Friday, March 11, 2016

The Hawthornes Attend Another Six-Course/Wine-Paired Dinner At The Saltbox Café.

If you've been keeping track, you know that the Hawthornes attend EVERY 6-course/wine-paired gustational event at The Saltbox Café.  I've told Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle to automatically include me each time so I'm sure to have a table.  These events sell out quickly.  I must be quick on my feet.

For a recap, here are the previous dinners:

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.
February 2016, we took a road trip to California.
Also in February 2016, we visited Italy

March 9, we had a lovely visit to Chile.
 At every one of these dinners, I see new faces.  Saltbox Café, word is out and I applaud and congratulate you.
As usual, Chef Randolph works the room, stopping at each table during each course throughout the evening, chatting and questioning.  Chef Amanda works her magic in the kitchen.  Mike and April are our wonderfully attentive, most excellent servers.

Cindy and Kerry of Tryon Distributing, Charlotte, NC, were there again to introduce each wine.

 Our first course is a delightful and refreshing Camaron and Avocado Coconut Ceviche paired with Casa Silva, Valle del Colchagua Sauvignon Gris.
  I loved this.
 Fresh North Carolina shrimp, local crab meat, avocado, black beans, onions, peppers, jalapenos, lime, orange, with coconut milk to mellow out that acidity so it doesn't clash with the wine, served with grilled naan.

The best part of this was the Colington-grown cilantro!  I could taste the terroir!
I KNOW that terroir!!
Why, it's MY TERROIR!!!

Kerry's Comments:  Chile is going through quite a renaissance in viticulture.  A lot of producers, just over the past 5-10 years, have come together and really committed themselves to changing the perception and quality of Chilean wines, taking advantage of both climate and region, and producing some very high-quality wines.  Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world and the world's eighth largest producer of wine.  In fact, 10 million people worldwide drink Chilean wine each day.  The wine regions in Chile span about 1200 miles, from the Elqui Valley in the north, down to the Malleco Valley in the south.

  Our first wine is from Casa Silva, a producer that's been growing grapes since the late 1800s.  This winery is located in the Choapa Valley, which is in the center part of the country.   It is a Sauvignon Gris, which is a mutation from Sauvignon Blanc.  It's a different color, has a grayish skin, and a different flesh which produces different acids and fruit flavors. These vines are over a hundred years old.  You'll notice flower or blossom on the nose and a great balance of tropical flavors and acidity on the finish.

Rosie's Ramblings:  Took a whiff of the Sauvignon Gris.  Smells like baby diaper and lemon.  I likee.   But fresh tasting.  And those tropical flavors made me feel as if I lived at the beach!

Our second course is seared Chilean sea bass with saffron quinoa "risotto" with mushrooms and both a red and yellow pepper coulis topped with sweet potato fries, paired with Errazuriz, Casablanca Valley Wild Ferment Chardonnay. 

Say ahhhh.  This dish is sticking its tongue out at me. 
Ahhh.  That's better.

Kerry's Comments:  Chile has been producing wine for quite some time, dating back to the Spanish conquistadors who first colonized the region during the 16th century and brought with them vines from Spain.  Notice on the menu this says "wild ferment."  In production, they take their best Chardonnay and start fermentation, but instead of actually introducing or inoculating a yeast they choose in a chemistry lab, they let fermentation occur naturally from the yeasts in the environment.  This is a much slower process, taking about 5-6 times longer, and during that length of time, you get more interesting complexities from the yeast.  This is a Chardonnay that is actually aged on the lees, so when the yeast cells, that are consuming sugar and producing alcohol, die, they will let the wine age on the sediment, stirring the barrels occasionally, which adds a lot of interesting characteristics to the wine.  It comes through in the wine as a spicy complexity.  

Our third course is roasted duck and corn masa, flavored with duck fat, with a chile verde, paired with Familia Garces Silva Boya Pinot Noir.

Kerry's Comments:  
This is a Pinot Noir from the Leyda Valley, produced by a winery owned by the Silva family who made the Sauvignon Gris we had for the first course.  But this is a completely separate project.  This is called Boya, which translates to "bouy," an appropriate name for a winery overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This is a state-of-the-art "gravity-flow" winery.  When the wine is moved, say from crushing or fermentation to the barrels or bottling area, it's all done by gravity-flow.  The producers took advantage of the rolling hills on the coast and built it into the winery so that the wine can be flowed without pumps.  What effect does this have on the wine?  Sometimes pumping wine from place to place can give it aromas and other characteristics, especially in very delicate wines and Pinot Noir is a delicate wine.

The grape clusters are very tight and small.  The grapes are almost like little berries and they develop a skin.  That's why Pinot Noir comes across as very soft and not as tannic or full-bodied as other red wines.  The skins are soft and don't have as much natural tannins.  Exudes strawberry and raspberry.

Rosie's Ramblings:
Wow. Moss and forest floor.  Hot tar.  Route 66.  Been there.  Done it.  Know it.

Behind the scenes.

