taste.

The flounder melted in my mouth. I was in heaven.

Rosie's Notes:  Did you know picpoul means lipstinger?  Egocentric, but structured.  Ahh... the minerality showed through, like licking a wet sidewalk after a spring rain, showcasing forward notes of crushed gravel and a hint of chalkboard.  I believe I chipped a tooth on the minerality.  Intense, almost wicked.  Hits you with strong-will essence of stone, but morally inferior hints of just-opened tennis balls. Nice legs but wrinkly ass.  May be enjoyed until the third week in March.


This will be on the Hawthorne's table in the very near future. Just need to send Youngest Hawthorne out for flounder and I'll send myself right out in my garden for the kale.

Our second course is a Bouillabaisse "Bourride-style."
Prince Edward Island mussels, grilled shrimp, and smoked salmon.

From Dee: 
Penya Viognier has a nice floral aspect to it and also has more tropical fruit flavors, citrus, pineapple, mango, and peach. Then she said something about "it's all stainless steel?" Then my system broke down.  Note to self:  Get a decent recorder. Then I heard:  "... it goes through a  ...  lactic shifting ... 
with a little bit of creaminess on the mid palate."

Penya is owned jointly by five growers.  They bought the original chateau in the late 80s. 
It is what they called a cooperative wine. It is farmed by five different people full time for a living
and just about every other person in the village actually owns a few acres. They have about 1000 acres and make about 150,000 cases per year.

Cases de Pene is a tiny village in the Roussillon region of Southern France, just 30 miles north of the Spain. Ceded to France in the mid 17th century, the area is still known as "French Catalonia". We celebrate this heritage with the Catalan spelling of the ancient Château and village Cooperative: "Penya"

Chef Randolph's description:
For the beautiful Penya Viognier from the southern part of France what else would pair but a bouillibaise? So, of course, I did not make a bouillibaise.  I have combined something of two different traditional and classical French soups. The first is called a bourride.  A bourride is a purée usually of fish and potato, more like a stew, but then I took all the essence of bouillibaise in lobster stock and shrimp stock and saffron and put it all together.  This might be a heartier version of bouillibaise.  It's served with grilled shrimp and mussels and a small piece of smoked salmon and a garlic aoili accent.

Rosie's Wine Notes:

This was a sassy little bitch. Opens with hair gel with high notes of cheap perfume. Whispers of Red Bull.  Promiscuous and impertinent with attitude.  This wine is a slut.   It was like a pop tart.  It reminded me of Britney Spears in that little school girl uniform.  I believe the quarterback did her under the bleachers One More Time.

On to the third course:

 Our third course was roasted quail with mushroom duxelles au jus with celeriac potato purée.

Dee's Wine Notes:
This is Albert Bichot 2012 Bourgogne Rouge Vielle Vignes. Maison Bichot has been here since the early 14th century and has been making wines since the early 1800s.

Damn recorder!  I give up. I couldn't understand anything else Dee said.

As I've said before, the ambient noise gets louder and louder the further you get into the meal and into the glass.  And this was one happy, ambient, glassy, loud group.

From Albert Bichot website:
This bottling is produced from 25-35 year old vine parcels planted in clay and limestone soils exclusively in the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. Bichot hand-harvests and all of the grapes are sorted and gravity fed into fermentation tanks. The wine is then aged in a mix of stainless steel and oak for 8 to 12 months. The result is a fantastically bistro-styled, "drink now" kind of wine at an excellent value. From the winery: "This Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes has a lovely intensive red colour. It is just as flattering to the nose thanks to a seductive palette of very fruity aromas - notes of blackcurrant, redcurrant and plum. The mouth is fleshy and well-balanced and enhanced by discreet woody notes with a pleasant finish."

Rosie's Notes:  This wine should be enjoyed young, like school lads.  Drink now through Saturday.

Chef Randolph's Notes:
With this wine, it's windy, it's late December, and it's cold  (It was 79° that day.), a warming wine with a nice terroir...  (damn recorder) calling for a nice game dish...  I did some quail.  Now the quail is semi-boneless because I don't know if you've ever boned quail before but it takes a knack, so you'll be seeing a little leg bone in there and one wing.  If there are any other bones found in there, don't tell me about them.
 And that's served on top of a celeriac potato purée, with a little bit of a duxelle of mushrooms.  All those interact to bring out a blend with that nice terroir from the Pinot Noir.  And it's finished with a really rich pan jus which is basically roasted bones cooked down from 2 gallons to one quart.


I love the excitement in the kitchen and watching the preparation.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

 I was excited to have quail.  Can't even remember the last time,but I would have been in my teens, so maybe 15-20 years ago, when Brother Hawthorne and Papa Hawthorne would go hunting.

