Sunday and Monday were most interesting.
Sunday was an organized dinner with some unusual items that turned out very good, and Monday was an impromptu evening that broke a few rules.
There was a death recently in my extended family and one of the things three of the people close to the deceased wanted was an evening with good wine and food to help the healing process after the death. That occurred on Sunday.
The evening started with a couple of appetizers and a champagne. Pictured is one of the appetizers, melon balls wrapped in prosciutto ham. The other appetizer was cubes of roasted beets tossed in an olive oil and sherry vinegar mixture with crumbled goat cheese over the top.
There were no left-overs from either appetizer. The champagne was an R Peters brut that I know nothing about other than the fact that it went very well with the appetizers. It is not a producer I'm familiar with.
The next course was a butternut squash bisque. It was a wonderful soup that was served with a 2005 Poet's Leap Riesling from Washington State. Poet's Leap is part of the Long Shadows wine group from Washington. This wine is a collaboration Armin Diel of Schlossgut Diel and Alan Shoup of Washington State. The wine is off-dry, perhaps just a touch sweeter than a kabinett, but definitely drier than an auslese from Germany. There were ten spices and herbs in the soup and it matched wonderfully with the wine. It dried out the sweetness in the wine and just filled the mouth with wonderful fruit and acidity to balance the bisque. What a wonderful pair they were.
The main course was coniglio e ripieno with carrots and a four rice mixture. Translated this means it was a pork tenderloin encased in a totally filleted rabbit with some pork force-meat wrapped around the tenderloin. It was pan browned and then roasted in a hot oven. We had two red wines with this entre'. The first was Altun, a 2003 Rioja Crianza and the second was a 2000 Luce from Italy. The Luce is a joint project from the Marchesi de Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi. On the initial tasting it was the far superior wine, showing depth, balance and some acidity. The wine is 60% merlot and 40% sangiovese. The Rioja (100% temperanillo) was a little more sharp and acidic, but with some great fruit flavors. It just did not stand up to the Luce.
However, the proof of any wine, in my opinion, is how it matches with the food. The sauce on the rabbit/pork was some pork stock, red wine, dijon mustard, all reduced and finished with a little butter and lemon juice. The Luce proved dull and flabby with the entre', but the acid in the Rioja just shined with the meat. The fruit was still there and the sauce brought out a depth that wasn't apparent when the wine was tasted by itself. It was the star of the meal and just a wonderful match. The price on the Luce was $45, and the price on the Altun was $15. One was wonderful by itself, and the other was perfect with the food.
The meal ended with a tiramisu (which I admit to have purchased from a local bakery).
All in all it was a great meal.
Monday proved just as interesting as dinner was a small fillet of beef coated with ginger, garlic, salt and pepper, then pan seared. While it rested I boiled some egg noodles and tossed them with olive oil, rice vinegar and a dash of fish sauce. The beef was cubed and added to the noodles and the entire thing was finished with a sauce of one teaspoon water, one teaspoon wasabi powder and two teaspoons soy sauce.
We tried the leftover Rioja and it didn't work with this dish at all. Just before opening a beer we tried the last two glasses of the Poet's Leap Riesling and it proved to be one of the best matches I can remember for quite some time. Sometimes things just go together, and the spice and acid in the sauce just proved a perfect foil for the sweetness and acidity in the Riesling. It was one of the most delightful matches I've had in some time, and one of the most unexpected.
There is one more bottle of the Poet's Leap in the cellar, and it will undoubtedly be served with the wasabi beef dish.