Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sommelier Smackdown!

On Thursday night I met up with R, Kathy, and Ben for another Sommelier Smackdown. Much like last time, it was totally and completely awesome. I think the overall level of the food at the first one R and I attended with Joe may have been a tad higher, but the best course this time was absolutely amazing, and the cheese course was both educational and delicious. Rather than repeating the rules, I'll dive right in. Ian was our chef again, but his theme this time around (he likes themes) was "Adam Ostrofsky," because Adam (the guy on the left in both pictures below) had written the menu and was doing the bulk of the prep in place of Ian's regular assistant.
Our sommeliers were again named Kate and Mike... Kate Moore from L'Espelier was back as the returning champion, and the challenger was Michael Meagher from BOKX 109.
The menu this time was three "real" courses followed by a cheese course, apparently because Adam forgot to write a fourth course and because Ian hates to make dessert:
First up was the salad of beets, shaved fennel, parsley, mint, and duck confit with a ricotta dressing.
This was pretty darn good, though I wish there was a way to enjoy the flavor of beets without your entire dish turning hot pink... The flavors really came together when you put together a bite featuring a bit of everything, and you can't go wrong with duck confit as far as I'm concerned. Kate paired this with a 2008 Château Pesquié Terrasses Rose. This was an absolutely beautiful dry Rhône rose, made with Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. If you know me, then you know that it's basically cheating to serve me Rhône wines in a wine-pairing competition. This was fantastic with pretty much every bite of the salad. Michael went with a Pierre Sparr Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose, which I thought was a pretty lame pairing. A couple of my friends thought it was too sweet, and we all agreed that it did nothing for the dish. I get the idea of cutting the fat from the duck with something sparkling, but this was a really boring wine that had no business being served with this salad. Apparently it's all matter of taste, though, and Kate just edged out Michael in this course 16-10. Next up was the controversial course of bass and salmon ceviche wtih green apple and smoked salt.The smoked salt was a really odd choice, since it made the salmon taste almost as if it weren't fresh. For R and Kathy, Kate's wine pairing just accentuated this off-putting fishy-ness and made the dish almost inedible. Once I got past the mental block of that smoked salt, though, and tried a few bites where the crisp apple balanced the fish, I really enjoyed this dish. Kate's pairing was a 2006 Côtes du Jura "Les Sarres" Chardonnay, aged in steel for bright lemon and apple flavors, while Michael went with a 2008 Santorini Assyrtiko from Greece. I thought Kate's wine went quite well with the lemon and apple in the ceviche. It wasn't a home run, but I thought Michael's wine was undrinkably sweet, so there wasn't really any competition in my book. As I mentioned, though, a couple of my friends thought Kate's wine destroyed the dish, so Michael got their votes... as well as most other people's, as he took this course 18-8. Next up was the course that we couldn't stop talking about afterward: Brussels sprout and lardon risotto with grilled Merguez sausage:
Holy crap. This was ridiculously awesome. I am indifferent to risotto, and all four of us had previously been indifferent to sausage as well... but not any more. The Risotto was delicious, and was the perfect partner for the mind-blowingly delicious Merguez. (Speaking of which, replicating this dish at home has shot to the top of my "To Do" list...) Adam came around to dish up what was left of the risotto after people had finished their plated portion, and seemed really proud of how much everyone loved his dish., which was sweet. Kate cheated again by serving a Rhône, this time a mostly-Syrah 2006 Domaine Des Remizieres Crozes-Hermitage. Yummy. Michael went with a 2004 Cascina Roera San Martino Barbera D'asti. I was probably going to prefer Kate's no matter what, but I thought Michael's wine was sort of gross. I think this was due to a hint of tobacco on the nose that I just couldn't get past (I may love wines that smell like manure and wet hay, but I can't seem to get past either raisin or tobacco on the nose...), as well as the fact that I'm not a huge fan of acidic reds. Again, it's a matter of taste... (As Ben reminded us, a good wine pairing is a lot like porn: You know it when you see it...) Michael secured half of the votes from our foursome, and Kate again won a close one, 15-11. Finally, the cheese course:
None of us were super-excited about this one going in, but a little cheese called Robiola changed all that... It looks sort of like Brie, so you think it's going to be boring, but it SO isn't... Mmm... Robiola... All three cheese were actually pretty awesome. There was a Bayley Hazen Blue from Vermont, a truffled pecorino, and that beautiful Robiola. Strong cheeses can be a tough pairing because they coat your tongue in fat and can make a lot of lovely wines taste nasty and bitter. Both of our sommeliers chose dessert wines to counter this problem, which I am learning lately is sort of genius. Kate chose a Burmester White Porto, while Michael went with a 2007 Pacific Rim Vin de Glacière (which is a late-harvest Riesling from Washington). I have never been a fan of white port, and Kate's wine choice was no exception, but I could see what she was going for... I guess. Michael's pairing, on the other hand, was absolutely effing fantastic with all three cheeses. Brilliant. Ben, Kathy, and I each ended up taking home a bottle, with plans to pair it with Robiola cheese we would all be buying in the near future... The three cheeses were so very different from one another, so it was cool to see one wine work perfectly with all of them. Michael annihilated Kate in this course 21-5. Thus, it was a tie in number of courses won, but Michael won big on the courses he won, so he took home the overall win by virtue of total number of votes, 60-44. He'll be back next month to take on a new challenger, and we all plan to be there, too. This post out of the way, I'm going to go have some Robiola for lunch...UPDATE: Above is the Robiola I picked up at Russo's on Saturday. That's how oozy and awesome it is straight out of the fridge. Things get even more awesome as it comes up to room temperature. So. Effing. Good. This is my new favorite cheese. Go buy some. Seriously. You can thank me later...

1 comment:

Stanley said...

As always, I miss fancy food when I read your posts about food. But as always, they're my favorite posts.