 Our fourth course was sautéed oyster mushrooms with wilted leeks and microgreens paired with
 Michel Chapoutier Bila-Haut 2013 Cotes du Roussillon Villages

Dee's Notes:
 We're going back down to the southern part of France again to the Roussillon area.  This is Bila Haut.  The name comes from an old farm.  A very famous winemaker bought the last 75 hectares.  His name is Michael Chapoutier and he's quite well-renown and has vineyards in Australia as well.

He spent six years observing and looking at these vineyards in the southern part of France before he even picked a grape. He's very meticulous.  This is a blend of syrah, grenache, and carignan.  The syrah is from two different vineyards so you have two different soil types there - a clay and a minerality.  The granache vines are about 70 years old which gives a bit of complexity to the wine.  The syrah gives off that nice pepper and spice to it.  The grapes from the limestone region gives the wine a little more finesse. The carignan is about 20% and blends very well.  They used to make tanks for this wine, so it's no oak.  It's light, fresh, vibrant. It's medium to full-bodied.  You're definitely going to pick up a little tobacco.  The longer you leave it in your glass, if you can, the more the minerality will express itself.

Rosie's Notes:
A powerful yet meandering wine, I picked up that musky, musty smell of barn and silage, saddle leather, and sous bois.  It was redolent of animal fur and lingering hot dog water.  I detected aromas of dirt, second-rate roasted meat, and semi-weak hay.  The grape stomper may have forgotten to change his socks.  Open ended, yet elegant, you can drink this wine until the cows come home.

Chef Randolph's notes:
When I heard the story about what went into making this wine and the meticulousness involved,
after tasting it, we decided to go with something very simplistic.  We went with fresh baby Vidalia onions, fresh oyster mushrooms, simply sautéed  - a little bit of butter, onion, and salt and pepper, and just a touch of white wine in there.

Our fifth course was steak au poivre with grilled asparagus,
paired with Baron de Brane 2009 Margaux.

From Dee:
Let's talk Bordeaux - one of the most highly sought-after and most expensive wines in the world.
Did Dee say the 2014 just came out and it retails for about $2000/bottle?
Tonight we are having the second label from Chateau Brane Cantenac so this is Baron de Brane.
It's not going to give off a huge amount of oak, so it's going to be mellow.  You'll pick up blackberries, cherries, and a touch of tobacco.

Rosie's Notes:
Remarkable, heady, equally complex, and stunning.  Attacks with gusto.  Corpulent and robust.  Impressive and aggressive.  Desperate but outstanding.  It appealed to my inner child whilst satisfying my urge to be an adult.  I believe I detected the faintest soupcon of wilting truffle and asparagus nodes.  But that could just be coming from the cigar box.  Essences of hedonism rage throughout this bottle.  This wine scared me.  It's sex in a bottle. Nice 7-minute finish which crescendoes into a salty tide which clings to the palate.  May be enjoyed until Groundhog Day.

Chef Randolph:
I decided to pair this wine with a very classic steak au poivre.  Roasted and ground tellicherry peppercorns were rubbed into a beautiful New York Strip steak.  We're putting it simply over grilled asparagus with pretty classic steak au poivre sauce made with cognac, about 25% marsala for sweetness, and onions and demi glace, cooked down with a little cream.


 Perfectly cooked.

Our sixth and final course.

From Chef Randolph:
I picked out the next beverage because it's not a wine.  It is a Lambic and it comes all the way from St. Louis.  It's made from framboise and velvet-styled lambic.  A little bit of sweetness to it.  It's made like beer, but unlike beer, it's not done with barley at all.  It's made entirely with fruit.

It's paired with Amanda's fantastic crepe cake.  It is a crepe paired with neufchatel and ricotta cheese with raspberries, served with vanilla ice cream and chantilly whipped cream.

Rosie's Notes:
A devious little ale masquerading as a fruit-filled pinata.  Definite pear notes but I couldn't discern whether the pears were Bosc or Anjou. Delightful personality with hints of the smell when you walk into a Staples.  Underlying notes of ROM and RAM with a decisive chip on its shoulder. 

And not to worry, Amanda and Randolph.
I NEVER stick my fingers in anything while you're not watching.  ;-)

Our sixth course was sublime -
raspberry and ricotta crepe cake with chantilly whipped cream and French vanilla ice cream
with a little brown sugar.This was paired with Framboise St. Louis Lambic Belgian Ale Raspberry.

Too good to be true!
Thanks, Chefs Sprinkles and Saltbox Crew for another exceptional dinner.
See you in January for New Zealand and Australia.
Can't wait!


Marilyn said...

Your commentaries of these dinners always make me wish I could travel to the Outer Banks just to sample some of that delicious-looking food!

Anonymous said...

I am also reading and planning my trip in my head. These dinners look like a lot of fun, Rosie. So happy that you are sharing them.

Vera Charles (from the olden days at TWOP)

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Vera Charles, how lovely to hear from you. The Hawthornes will be attending another dinner next Tuesday - New Zealand and Australia. Looking forward to lamb and kangaroo.
I requested cute little koala bears but they said no.