Friday, April 1, 2016

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

Tuesday night, March 29, the Hawthornes were again at one of The Saltbox Café's Vines Around The World Dinner Series.  This time we visited the Pacific Northwest.
 Chef Amanda and our hostess, April.

Our wines tonight.

 Chef Amanda, Dee of Artisan Wines, and April.
Dee tells me she's from Birmingham, Alabama,
but I don't believe her.

 Funny story.
Dee and I were chatting and she asked me
about the name of my blog.
"What's the name of it?  Monkeys In The Kitchen?"

Monkeys In The Kitchen!!!!!

This is rather fitting because I've finally come to the realization
that this is my circus and those are my monkeys.

And it reminded me of the time, years ago,
when I stopped by Outer Banks Epicurean
and Amy Huggins Gaw said to me,
"Oh...   I remember you.  You're the kitchen monkey!"

Sorry, but I digest.
Back to The Saltbox dinner.

I liked this shot of Mr. Hawthorne, the water, and the napkin.

 Chef Randolph makes the rounds.
Throughout every course.

Tonight, Randolph explained,
we're exploring Oregon and Washington states.
One of the things he discovered in his research
is that both states are very eco-friendly and organic.
Chefs Randolph and Amanda took the best
they could find of the Washington/Oregon area
and put their own creative spin on it.
Fresh local asparagus, just coming in now,
and beautiful morel mushrooms
along with a giant halibut from the Columbia River
and steelhead trout will make their way on the menu tonight.

Flippin' Amanda.

Chef Randolph slicing.
Oh...  That grilled ribeye was sumpin' else!

First Course:
Sautéed razor clam bruschetta paired with Montinore Borealis.

Note to self:
Self, go to The $tore and buy a black plate.

Montinore Estate, a family-run winery, was established in 1982, lying in the Willamette Valley along the east slope of the Coastal Range foothills in Oregon.  It is a"Demeter Certified Biodynamic" and "Stellar Certified Organic" winery.  "Biodynamic" is the gold standard of farming -sustainable farming and holistic stewardship.  It's "conscious agriculture."  No fertilizers, GMOs, or chemical sprays.

This particular wine is a blend of Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, and about 5% Pinot Gris. It a very light, crisp, white wine.  The spectrum runs from tropical fruits, pineapple, some apple flavor, some peach.  The acidity of the wine should pair nicely with the clams.

When Dee poured our wine, she suggested we cup the glass to warm the wine a bit to let the flavors come out.  As always, we taste the wine first without the food, then with the food.  I took a sip and looked at Mr. Hawthorne.  He was thoughtfully swirling the wine around in his mouth, then said to me, "This has quite the floral finish.  Just wait for it."  Say what, Mr. Cardbordeaux?  "Don't look so surprised.  I been gettin' an edumacation!"

Here's the description of the wine:

Montinore Borealis
39% Gewurztraminer, 37% Muller-Thurgau, 19% Riesling, 5% Pinot Gris
The aroma practically covers the full fruit spectrum with notes of peach, yellow apple, pineapple and with bright citrus popping out, accented with whiffs of lychee and fresh rose petals. On the palate it starts with a soft, slightly sweet expression of ripe peach and pear balanced with a citrus zing, which evolves to a delicious long, crisp finish of tropical and stone fruit

I could have sworn I tasted green apple not yellow apple, but what do I know?

Chefs Sprinkles decided to pair this with a bruschetta (grilled bread) and razor clams, which are harvested in the Pacific Ocean off Washington state.  Chef Randolph was describing the dish to us, then asked how many of us had eaten razor clams before.  When no one responded in the positive, he said, "Good, because I've never cooked them before."  These "ginormous bivalves" were chopped and sautéed in extra virgin olive oil from California, with garlic, white wine, herbs, and grape tomatoes, then topped with arugula tossed in a light vinaigrette.

Second course:
Seared Columbia River halibut
with house-made bottarga and angel hair pasta
paired with Argyle Chardonnay.
I thought this quite fitting since I was wearing argyle socks.
I know how impressed you must be by my incredible fashion savvy.
Dee explained that this wine is a Willamette Valley Chardonnay from Argyle Winery.  Rollin Soles is the winemaker and owner and Argyle Winery was named "Oregon's Premier Winery" by Wine Spectator in 2000.  It's been around since the early 80s and by 1987, it was producing world-class méthode champenoise sparkling wines.  In addition to sparkling wines, Argyle Winery also produces barrel-fermented Chardonnays and dusty, juicy, and light Pinot Noirs.

 Again, we see the ecology-sensitivity of this area.  The Argyle vineyards in the Dundee Hills of Oregon are Certified Sustainable by LIVE, Low Input Viticulture and Enology, and the first in the state to be certified by the organization.  The focus is on ecological responsibility, ecosystem stability, sustainable farming practices, environmental protection, and responsible stewardship, maintaining natural fertility and biological diversity and reducing dependence on synthetic chemicals and fertilizers.  Argyle Winery also is Certified Salmon-Safe.  Oregons vintners make efforts to ensure their agricultural processes have limited impact on the salmon population.  They are protecting salmon watersheds from erosion and runoff from hillside vineyards, which brings silt into streams and rivers, reducing the ability of the salmon to survive.