Our fourth course is Stewed Cordero en Papas with Maiz Pozolero.  That be lamb and potatoes with hominy.  This was paired with Clos des Fous Cabernet Sauvignon.  Randolph wanted to go with a very Chilean dish, Alpaca Stew.  But didn't.  It says "stewed lamb" on the menu.  But he didn't do that either.  He had beautiful lamb loins which he couldn't bring himself to stew.  Thank God.  What Randolph ended up doing was making the classic broth of the stew with pozole and potatoes and corn - a truly rich sauce.  Sautéed asparagus and beautiful lamb completed the dish.

Kerry's Comments:  
Our second red wine is by the winery Clos des Fous.  This winery is about four friends, each of whom brought their own talents to the table- one a winemaker, one a viticulturist, one a "terroir" hunter, and one a "bringer of wisdom."  By choosing to ignore the experts and following their own instincts as to where to put their winery and where to grow their grapes, they started getting a lot of press in big cities in the US.  The area, Grillos Cantores, is pretty much unknown for wine-growing, but this area has unbelievably intense limestone soil.  That, along with the gravel soils, makes for a fantastic area for producing Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is not oaked at all, just straight Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is a red grape known to be very full-bodied.  This is a great expression of a nice dark black cherry fruit. It's got some herbal notes to it also.

Rosie's Ramblings: 
That sauce is something else.  Next time, Saltbox, give me a straw.  Or sumpin' to sop it up.

As for the Clos des Fous, it was indeed full-bodied, voluptuous, and brooding wine, I must say.

I vigorously swirled the wine in the glass (I watched Kerry do this.)  -  notes of meth lab and wet black lab. A briny wet dog.  Delightful.  The finish lasted until the next red.

Would you look at that meat?
That is some beautiful cow.

Our fifth course is Grass Fed Carne Asada en Parilla with Chimichurri and Ancho Chili Potatoes, paired with Garcia & Schwaderer, Facundo.

Kerry's Comments:
Our last red wine of the evening.
Felipe Garcia and Connie Schwaderer, each serving as winemakers for separate large Chilean wineries, met in 2001.  They shared a passion for making fantastic Chilean wines and were able to produce their first label together in 2006, Garcia & Schwaderer.  They have also produced their own signature varieties - Sauvignon Blanc for Schwaderer and Pinot Noir for Garcia.

This particular wine is called Facundo, which is named after one of their sons.  It is a red blend,
50% Carignan, which is a red grape quite prominent throughout the south of France.  It was brought over several centuries ago by settlers and it has thrived in South America.  This has 25% Cabernet Sauvignon along with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.  These are all fermented separately and aged separately in French oak barrels for two years.  Then the wine is put together and blended.
It is a rich, deep, and dense wine.

Rosie's Ramblings: 
As much as I like RED meat, I LOVED that ancho potato purée.  Gotta make it!

And that red wine!??!  That Facundo walked in on 5-inch stiletto heels.  It got my attention.  Legs like a Rockette and it kicked like a Rockette.  It walked all over me and left puncture wounds.

Our dessert course - Orange & Fig Torte with Dulce de Leche & Poached Spiced Pears.

Amanda made a classic yellow cake filled with fig preserves, soaked with simple syrup, topped with whipped cream and toasted almonds, some spiced pears poached in a blend of red wine, star anise, and cinnamon, with dulce de leche on the side.

 This was paired with Marques de Gelida Rosé.

Kerry's Comments: 
 To honor those Spanish conquistadors who brought the first vines to Chile, our final wine is a bubbly from Spain.  This is a Cava, from northeastern Spain.  This is a wonderful bubbly.  Cava is known for making sparkling wines.  It's made from Pinot Noir, a red grape.  This is made in the traditional method, the same way they make champagne.  To get the bubbles in sparkling wine, you do a second fermentation in the bottle.  You make a table wine, bottle it, then induce a second fermentation in the bottle.

Rosie's Ramblings:
I poured my shot of dulce de luce over the cake.  I took a bite of this dessert.  I think I died and went to heaven.

The bubbly?  It's a pop tart bitch.

Now, for the most exciting part of the evening:
Kerry's Comments:
There's something special I wanted to mention tonight.   Tryon is a statewide wholesaler of fine wines and craft beer and our state-wide director of training and sales goes around to lots of different restaurants and he has a special top twelve culinary experience awards ceremony every year.  He picks his twelve top restaurants in the state and he has named Saltbox Café a recipient of this award.

Rosie's Ramblings: 
Heh.  Amanda was back in the kitchen and I don't think she heard any of this.  It wasn't until the crowd started chanting, "AmandaAmandaAmanda" did she ever venture out of the kitchen.

Congratulations Chefs!  This is so well-deserved!

What can I say?  We love you!


Marilyn said...

Sounds like another lovely evening! I wanted to reach into my computer screen and grab that food. Congrats to the Chefs Sprinkles!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

It was a lovely evening. We have two more dinners - 3/29 for the West Coast and 4/20 for Wines of Oregon. Looking forward to them.