Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The "We Finally Got it Scheduled!" Wine Dinner

We got out to dinner at somebody else's house this weekend! How often does that happen? It just doesn't.

Way back before Christmas, Mark and Maggie Malick, owners of Maggie Malick Wine Caves, and Jim and Betsy Dolphin, owners of Delaplane Cellars, came to dinner at the restaurant and at least for a few minutes, we got to catch up. If you're not in either the winery or the restaurant business, you might not know how little free time either business affords you. There just isn't much spare time to catch up and our usual catching up means that at least one of us is working. While we were catching up, we kicked around getting together for a group dinner in the near future.

The idea of having a dinner is one thing; actually pulling one off is quite another. Just trying to find the intersection of free time among a group of constantly busy entrepreneurs is tough, hence the name of the wine dinner that Mark and Maggie hosted at their house just south of Harper's Ferry in Loudoun County: "We Finally Got it Scheduled!" The earliest date we could all find was about six weeks in the future, the 27th of January, that happy convergence of slow times in the wine and restaurant businesses with a non-football weekend (Maggie, in her infinite spare time, plays in the Loudoun Symphony and the Redskins band).

Some weeks ago, Mark sent out food assignments and there have been dozens of emails back and forth talking about dishes and wine pairings. I was getting excited just reading some of the ideas going back and forth.

Maggie's Cave (note Abby on the roof!)
The big day arrived and after the awful weather we have been having, it turned out to be a sunny if chilly day and a nice day for a trip to northern Loudoun County via Harper's Ferry, WV. Yeah, that's right. With WV on three sides of us, it is easier to get to parts of our own state by going through WV. With a river and a mountain range between us in the Shenandoah Valley and them in Northern Virginia, there are only limited options for crossing both. How nice to see the sunshine again, especially glinting off the Shenandoah River on our right and the Potomac River on our left as we crossed the Shenandoah in Harper's Ferry. The sun highlighted the rocks in the rapids, rocks still covered in snow from the weekend snows.

We took advantage of the relatively mild weather to get a tour of the new cave from Maggie. Out behind the house, the cave is a quonset hut dug into the ground so that it has a turf roof. This is a precursor to a full winery that will be built up on the hill several hundred yards to the north, overlooking the vineyards. Maggie plans to open to the public this spring. I don't know where she plans to put people, the cave is jammed with barrels!

Full to the Gills Already!
We got there about three in the afternoon and Mark, in his short-sleeved chef coat, was already hard at work making seafood crêpes. We hung out in the kitchen and yacked with everyone else over a bottle of Albariño. I took a few casual photos, some of which are below.

Chef Mark Making Crêpes

Myret, Beautiful as Ever!

Jim and Karen Hamming

Mark Showing off the Volnay and Beaucastel '88
Sorry to everyone whose photo didn't make the cut. I took dozens, but a lot were just too crappy to publish. Blame the photographer. The photographer blames his too slow lens and camera set up to take food shots.

Fourteen People with Ease at This Table

You Will See These Grape Cluster Napkin Rings Again

Our Menu

Brillat-Savarin, the King of Maggie's Cheese Board

Over the course of the late afternoon, everyone arrived and at some point, Maggie started putting out cheeses while Terry started decanting and tasting the wines for dinner proper. The big platter of cheeses included the excellent Brillat-Savarin that you see above. The traditional pairing for bloomed rind cheeses is Champagne and no complaints about Terry's choice of Clicquot, though I actually liked my cheese better with a sip of a fruity Paso Robles Rhône blend (One Time Spaceman Moon Duck) that Mark had us open.

Now This is a Glass of Champagne!
While we were kibitzing in the kitchen, Terry started pouring around the Veuve Clicquot that he brought along. He was responsible for the wines for the first two courses, Preston for the next two, and Jim Dolphin for the last two.

I would have loved to have had more than a taste of Champagne, but with a long night ahead of us and a 45-minute drive home after dark, a taste was it. Clicquot is always delicious. Terry said he would have rather poured Bruno Paillard, but that he happened to have a case of Clicquot on hand. Poor him. So we "suffered" through the Clicquot, though it has been 20 years since I tasted Bruno Paillard and it was good stuff back then. I would love to revisit Paillard soon.

Mark's Seafood Crêpes with Sauce Mornay
After Mark's crêpes came out of the oven, we all adjourned to the dining room and Terry poured around a couple bottles of Château Montelena Chardonnay Napa 2009. Although it is fairly reserved for a Napa Chard, it is bigger, more buttery, and oakier than I like in a Chardonnay, but it is the style of Chardonnay that I would have chosen to pair with these crêpes filled with crab, shrimp, and bay scallops bathed in sauce Mornay with more browned Mornay and cheese on top. Seafood and cheese is a tough, tough wine pairing.

Porchetta with Bagnat Verd in the Background
After the crêpe course, came my dish and I was the lucky bastard to whom Mark assigned the pork! Lucky because I love cooking pork, any time, any place. I decided to do a porchetta so that I could cook it in advance and not have to worry about finishing any food to order. I was not about to cook on my day off!

