Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Hawthornes Enjoy Another Six-Course Wine-Paired Dinner At The Saltbox Café. Roadtrip to Cali!

 You know the Hawthornes love the 6-course meals
paired with wines at the Saltbox Café.

Here's a recap of our previous dinners,
in case you missed any:

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 visited France.

 Tonight, we're taking a road trip to California.

Our menu was prepared by Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle and Josh Naser.  The wine was presented by Cindy and Kerry of Tryon Distributing of Charlotte, NC.  Our most capable and gracious servers were April Wolf and Mike Dinkle.

 Chef Randolph surveys a hungry crowd.

 I always love watching the goings-on in the kitchen.

Our first course is an avocado and crab salad with a vanilla bean and mango vinaigrette.  Light and lovely.  This was paired with a 2013 Davis Family Cuvée Luke.

Kerry always recommends we try some of the wine prior to each course and then along with each course to see how the flavors meld and change.

About 90% of our table wine production comes from California.  Now, California is influential internationally in wine production, crashing onto the world scene in the 1970s.  

There are so many little micro-climates throughout the state of California so it allows for very different climates,elevations, and different temperature zones that are perfect for grape growing.  

Our first wine is from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County north of San Francisco and it has a wonderful and unique influence of cool air coming off the bay where the fog will roll up into the Russian River Valley and won't dissipate many days until noon, allowing the vineyards to stay sheltered from the heat and the sun and it allows grape varietals to thrive under these conditions that ordinarily wouldn't.

This is from a small boutique winery, Guy Davis, producing about 5000 cases annually.  This particular wine is named after his eldest grandchild.  This is an interesting white blend in honor of the French white wines from the Rhone Valley of France.  It's a blend of 3 different grapes - Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viogner, the Viogner giving it very nice floral notes.  You'll get a bit of honeysuckle on the palate and it's got great stone fruit notes like peach and apricot and it has a little bit of minerality.  

Chef Randolph:  What we tried to do is go through different cities and locations in California.  Our first stop is Sonoma wine region.  We're going with nice, beautiful, sweet crab meat, with fresh avocado, Roma tomatoes, and it's finished with a little bit of mango vinaigrette.

Rosie:  A complex wine, yet simple to drink.  Bottoms up!  That's how simple.  A very user-friendly wine.


 Our second course is a lightly seared extremely delicate sea bass over nutty black quinoa with sweet Malibu Carrots and a savory Marsala Sabayon, paired with 2013 Morgan Chardonnay.

Kerry:  Dan Lee, was an apprentice at Jekyll Winery and in 1982 decided to branch out and do his own label, so he started Morgan Winery.  Morgan Winery is in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation.   This is south of San Francisco in Monterey.  This is a valley which cuts in from the coast and goes southeast down which has a sort of suction effect where the cool air is sucked down.  There are also some wonderful elevations there, hence the name highlands.   This is Morgan's Highland Chardonnay.  They have a couple different vineyard sites that they own in that appellation that go into this, Chardonnay being one of those well-known white varietals and the most widely planted white vine for producing white wine.  It's a very versatile wine and an impressionable grape varietal.  This one is made with a little bit of French oak, imparting a bit of cinnamon flavor.  Also crisp apple character, with a buttery creaminess.

Chef Randolph:  We're doing a nice seared sea bass.  This particular sea bass is from the Atlantic Ocean but is similar to the Pacific sea bass.  This is served over black quinoa with Malibu carrots and is finished with a sabayon.  Normally a sabayon is a dessert preparation with yolks and sugar.  This is a savory preparation but it's mixed with a little Marsala wine and has a little acidity and saltiness to it too.

Rosie:  This wine talks the talk and walks the walk, like a sun-bleached blond in a bikini on an endless beach in Malibu.  "Follow me,"  it says.  And I do.  Down to the bottom of the glass where I curl up like a cute, sleepy kitten.  For a moment, I was that summer blond and I was on that beach.  I was tawny.  I was bronzed.  I was like Christie Brinkley in the " 'bu."  That's what we call it in the hood.  Malibu is the "bu."

 That's the problem with wine.


 Our third course is Korean chicken BBQ in a unbelievably light steamed bun served with a kimchi-style slaw with swiggles of flavor and sliced scallions on the plate, paired with a 2013 Clos du Val Pinot Noir.

Kerry:  In the early 70s, the Galet family came to Napa Valley and established the Clos du Val Winery.  They were one of a handful of wineries selected to go to the famous 1976 Paris Tasting to compete in a blind tasting up against some of France's most prestigious properties.  California did extremely well.  This winery also has some wonderful property down in the Carneros district, a district which overlaps the southern tips of of Napa and Sonoma.  Something about the fogs...  It's perfect for Burgundian grape varietals, meaning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Much like the Monterey area of Santa Lucia, it's cool here.  This is a classic Pinot Noir, which has lighter and softer tannins.  Intriguing and quite delightful with cherry and raspberry.  It's firm. A great sample of Pinot Noir from the California area.

Chef Randolph:  We decided to go with San Francisco. Korean BBQ.  One of the things I was trying to go for was pairing that earthiness of the Pinot Noir with the spices in the BBQ.  It's not terribly spicy, but does have a bit of bite to it, and a lot of earthy, warm spices, like Szechwan peppercorn and a little bit of 5-spice powder.  It's being put inside a bun -  a nice, light, fluffy, "foggy" steamed bun with a kimchi-style slaw.

Rosie: Rosie was ready for red.  Like me, this wine does not color between the lines.  I immediately noticed it does not play well with others; therefore, I had to drink it all myself.

 I love the squiggles.