Half of this Chardonnay is fermented in stainless steel and the other half is fermented in neutral oak barrels, so the wine is not dominated by other flavors and also it gives a touch of creaminess to that mid-palate.

Argyle Chardonnay is all pure fruit focus and precision. The middle palate is ripe with melon and peaches, balanced with an underlying, subtle creaminess. The natural acidity is buoyant and fresh, finishing long and clean.

Who writes these wine descriptions? 

Chefs Sprinkles, considering this "classy Chardonnay," decided to pair it with some super-fresh, beautiful halibut, just caught in the Columbia River.  Chef Randolph explained that they paired it with something he loves to make and likes to share with others.  In springtime, we have shad runs and they're full of roe.  Chef Randolph made bottarga, a Sardinian condiment.  The shad roe is salted and sliced, then treated like anchovies, basically.  They're toasted in olive oil and garlic and they lose that fishy flavor and take on a nice nutty quality.  A lemon and parsley gremolata tossed with angel hair pasta and a light cream sauce completed the dish.

Third course:
Sautéed Steelhead Salmon,
which was trout,
 served with local asparagus,
 morels, and sundried tomatoes
and paired with Elk Cove Pinot Noir.
Well, it looks like salmon, but it's not.
It's a trout;
however, it does belong to the same family as salmon,
the family Salmonidae,
and it shares certain similarities to Pacific salmon.
The trout are born in freshwater streams,
spending the first 1-3 years of their lives there,
then they move out to the ocean for another 1-4 years,
returning to their native freshwater streams to spawn.
The trout do not die after spawning;
they're able to spawn more than once.

Dee introduced the wine, an Elk Cove Pinot Noir, 2013.  Elk Cove is a family owned winery, established in 1974 by Pat and Joe Campbell  They were one of ten wineries in Oregon at that time, so they were true winegrowing pioneers.  Now, there are more than 500 Oregon wineries.  This is another wine from Willamette Valley.

In 1974, the Campbell family found themselves at a homestead in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range Mountains, drawn by the "shallow soils, steep hilly terrain, and beautiful views."

The name, "Elk Cove," came from a herd of 40 Roosevelt elk that bedded down in the winter of 1974 in the clearing by the Campbell's trailer.  That, and the shape of the property, prompted the Campbells to name the property "Elk Cove Vineyards."

And the wine description:

Cherry garnet in color with an earthy aroma of black currants, fresh tomato and dried rose petal. A woodsy fireside note accents a juicy, full mouthful of sour cherry and plum with underlying layers of cinnamon stick and coffee bean. The silky finish persists with long, dusty tannins.

Fresh tomatoes and dried rose petals??  Really???  I totally missed the cinnamon stick.

Chef Randolph continued about the wine:  Most of the time, we associate red wine with red meat.
He decided to pair it with fish.  The fish is steelhead.  It looks like salmon and you cut it as a fillet of salmon, but it's actually a trout.  There are trouts that go from the Columbia River out to the ocean and they come back into the Columbia River to spawn.  It is a native trout.

He explained the trout had a very nice salmony flavor, or perhaps, a strong flavor, that would stand up well to the Pinot Noir.

Chef Randolph added that he received his first load of fresh, local asparagus.  The asparagus was sautéed very quickly with fresh morel mushrooms, picked in Oregon, and topped with a little sundried tomato.

This is why I love access to the kitchen magic.
I particularly liked this picture.
And this dish.
Fourth course:
Roasted quail with mushroom duxelle
 and hen jus and microgreens,
paired with Tamarack Firehouse, 2013.
Dee told us this particular wine, Tamarack Firehouse, Columbia Valley, 2013, has eleven varieties in it:  25% Cabernet Sauvignon,  24% Syrah, 22% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 7% Sangiovese, 3%Petit Verdot, 3% Grenache, 1% Counoise, 1% Malbec, 1% Mourvèdre, and 1% Cinsault.

Here's the wine description:
 Deceptively sweet aromas of strawberries, raspberries and rose petals.  The flavors are dark, rich, lusciously mouthwatering, with cherries, boysenberries, tart plum skins, hints of leather, sweet pipe tobacco, and coffee beans.  The tannins are firm, but not a bit edgy and the finish lingers with just a touch of anise.
In other words, it tastes like a barn. But a good barn taste.

Tamarack Winery is another family-owned winery, founded in 1998 by Ron and Jamie Coleman in a renovated firehouse located in a WWII Army Base.  The Colemans' first vintage was 300 cases of Merlot.  Now, 20,000 cases are produced yearly.