A Slice of My Porchetta with Bagnat Verd
To make this porchetta, I cured a Berkshire pork belly with a lot of dried fennel, fresh rosemary, a lot of garlic, black pepper, and Kosher salt for 48 hours. The goal was to impart some flavor without stiffening the belly so much that I couldn't roll it. Contrast this with the pancetta tesa that I cure for at least a week and often two. Inside I put a sausage that I made from all our pork trimmings from last week. It is traditional to put a pork loin in the middle, but I find that it can get dry, so I often put a forcemeat inside my porchetta. After the roll firmed up in the cooler overnight, I cooked it low and slow for about four hours and then blasted it in the convection oven until it got crispy all over.

To go with the porchetta, I made a traditional salsa verde called bagnat verd (green bath) in Piemontese. To make it, I soaked crustless white bread in red wine vinegar, boiled a couple of eggs to get hardboiled yolks, and then pounded the bread, egg yolks, garlic, anchovy, capers with a lot of fresh parsley in the mortar. To this, I added red pepper flakes, salt, and olive oil to taste. I had no idea that we were doing a formal plated dinner (being a wine dinner "virgin" with this crew), or I might have given some thought to plate presentation rather than just a stripe of salsa. Who knew?

Pres brought a 2007 Louis Boillot Volnay 1er Cru "Carelle sous la Chapelle," carelle referring to the square parcel of vineyard downslope from the famous old chapel. Just for grins, I brought a wine that I wanted to pair with the porchetta, a 2007 Thomas Mayr Lagrein Riserva Alto Adige, a sturdy high acid wine that I thought would fight through the fat of the pork belly. I love Burgundy and I loved every sip of the Volnay, but I liked it better on its own than with the belly. The porchetta was a bit too assertive for the delicate wine. I thank Pres for bringing it because he knows that I love Burgundy above all else and on my chef's budget, cannot afford to drink it very often.

Maggie's Citrus and Ginger Sorbet with Limoncello Drizzle
You know that you are at a fancy dinner when an intermezzo is served, in this case, a four-citrus and ginger sorbet that Maggie made! Maybe I shouldn't have worn blue jeans? To gild the lily, the sorbet was topped with a splash of homemade limoncello. I loved it.

During the intermezzo while Austin was outside grilling his lamb racks over charcoal, Ann had the distinction of getting to decorate the busty statue named Arenalla Bella, after the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica whence came this curvaceous sculpture. This is apparently a distinction of dubious nature, born of long tradition, and afforded to wine dinner virgins at the Malick household. Using only a scarf and a feather boa, the hapless victim must decorate the sculpture to amusement of the table. I would say that with the strategic placement of the grape cluster napkin rings appropriated from the dinner table that Ann carried off the mission with nothing short of aplomb, much to the amusement of all!

Decorating the Sculpture

Austin's Lamb Chop with Cannellini and Watercress
While we were carousing at the table, Austin was outside in the freezing cold grilling his racks of Marsala-marinated lamb on charcoal. He served each of us a chop on a purée of cannellini beans on top of a purée of watercress. The lamb was delicious and paired quite well with the cherry fruit of the 2001 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Especial that Pres brought. I really enjoyed this terrific Tempranillo-Garnacha blend and thought the lamb was a great foil for it. This is as good a Rioja as I have ever had.

Between courses, Mark pulled out a bottle of 1988 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape and sommelier Terry obligingly poured it around. I thought it had aged quite well and the Brett that I thought might have overtaken the fruit had not. It reminded me that I should probably get to opening the remaining 1988 CdPs in my cellar. I better find out if Brett has got the better of them.

Chucks' Beef Tenderloin
Chuck Cardamon took on the biggest plate of food art of the evening, a beef tenderloin for the final savory course of the night. In his own words "Beef Tenderloin Relleno (stuffed with caramelized onions, carrots and peas) topped with mushrooms. Beet Risotto topped with Gorgonzola on creamed peas. Roasted tomatoes (garlic EVOO and Maldon salt) on sweet pea greens and carrot purée (cayenne added)...and a painted strip of homemade demiglace. Paired with a fabulous Delaplane Cellars Syrah 2010." It was quite the reminder of being at work to see Chuck, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy, and his wife Ana plating this intricately garnished dish!

My palate was really tired by the time we got to this course, so Jim's Syrah was kind of lost on me. Fortunately, I had tasted it first thing in the afternoon when Terry was decanting it so I got a good handle on it. It has big tannins for a Syrah along with abundant dark fruit. While I wouldn't usually think of pairing Syrah with beef, this is a big meat wine and the pairing was great. Jim should be proud of his new Syrah!

Betsy's Meringues with Crème Anglaise
We finished the night with some delightful baked meringues from Betsy paired with her 2011 Delaplane Cellars Late Harvest Petit Manseng. I just loved the lightness of the meringues and the idea of floating them on creme anglaise à la îles flottantes. As I wrote in a post earlier this year, the Petit Manseng is excellent now as an infant and I think it has potential to be spectacular in five to ten years.

Thanks to Mark and Maggie Malick for hosting us and inviting us to one of their infamous wine dinners. Thanks to Terry and Karen Sewell, Jim and Betsy Dolphin, and Preston and Myret Tyson for bringing fabulous wines. And kudos for Mark and Maggie as well as Austin and Faythe Rippeon and Chuck and Ana Cardamon for great eats. We had a spectacular evening!

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