 Our fourth course is pork carnitas with salsa cruda and a sweet corn masa paired with a 2012 Biale Basic Black.  I asked Chef Randolph if he had prepared the carnitas in the traditional method of frying in lard in large copper kettles.  He had not.  Oh well...  I will eat them anyway.

And next time I have pork, instead of a cornbread, I'm going to try the masa for a change, along with Mr. Hawthorne's canned Salsa Ranchera, from the recipe from Los Barrios Family Cookbook.  We went to the restaurant in San Antonio and I had their puffy tacos.  Divine!  Mr. Hawthorne bought the cookbook for me.

Kerry:  Now we're going to the Biale's Vineyards, producing wine since the 30s.  This is Biale Basic Black.  It's both a name and a blend.  Since the early 20th century in the Oak Knoll district, they were known for producing Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Syrah - some varietals that locally they called the grapes black varietals.  During Prohibition, locals still produced this wine from the dark varietals at home in their cellars, and the secret code word when you called into the area where the winery is located now was "I'll have a black chicken."  The winery took that bit of history, embraced it, and do a fantastic Zin blend called black chicken.  This is their basic black which is actually a blend of Petite Syrah, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Carignane.  We have a great, deep, red, 17 months in French oak allowing a deep and brooding dark fruit to come through and exude.  You have black cherry, black berry, maybe a subtle licorice in the finish, not strong at all, and then a little bit of mocha.  It's a beautiful blended wine.

Chef Randolph:  For this wine, I kind of moved up to the San Diego area with some of the Mexican influence.  We did Baja style carnitas.  We braised the pork for a long period of time, cut it into cubes, then fried it. I'm putting that with a sweet corn masa and a little bit of pico de galo or salsa cruda - just fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and jalapeno. 

Rosie:  Que Syrah, Syrah...  I'm brooding.

 Assembly line going on.  Teamwork!

 Mike and April.

 Our fifth course is Harris Ranch beef tenderloin with whipped goat cheese and potatoes.

 Oh look.   Someone can't eat the beef.
 Chefs Sprinkles take care of those with dietary restrictions.

 This was served with wild mushroom demi sauce.

Chef Sprinkle sprinkles.
 This was paired with a 2013 Eberle Vine Select Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Kerry:  We're on to our third red wine this evening.  This is a Cabernet Sauvignon and now we're going farther south in California to the Paso Robles area, south of Monterey but north of San Luis Obispo.  Inset from the coast, this area has become famous for Rhone varietals, like Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier, but they also do a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of the pioneers in this valley since the 70s is Eberle.  Eberle actually means "small boar" and it's on the label as its logo.  This wine has been produced since Eberle started this winery as his flagship.  You do have some dark fruits but they're not as deep and dark as the Viognier.  This has cedar tones, also a little cherry cola, a really delightful balance between the tannins and the acidity.

Chef Randolph:  For this course, we found a small cattle farm called Harris Cattle Ranch, east of Coalinga, California, in the San Joaquin Valley of central California.  This is prime beef tenderloin which I'm doing with a demi-glace of wild mushrooms, primarily morel mushrooms coming from the northern part of California.  These were dried, then rehydrated, then put into the sauce.  It's served over a potato purée with whipped goat cheese.

Rosie:  I am trapped inside a sultan's red satin pants.  I smell good things.  Bougainvillea, wisteria, gardenia - the Floral Trinity.  Heady spices.  And then there were the dark elements - Shades of Madagascar vanilla and then, startled, I woke up, and my head was stuck in M C Hammer's parachute pants/pajamas.  He yelled at me, CAN'T TOUCH THIS! 
So, I stretched out my arm, full extent, with my glass of Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon held high, opened my mouth wide, and poured the wine into my gaping maw, much like doing a beer bong in a frat house.  The wine went from arm length to my lips and I didn't miss a drop.  I believe I heard applause.  Not that there was any.  But I heard it.

 I'm not sure what's going on here...
 ...  but I think Chef Randolph and Dinkle  are solving the problems of the world!

Or perhaps they were just having a ... bro-ment.

 Our sixth course - dessert.  Fresh pound cake with strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and sorbet and a chantilly cream,  paired with NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blanc.

Kerry:  Before we leave California tonight, we have something festive to finish with - a California sparkling wine. There are several fantastic sparkling wine produces in California. We're going back to the Caneres district again, where the Pinot Noir was grown, because it's such a perfect area for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Almost all the sparkling wine producers either grow fruit or are located in this area of California.  This is Gloria Ferrer, the producer.  This is a blanc de blancs, meaning white from white, a French term from champagne.  Usually Chardonnay grapes are used but occasionally Pinot Noir is used for French champagne production.  This is all Chardonnay and it's done methode champagnois, which means the traditional method of champagne, where we get the bubbles from a second fermentation which happens in the bottle.  They'll actually make a still white wine and introduce additional yeast in the bottle and age it, sometimes for years.  This produces a lovely effervescence.   Clean, green apples, bright, and a lifting kind of effect.  Great for desserts.  A wonderful way to celebrate the end to a fantastic meal.

Chef Randolph:  For this last course, apparently Amanda has been dreaming of summertime.  She did berries three ways -  macerated strawberries and blackberries on top of a pound cake with a raspberry chantilly cream and then a mixed berry sorbet.

Rosie:  Rosie ended up in Hotel California.  Nekkid.  With the Beach Boys.  California Dreamin'.
And I blame Randy and Mandy!

So pretty!

Another job well done, Saltbox Café Crew!

Thank you for another amazing meal!


Unknown said...

As usual, loved your commementary.

Wonder if Chef Sprinkle would ever consider working with Midwestern wines?

Rosie Hawthorne said...

I'll pass along your comment to Randolph.