 Chef Randolph then commented that he was happy not to have to show off his wine acumen what with remembering eleven varietals and his dish only has maybe three components.  Chefs Sprinkles decided to go with quail.  Now, the quail did not come from Oregon, but all the mushrooms in the duxelle did.  They roasted quail, put it with mushroom duxelle containing chanterelles and Oregon bluefoot crimini shrooms, and made a pan jus from stock and port wine reduction.  The reduction of the wine gave a bit of sweetness to the sauce.

A duxelle is a preparation of mushrooms.  You take mushrooms, onion, garlic, a little bit of fresh herbs (In this case, fresh thyme and parsley.)  You chop the mushrooms very finely, or food processor them, and sauté in butter, fresh herbs, and red wine, then bring it all together with mie de pan, or breadcrumbs, fresh bread coarsely chopped up.

 Fifth course:
Grilled ribeye steak marinated with juniper berries
and roasted baby potatoes paired with Novelty Hill Cabernet.

 The wine is from the Columbia Valley and the winemaker is Mike Januik who is one of the top ten marketers of Merlot in the whole world and one of Washington's most acclaimed winemakers. And then there was a big noise in the kitchen and I couldn't hear what was said. HAHAHAHA! It's all fun!

Januik, who's been winemaking in the Columbia Valley since 1984, was named one of the world's top ten "Masters of Merlot" by Wine Enthusiast magazine and Wine Spectator has selected more than a dozen of his wines for their "Top 100" list.  Januik was also the head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle for 10 years before leaving to start making wines for Novelty Hill and to start up his own Januik Winery in 1999.

Novelty Hill Cabernet incorporates 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec.

Chef Randolph named this dish their "lumberjack" dish.  This is your typical meat and potatoes. He took a grass-fed rib eye steak, which you'll notice is a lot leaner than most rib eyes.  Chef Randolph enhanced the flavor of the beef with fresh rosemary and juniper berries, which reminds one of the great Pacific Northwest pine forests.  The rib eye was simply grilled and then put over roasted potatoes.  It was finished with volcanic salt on top.  I watched as Dinkle sprinkled Sprinkle's black salt over top.  The dish was kissed with Mt. St. Helen's lovin'.

Our sixth course:
Oh, Lordy. 
This was sublime.
Layered ginger and honey cake with house-made huckleberry jam
and vanilla ice cream
paired with Frost Bitten Ice Riesling.

Dee explained that this is what is called an "ice wine," meaning it's a dessert wine made from ripe grapes that are left to freeze on the vine.
 This wine is made cryogenitally,    ehh...  cryogenically ...  I heard Dee mention something about the vintners getting up at 3 in the morning, donning snow suits, and picking frozen grapes until dawn.  
The grapes are immediately pressed after harvesting.  The grapes shrivel and freeze on the vine, the ice crystals are discarded during the pressing, and this results in a concentration of sugars, acids, and fruit essences, but only a small amount. This concentration also results in this aromatic dessert wine which is often called "liquid gold."  There are notes of honey, tea, beautiful fruit, and a little rose.
At least that's what Dee said.  I don't think I could have tasted.  The sweet berries are particularly fancied by birds, wild boars, and cows, so this further reduces yields.  Unpredictable weather can also reduce the yield, so ice wine production is a big gamble for the wine grower.

Under ideal conditions, the grapes dehydrate and concentrate through the winter. Once a deep frost hits, they freeze into icy pellets that are painstakingly harvested, usually in the dead of night while temperatures remain frigid. 

Battling frostbite and lack of sleep, pickers race against time and temperature to pick, select and press the icy fruit while still frozen. Under intense hydraulic pressure, the grapes eject a miniscule amount of concentrated, sugary essence, while the water content remains behind as ice.

Here's the wine description:
The 2012 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is another terrific wine from this estate that shows the house style with its plump, soft, fruit-forward personality. Giving up lots of currants, licorice, dried herbs and tobacco leaf, I suspect this is best consumed over the coming 4-5 years, but wouldn’t be surprised to see it hold nicely for longer.

Can someone please explain what a "fruit-forward personality" is?

What other types of personalities can a wine have?

Now, I'd say that Tamarack Firehouse would have to be a Type A personality.  It was quite an aggressive wine- ambitious and competitive.  And the Chardonnay was a bit anal- uptight and reserved.  I imagine we might have had a neurotic wine tonight.  There's usually one in every bunch.

Chef Randolph continued, saying he really likes dessert wines.  When you offer a terrific dessert to go with the wine, that brings out all the fruit flavor in the wine.

 Oh goodness, now.  Randolph tells us this is a special occasion tonight since this is the first time he's ever come up with a dessert.  Of course, Chef Amanda was the executor of this dessert.  It is a butter cake that is soaked in a simple syrup of ginger and honey, layered with fresh whipped cream, and  drizzled with a fresh huckleberry compote, cooked with brown sugar and lemon, and served with vanilla ice cream. 

I had some of this for breakfast the next morning.

Thanks again to Chefs Sprinkles for another delicious evening.

For a recap of our 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.

No comments: