Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bubbles, Bubbles, Everywhere! February 16th Wine Dinner At The Saltbox Café.

 Rosie apologizes for being late with
Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere.
Better late than never!

February 15, 2016.
Bubbles...  Bubbles... EVERYWHERE!

Welcome to The Saltbox Café's ongoing wine/dinner series.

Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle created the menu.
Our servers were April and Mike.
Jen and Steve of Empire Wine Distributors presented the wines.

This evening was bubbly fun.
Our crisp, white tables were adorned with a single red rose. 

Sometimes my pictures surprise me.
I didn't see the price next to the rose when I shot the photo.
That price is from the wine list for the Taittinger Brut.

Chef Randolph:  Welcome to the Saltbox Café.  We have bubbles, bubbles everywhere.  What's really awesome about champagne is that champagne goes with absolutely everything.  Except, as Steve said, with cracked black pepper.

Steve:  We, in the United States, have done a tremendous disservice to sparkling wines.  Luckily, we have recently changed our ways.  So for years, everybody thought of sparkling wines as something you drink on your birthday, Valentine's Day, New Year's  The rest of the time, nobody did anything with it.  It would just sit there until New Year's and they'd sell last year's bottles.  Then, Prosecco came along and changed the way we looked at sparkling wines.  It was inexpensive and everybody kind of fell in love with it.  Now we realize that sparkling wine section is not some weird dungeon that wine sits in until Valentine's Day or New Year's.  It's OK to drink sparkling wine on a Tuesday with a hamburger, and that's what we're going to explore tonight.

The first wine is a wine from Spain called Cava, and it's the dressed up brother to Prosecco.  Both are usually the same price point; the big difference is Prosecco is made differently from Cava.  Cava is made exactly the same way you make champagne.  The secondary fermentation is made in the bottle itself.  This is what makes Cava different.  We're also having a rosé.  Rosés, to sparkling wine producers, are the best of the best.  There's usually a step up in price for the rosé because it's harder to make and get exactly right.  So you get a bunch of "cork dorks" like me around the table and we're looking at sparkling wines, we are ignoring everything that doesn't say rosé.  Cava rosé should go fantastically with this first course.

Chef Randolph:  What I love about rosé is that is has a little bit more fruit, more tannins, and more oomph, so we decided to put it together with a dish that's a little spicier.  When I say spicier, I don't mean hot spicy, although there is an element of that.  I mean the dish has more spices in it.  There's pepper, garlic, Schezwan peppercorns, and a lot of different flavors in these oysters and, on the backside, a little bit of kimchee style slaw.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  I could write a Poema about this Cava. While in a Cava.
Course One:
Grilled Korean BBQ oyster on the half shell
paired with Poema Cava Rosé.

Course Two:
Seared scallop over watermelon salad
and sparkling mint vinaigrette
paired with Cantadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut.

Steve:  For those of you who love champagne, get ready.  I'm going to let you in on an extremely closely guarded secret.  There is sparkling wine in the world made as good as, if not better, than champagne.  It comes from a region in Italy called Franciacorta.  The rules to make Franciacorta are more stringent than to make Champagne.  In Champagne, 70-80%, averaged year to year, is shipped outside of France.  In Franciacorta, 60% of Franciacorta is consumed with 100 miles of Franciacorta near Lake Como.  They know how good this stuff is and they don't let it go.  

Chef Randolph:  For this very elusive style of champagne, we went with an elegant dish.  We did a cucumber and watermelon tossed in a champagne vinaigrette with fresh mint and then a beautiful seared scallop with a drizzle around the outside that's a reduction of fennel, fennel pollen, and orange juice.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  From an on-line review of  Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut:
Beautiful tension driven by lime aromas on the attack. 
Thanks for the heads up.  I always want to know when lime aromas are rallying to attack. 

I love Chef Randolph's sartorial choices.

Course Three:
Pork belly with black cherry balsamic glaze
 and crispy fresh horseradish
paired with Flor Prosecco Rosé.
Steve:  Now, I'm going to explain how you make champagne and why it's different from anything else.  First thing you do is make a regular white wine.  And usually champagne came from a place where regular wines were horrible.  You had to pick early, nothing ever ripened, you had hail, and if you made regular wine, you'd be better off distilling it into liquor.  So instead, they figured out a way to make sparkling wines.  What you do for sparkling wines is take your wine after the first fermentation.  There's still sugar left - it's only about 7% alcohol.  Then you take a frozen plug - a dosage - it's got sugar, a little bit of yeast, and you put it in that bottle.  And on top of that, you put a crown cap, which is a beer cap.  You put that into the cellar and a secondary fermentation starts under pressure.  One of the byproducts is carbon dioxide and that CO has no where to go.  So then it goes in suspension in the bottle.  After that process, you have a bottle which you'll need to age.  That bottle is 90psi, which is 3 times your car tire.  There's yeast in there.  The yeast dies and falls to the bottom and you have to get that out.  You need to open it up to get the yeast out and not let all the bubbles get away.  What you do is take the wine and put it in a rack and you'll mark the bottle with chalk.  Someone goes in every day and turns the bottle a quarter turn.  Eventually, the wines end up more and more vertical, or upside down, so the yeast falls into the neck of the bottle.  You take the bottle out and put it in a super-chilled liquid and freeze the end of it.  This is why the crown cap is used.  You take it off really fast and it blows that frozen plug of yeast out.  Then you put a cork in and put the cage on it and screw it 6 turns.  The cork they put in it looks just like a regular wine cork, except a little bit longer.  By the time you get it screwed down, the pressure pushes the cork into the familiar champagne cork shape.  At this point, the bottle is 60psi.

