Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dinner At The Saltbox Café. Playing With Pinot.

Thursday evening, January 5, the Hawthornes treated themselves to another one of the Saltbox Café's special events - their wine/dinner series consisting of six courses and six wines, each event featuring exceptional wines (presented by experts from Tryon, Empire, Albemarle, and Artisan Wines) paired with their significant others.  Vines Around The World is always a gustatory delight and pleasure, showcasing the talents of Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle who match the cuisine with the wine and the region.

This event for January 5 and the 26th, is themed "Playing With Pinot," with wines presented by Kerry of Tryon Distributing.

 Hear no evil.
See no evil.
Pinot evil.

 Future events include "Taking it Down to New Orleans" with Tryon Distributors on Thursday, February 2 and Thursday, February 9, and  "Bubbles...Bubbles...EVERYWHERE!" on Wednesday, February 15, with Empire Distributors.

Not wanting to spoil the event for those attending on the 26th, Rosie is thoughtfully not posting until late on the 26th.  Or it could be that Rosie is just plain lazy.  That's probably more likely.  It's just as well, since Chefs Amanda and Randolph just TOOK OFF for somewhere tropical for a vacay and
left us all hungry back here.  The NERVE of some people!

At any rate, I had to snag some of Amanda's pictures from Facebook to post for everyone's viewing pleasure.  Enjoy:
Amanda's pic.
Well, I don't think Amanda actually shot this one,
but I snagged it from her FB page.

Amanda, I'm looking at the horizons in your photographs...
Are you drunk?

I guess this one was an accident.

Or as Middle Hawthorne used to say
 when accused of something,
(We're talking 6-8 years old. OK 29.)
"Mama, it was ON a accident!"

 And now we know where the Beautiful People 
go on Holiday.

 And you're welcome.

 OK.  Enough of the Sprinkles' fun.

And as I'm writing this,
I'm wishing I was at the Saltbox Café tonight for a re-do!
By the way, Chefs Amanda and Randolph,
I'm leaving the front porch light on tonight.
For any leftovers.

After all, it is MY BIRTHDAY today.
Everyone, please know that Rosie will be accepting well wishes and cash throughout the rest of January and up until the second week of February. 

 Now, let's EAT!

Course 1:  Gruyère and Truffle Fondue with Sourdough Bread paired with 2008 King Estate Blanc de Noir, Oregon.

 Here's Chef Randolph with his "Black Gold."

I previously posted this picture of Randolph on Facebook with a comment about his "purty blue eyes."

Amanda commented on my post:

 " Amanda L. Sprinkle Hahaha I told him that about two days after meeting him with no intention of ending up marrying him 8 years after that 😂

And I responded with this:
Rosie Hawthorne
Rosie Hawthorne Hah! I've done that! Only they were hazel eyes and it was 10 years later. (I have a slow learner.)
I guess that personal information was OK to blog about.  After all, it was on Facebook. 

Kerry's Comments:  We have an unbelievable array of cuisine and wine this evening.  As always, try a little bit of each wine prior to and along with each course to see how the characteristics of the wine can change and meld and marry with the different ingredients the chefs put forward.

Pinot Noir, one of the the most noble of varietals,  originated centuries ago in Burgundy, France.  It's really a delicate varietal.  The origin of the name, "Pinot Noir" is from the French "pin," meaning "pine", and "noir," meaning "black,"  the reason being that the tight clusters of grapes resemble a pine cone.  Not a lot of air gets inbetween the grapes and that can produce very dark-skinned varietals.  The fact that it is a very tight-clustered varietal makes it hard to grow.  It's very susceptible to mold because of the lack of aeration throughout the bunches.  It can be very delicate at times, depending on where it's grown.  It's a very versatile grape.  Now, in cooler zones, it's being grown around the world and tonight we'll be trying Pinot Noir from five different growing regions and three different countries.

Pinot Noir is traditionally used in champagne in France and tonight, we're starting out with a bubbly made with Pinot Noir from Oregon.  This is actually the first of two wines from King Estate.  We're starting the evening and ending the evening with King Estate Winery in Oregon,  one of the premier producers in Oregon.  Ed King started the winery down in the southern tip of the Willamette Valley, just southwest of Eugene, Oregon.  It's a beautiful estate dedicated to organic farming.  This Pinot Noir is one of only two sparkling wines ever made by King Estate.  This is a 2008 vintage and delightful- delicate, elegant, beautiful.  This is a great way to start things off.  Cheers!

Randolph's Notes:  We have this really nice festive bubbly and I came up with probably one of the reasons why I'm a decent cook - my mother.  This is her recipe for a Swiss fondue.  The only thing is, I added a little bit of fresh black truffle.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  "This is a 2008 vintage and delightful- delicate, elegant, beautiful."
Oh, my, Kerry...  I didn't know you ca...
Oh, wait.  You're talking about the wine.
Never mind.
My bad.

This is why I can't do wine descriptions.  This wine is obviously too good for me.  This wine looked at me with utter disdain.  Which reminds me of the time years ago I went to a tire place in Manteo for an appointment I had at 8AM.  I was prompt for said appointment, as in early, and signed in.  I had one child in tow, one child on hip, and one done but still in the oven, as in I was like 10 months knocked-up at the time.  At 8:20, I politely asked when they might get to me and was rudely countered by the receptionist with,"You know, we're busy here, and then people like you come in here and demand stuff!"  People like you.  I asked the woman, "What do you mean by 'people like you?'  What am I, 'pond scum?' "  Not waiting for an answer, I turned with my brood and left, never to return.  They're no longer in business.
But I digest...

Did this wine have contempt for me?  Was I, "people like you," to this wine?

 I can die a happy woman now.  Truffles and Gruyère.  Ethereal.
Mr. Hawthorne went home and ordered a truffle from Oregon. 
 I could have made the whole meal out of this with no problem whatsoever.

Liquid velvet deliciousness.

Now, on to Course 2:  Local Black Pepper Smoked Speckled Trout over Foraged Mushroom Mélange paired with 2011 Garcia & Schwaderer Pinot Noir, Chile.

Kerry's Comments:  This wine is a more traditional looking Pinot.  This is the first red of the night and it's from Chile.  Chile has had a wine revolution over the last eight years or so.  A lot of producers and winemakers have committed to upping the quality and upping techniques in the wineries and vineyards to produce higher quality and higher prestige wines.

This wine is Garcia & Schwaderer.  That's the name of the producer, a husband and wife team.  Felipe Garcia and Connie Schwaderer are two former winemakers at different wineries that met and decided, against a lot of other people's suggestions, to break away from their established jobs at big wineries and start a small property.  They focus on Pinot Noir.  Because Chile is much like California, Pinot Noir can thrive there with the cool pockets of air from cool areas.  The grapes are grown in the Casa Blanca Valley and the Pinot Noir is aged about 18 months in French oak, which gives it a little complexity and there's a nice, though subtle, sea-breeze kind of finish.  There's a true Pinot Noir fruit character -  you've got plum, strawberry, and a little bit of spice.

Randolph's Notes:  For this course, we've found a new business in the area. Jay Jones is foraging for mushrooms in the North Carolina area.  This is an oyster mushroom and it's being used underneath your black pepper smoked local speckled trout.  We seared the fish with black Madagascar peppercorns over high heat for about a minute for that smoky flavor.  In addition to the oyster mushroom underneath it, there's also a little bit of something I just found when I was in Pittsburgh.  It's a Chinese bacon - so it's pork bacon, smoked, and then it's cured with a sweet soy sauce.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  This wine was quite "friendly in the mouth."  So friendly in fact, that I can imagine drinking this in a Dixie cup in a 60s VW van with peace signs painted outside and a mattress in the back.  Oh wait... That was the Purple Jesus they used to mix at those weekend parties we had back in high school at somebody's parents' lake cabin in the woods off 86 South.  Good times, indeed!

 Local oyster mushroom!  Foraged somewhere "within 20 minutes of here."
Rosie gets out her map and compass, marking off the shroom area.

 I guess the oyster mushroom goes back into the vault with the truffle.

Not wanting to truffle with Chef Randolph, I left to shoot pictures of our second course.

 Their presentations are so pretty from all sides.
And that's why you're getting the pleasure of so many pictures here.
I couldn't decide which ones to cull.
So I didn't.  Because it's my blog and I can do what I want.
Pictures can say much more than my meager drivel.

I just love watching everyone do what they do.
And the ease with which they do it.
35 plates.

Chef Randolph stopped by our table with lion's mane and oyster mushrooms.

On to Course 3:  Asian Inspired Niçoise with Local Tuna and Ginger Vinaigrette paired with 2013 Davis Family Rosé de Noir Sparkling

 Kerry's Comments:  We've moved on to our second bubbly of the evening.  The first sparkling wine we started off with from King Estate was a Blanc de Noir, a white from red grapes. (Wine color comes from the grape skins, not the flesh.  To get a white wine from red grapes, the skins are discarded early in fermentation.)  This is a rosé from red grapes - a rosé de noir, if you will.  This is a California wine, Sonoma, specifically Russian River Valley.  This is the Davis Family Vineyards, truly a family operation - Guy Davis, his wife, and sons are all involved and dedicated to quality.  Davis started out in the restaurant business years ago and after long shifts in the restaurant, he'd sit and sip opened bottles of wine with the owner and the chef. They started out talking about French wines, Davis developed a passion for wine, started traveling, learning, and training, and decided he wanted to become a winemaker.  Davis finally came back to the Sonoma Valley to start his own winery.

This Pinot Noir has a little more body to it than the first wine we had and is a great expression from Guy Davis Winery.

Randolph's Notes:  This is a classical dish - Salade Niçoise - olives, potatoes, haricots verts, and tuna, in this case tuna collars, marinated and grilled, over a mixed green salad (arugula, basil, mint, parsley) finished with an Asian vinaigrette with a little bit of ginger and five-spice powder.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  How often do we find ourselves naked, in a vineyard in Sonoma Valley?  Countless times, I know, right?  This was like being in a dream - everything was so familiar, but it was totally out of context.

 What?  No one else?  Only me?

 Next up is Course 4:  Duck a l'Orange and Sweet Corn and Potato Spoon Bread paired with 2014 Brewer Clifton Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Kerry's Comments:  We're on to our next Pinot Noir and we're staying in California for this selection.  This is Brewer Clifton Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir.  Ken Fredrickson, a master sommelier, teamed up with Greg Clifton and Steve Brewer and they collaborated to open a winery focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir out of the Santa Rita Hills, one of the southernmost growing appellations in California for quality wines, just north of Santa Barbara, not too far from Los Angeles, up along the coast.  We think of that area as being a bit warmer, but up in the hills with the effects of the Pacific Ocean, it's possible to make a varietal like Pinot. You may notice, comparing this with other wines from Russian River Valley or Oregon, this wine comes across richer with deeper fruit.  It's warmer here with definitely more sun.  Russian River Valley has that fog bank that hangs over the valley in the morning and really lets the grapes ripen in a different way, kind of without the sunshine for half the day.

Randolph's Notes:  This particular Pinot screamed duck to me, specifically duck à l'orange.  I introduced a Chinese ingredient here - preserved orange cone. It's Mandarin orange treated with salt - salted orange peel - and it will give you a bit of tang.  We put this on top of a sweet potato and corn spoon bread, keeping with our southern roots.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  This Pinot was quite approachable with a delightful personality, appealing to my inner child whilst satisfying my urge to be an adult.  Best enjoyed in the back seat of a police car with my Bestie beside me.  With sirens blaring, of course.  Ahhh... Good times!

Next, we have Course 5:  Grilled Skirt Steak with Lyonnaise Potatoes and Red Chili Butter paired with 2014 Luca Pinot Noir Argentina

Kerry's Comments:  We're on to our next Pinot Noir and back down to South America for this course.  We have an Argentine Pinot Noir which is quite unique.  We don't think of Pinot Noir when we think of Argentina, but going along with the theme, Pinot Noir likes cooler areas, and there are some higher-elevation vineyards in Mendoza, particularly in the Uco Valley in an area called Tupangato where there are 3200 - 5000 foot vineyards for these wines.  Very high elevations and cool nights.  Usually when we have big temperature variations between night and day, the fruit will have a bit of shock to it and usually the vines go deeper, making for great fruit character.  This is from the Luca Winery, started by Laura Catena.  The Catena family has been producing wines in Argentina for about 4 generations.  Catena went to her father and really wanted to do something on her own and harness some of the great areas of the country that weren't being focused on and start producing wines.  Luca is one of the labels she does and it's named after her oldest son, Luca.  It's 100% Pinot Noir.  You'll definitely notice a darker component here, so a little bit more extraction and a little more time.  And this wine had the skins during fermentation.  This is a great showing of how unsuspecting areas of Argentina can produce a great Pinot Noir.

Randolph's Notes:   One of my favorite cuts of meat is skirt steak - tender with lots of flavor. This was simply marinated and grilled and served with Lyonnaise potatoes with onions and pepper and a red chili butter sauce.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  What can I say about this wine?  What CAN'T I say?  This wine spoke to me with an inaudible loudness.  I found it to be conflicted, slightly despondent.  A petulant wine.  I sensed a dichotomy.  This wine was brooding, moody, somber, yet self assured and confident, somewhat like myself.  We were sympatico.

I was sitting at our table when I spied flames in the kitchen.
I'm like a moth.

Our final and last - Course 6:  Dark Chocolate Chili Flourless Torte with Orange Chantilly Sweet Cream paired with 2014 King Estate Signature Pinot Noir

Kerry's Comments:   We've made it to the grande finalé of our Pinot dinner.  I've been thinking of the long history of Pinot Noir and we owe it to the French Cistercian monks for keeping Pinot Noir alive centuries ago when wine was not necessarily the most popular thing but the monasteries took the time to make Pinot, which was very delicate and hard to make.  We didn't get any French Pinot tonight, but we did discover some wonderful Pinots from around the world.

We're ending tonight as we started - with King Estate Winery, so we're going back up to Oregon, just south of Eugene, at the very southern tip of the Willamette Valley, which is a wonderful growing region running north and south between the Coastal Range of Oregon and the Cascades.  It's a very lush area with lots of things grown there, but grapes survive the temperatures there and it's a fantastic wine area. If you actually follow the latitude of this valley around the globe, you'll come to Burgundy, France.

A special tip of the glass tonight to Cindy, my co-worker, who's moving on

Randolph's Notes:  For this final course, Amanda has come up with a dark chocolate flourless cake made with adobo and cayenne chili and a nice orange Chantilly cream, finished with dried orange peel.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  I tasted the bitter tears of Barnum and Bailey third-generation clowns, wrapped up in unfulfilled expectations, broken promises, and the exhaustion of hope with a forward undercurrent of a jaded misspent youth.  I loved it. 

Behind the scenes...

 Tonight was Cindy Smith Strasser's (of Tryon Distributing)
 last night with us.
Good luck to you, Cindy!

 Those Sistahs are sumpin' else!

 Show off!
There's always one.

I don't know what's going on here.

Don't know exactly what Joshua and Isaac were doing,
but I liked it.
Should've video'd it.

 Cindy, with Chef Amanda.
We'll miss you, Cindy!

 The Saltbox Café Crew.

 I love this.
Somehow, four of you knew to do fishlips.

 But April didn't get the message until the next picture.

Zoom in!

 The Wonderful Saltbox Crew:
April Wolf, Cindy Smith Strauser of Tryon Wines,
Chef Amanda, Guest Chef Joshua Naser, Chef Randolph,
Mike Dinkle, and Kerry Smith of Tryon Wines.

Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of seven people
and everybody has their eyes open?
Not to mention that it's a good shot of everybody!

One of my favorite pictures!

 Just too stinkin' cute!

For a recap of our previous dining adventures, please click on the links:

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, 2016, we had a lovely visit to Chile.
March 29, 2016, we visited the Pacific Northwest.
April 20, 2016, we explored the vineyards of Oregon
September 2016, we enjoyed South Africa
October 2016, we experienced Madrid
October 2016, we traveled the Loire Region in France. 
November 3, 2016, we got to Fall In Love With Wine.
November 14, 2016, we enjoyed a Taste of Northern Italy.
December 1, 2016, we experienced a Night In Italy.
December 14, 2016, we savored Holiday Reds.
December 19, 2016 we enjoyed Christmas in Paris.

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