Now, the wine in front of you was not made this way.  What you have is Prosecco.  This, they do the second fermentation in a giant stainless steel tank under pressure, so they can bottle off the top which is the fantastic part of Prosecco.  It's always available.

 Prosecco is all about the people you're with and enjoying them and the time with them.

Chef Randolph:  When Steve told me the story about Prosecco - that it's ubiquitous, everybody drinks it and enjoys it - I thought the same thing about pork belly.  We have roasted pork bellies with a coffee and chocolate rub on the outside and a little bit of dark cherries reduced down with Balsamic vinegar, puréed very lightly, and finished with a little bit of crispy horseradish.  You'll notice the horseradish, on its own, has a bitter finish to it, but that should be counteracted by the sweetness in that Balsamic glaze.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  Note to Rosie:  Don't end up on the Flor.

Course Four:
Fried chicken and warm sweet potato salad "Picnic style"
paired with Tattinger Brut

Steve:  Yes, I know this is a plastic cup with Champagne and there's a purpose in this.
These wine dinners are amazing, but as fantastic as they are, there's an even better part that goes on - the tastings.  I brought down a giant bag of wines - 12 to try for this dinner, then Randolph and Amanda and Jen and I sat around and figured out what wines we were going to use tonight
I've been in restaurants for about 15 years and what I think about whenever I try a wine is all the dishes I've ever seen with a wine like this, or dishes I have seen that should be with this wine.  As soon as I pulled out the Tattinger, I instantly said, "There's a restaurant in New York City, an extremely expensive restaurant, that's dedicated to Champagne and fried chicken."  One of the things that is the cool new way to pair Champagne - and it worked before in French cuisine - is texture.
If you take a champagne glass that's a completely acid-clean lead glass with zero imperfections in it, Champagne will not bubble in that glass.  You actually need a contact point for the bubbles to form.  It works the same way when you consume it in your mouth.  When you drink Champagne, think about the coating of Champagne on all those contact points.  It amplifies the texture of Champagne.  So we decided to serve it like on a picnic out of a Mason jar or paper cup.  Both of us agree we can't stand the pomp and circumstance associated with Champagne.  You have a fantastic glass of Champagne.  You shouldn't feel you need to dress up to drink it.  No, you can sit in shorts and a Tshirt and have a fantastic time.  That's why you have Tattinger.

Chef Randolph:  I got this idea from Steve, but I gotta tell you.  He's from slower, lower Delaware and this is how his family would probably drink it - in a paper cup - minus the Tattinger.  This Tattinger is probably one of the premier Champagnes and we decided to have it like a picnic.  We have paper plates, plastic "silverware," and we're serving the Champagne in a plastic cup.  With fried chicken wings and a warm sweet potato salad with bacon and caramelized onion.

Rosie's Wine Nots:   I read this description of Tattinger Brut from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate:
The deliciously delicate Taittinger Brut is strikingly buoyant and dominated by subtle scents of yeast-tinged flowers and foliage – honeysuckle and mint immediately come to mind – that allude to its roughly one-quarter Meunier component, with a luscious matrix of lime-drenched honeydew melon and apple well-supported by discreet residual sugar leading to a sustained and refreshing finish. Hints of toasted almond and vanilla-tinged cookie dough lend a faintly confectionary cast that manages to harmonize with the dominant fruitiness and florality, while piquancy of apple and lime pit serve for counterpoint.

I don't think I could have said it any better.  Or as obscurely, abstrusely, and cryptically.

I must say - honeysuckle and mint did not immediately come to mind.  Hell, they didn't come to mind at all.  And vanilla-tinged cookie dough?  WTH?  And what is lime pit?
But, my God, if I can get a luscious matrix of anything, I'm all in!

Mason, describing the one that got away, I think.

Course Five:
Veal with rosemary over whipped butternut squash 
and porcini mushroom demi glace,
paired with Shooting Star Black Bubbles
Steve:  Most of you probably haven't seen a sparkling wine quite like this.  In Australia, they made for a while something called sparkling Shiraz.  When they made Shiraz, they'd leave a little bit of residual sugar behind and they wouldn't do a secondary fermentation.  They would carbonate the Shiraz.  A very famous winemaker by the name of Jed Steele was the gentleman who was accidentally responsible for Kendall Jackson Chardonnay the first time it was ever made and he is one of the most famous and most influential wine people in all of California.  Jed Steele discovered sparkling Shiraz in Australia and was inspired to create Black Bubbles.  His Shooting Star line is basically all the weird varietals that don't do well under Steele wines.

Originally, I thought we'd go with a creamy dessert with fresh fruits - blackberries, blueberries -
then Randolph said, "This is meat."

Chef Randolph:  I was intrigued by this.  The wine had enough backbone to stand up to meat.  We have veal and there's a little bit of sweetness from the butternut squash pureé on the bottom and it's going with a porcini mushroom demi glace which has a little bit of earthiness and should pair beautifully with this.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  Hippie wine.  I liked it.
So did Mr. Hawthorne.  He bought a bottle of Black Bubbles to take home.  We shared it over assorted cheeses and crackers and homemade ciabatta with a fruity olive oil with a dash of Balsamic vinegar.  That was probably all wrong of me.  Oh...  I just remembered.  I ground some pepper into the olive oil and vinegar that I was dipping the bread in.  And I just learned that champagne doesn't go with black pepper.  Oh my.  If loving this is wrong, I don't wanna to be right. 

Course Six:
House-made chili mango coconut sorbet and
key lime avocado ice cream with curried almond "dirt"
paired with Sokol Blosser Evolution Bubbles

Steve:   This is from a winery in Oregon by the name of Sokol Blosser.  They're one of the first families of Oregon winemaking.  Susan Sokol and Bill Blosser went there to make wine.  Susan's favorite wines were Alsatian and she planted riesling, gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, and Sylvaner.  By themselves, they were atrocious.  A neighbor stepped in and said they were in the best place to make Pinot Noir.  So they made this white blend called "Evolution" and had a crazy label with a big "Nine" on it, for the ninth batch.  It was by itself for a long time, then they made a red wine to go with it about three years ago. This is Evolution.  They're going to put it back into another bottle and start a fermentation and make a sparkling version.  In this there are nine grapes - Pinot Gris, Müller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Sylvaner.

Chef Randolph:  Sokol Blosser was the first Pinot Noir I ever had that I paired with fish.  It's a very insipid, light Pinot Noir.
My wife tasted this and said Oh I know what I want to do.  So Amanda just made her first ice cream and you guys get to be the guinea pigs.  She's made an avocado ice cream and a chile lime mango sorbet.  It's on top of almond cookie dirt, seasoned with curry powder.

Rosie's Wine Nots:  A glass of this and I just went up a few rungs on the evolutionary ladder.
And I sparkled all the way!

Anybody want to caption this one?

OK, now.
Proceed with caution...
Don't say I didn't warn you.
I'm thinking Dinkle might have a future in ... another industry.

I know.
Once you see it, you can't un-see it.

Mason and Nohea.

Mason, Nohea, Mike, and Randolph.
The Saltbox Kitchen is a Fun Kitchen.
April and Amanda.

Amanda and Mike.

David and Louise.

I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Steve and Jen of Empire Wine Distributors
with Chefs Amanda and Randolph.

Hey, Amanda!
What's wrong?
This is just the first course!
I thought I'd just give you more of the pretty behind the scenes.
Pictures speak louder than words.


That fried chicken was sumpin' else!

Rosie is happy she is cell-phone free.

Most of my pictures I take right off April's phone.
She makes it easy for me!

Thank you for a fun, bubbly, and delicious evening!

For our previous wine dinners, please click on the links.

February 7, 2017, Eberle Vineyards, California.
February 2, 2017.  Holy Trinity!  Taking it down to New Orleans.
January 5, 2017, we Played With Pinot. 
 December 19, 2016 we enjoyed Christmas in Paris.
December 14, 2016, we savored Holiday Reds.
  December 1, 2016, we experienced a Night In Italy.
  November 14, 2016, we enjoyed a Taste of Northern Italy.

November 3, 2016, we got to Fall In Love With Wine.
October 2016, we traveled the Loire Region in France. 
October 2016, we experienced Madrid
September 2016, we enjoyed South Africa
April 20, 2016, we explored the vineyards of Oregon.
March 29, 2016, we visited the Pacific Northwest.
March 9, 2016, we had a lovely visit to Chile.
In February 2016, we visited Italy.
Also in  February 2016, we took a road trip to California.
 In December 2015, we visited France.
 Also in December 2015, we enjoyed a Réveillon Feast.
  And again in December 2015, we visited Japan.
October 2015, we visited Germany.
  March 2015, we visited Italy.
  February 2015, we visited Chocolate. (Why yes, Chocolate is a country.)
  December 2014, we visited Paris.
 November 2014, we visited Argentina.
 October 2014, we visited Spain.

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