Jun 25 2009

Just Grapes at “Market Mystery Summer Soiree”

Published by at 7:48 AM under Uncategorized

by Brett Ashley McKenzie

Just Grapes participated in yesterday’s “Market Mystery Summer Soiree” at the Calphalon Culinary Center, where six renowned Chicago chefs and their teams were given mystery protein ingredients, then let loose to shop at the Green City Market before assembling three dishes a piece to be presented to hungry guests.

Scallops in the first round were spectacular with Cono Sur Sauv Blanc.

Scallops in the first round were spectacular with Cono Sur Sauv Blanc.

Jacqueline from Heritage poured six of Just Grapes’ favorite food-friendly wines, which were enjoyed alongside dishes made with foie gras, baby octopus, and buttered croissant bread pudding.

The Chilean 2008 Cono Sur, Sauvignon Blanc Jacqueline poured was a perfect match for several first round dishes. Chef Michael Taus of Duchamp and Zealous prepared a perfectly-seared scallop with heirloom tomato gazpacho, and Chef Giuseppe Tentori served a delicately poached halibut over a puree of English garden peas. Both dishes required a wine that wouldn’t overwhelm the subtle flavors, such as the inherent sweetness of the scallops or the flakiness of the fish.

A bolder preparation of halibut across the room came from Chef Bill Kim of Urban Belly, who used the Asian flair he is so famous for to add spice and complexity to his seared fish. For this dish, the 2007 Errazuriz, Chardonnay, Aconcagua, Chile was a fantastic match. The creamy texture of the wine cooled a little of the fire in the flavorful dish, nicely complimenting the preparation of the fish.

Chef Roger Herring of Socca was the one contestant to use wine, as a marinade, in his preparation of braised and grilled baby octopus served atop a fresh salad.

In the second round, Chef Taus served a piece of lamb atop a phyllo dough root vegetable pie. While lamb often calls for a richer red, such as a Zinfandel, the presentation and flavors struck me as distinctly Mediterranean, and I tried the dish with our 2008 Domaine Skouras “Zoe.” Rose, Greece. It was a heavenly pairing. The flavorful dry rose nicely complimented the flaky pastry, tender lamb, and zesty pie filling.

The Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand, was exceptional with Chef Tentori’s second course dish: pork tenderloin with homemade mustard and bacon gnocchi. The ripe plum and dark cherry notes kept the bacon flavor from becoming too much as the tender gnocchi literally melted in your mouth. The Delta Pinot also emphasized the berry and cherry notes in Chef Chris Pandel’s (of The Bristol) hand-ground duck sausage in cherry foie gras mustard sauce.

Chef Kim’s pork tenderloin taco, Chef Rick Gresh’s (of David Burke Primehouse) lamb in cherry beet sauce, and Chef Herring’s duck tenderloin served atop a foie gras-spread crostini were each equally mindblowing when paired with the 2007 Vina Caneiro, Ribeira, Sacra, Spain. Light tannins allowed each dishes’ separate ingredients to shine, but the firm berry structure stood up nicely to the spices, herbs, and seasonings used by each chef.

Because there were no dessert wines or spirits, I had the 2008 Peter Lehman’s “Layers” White Blend with the dessert course. Pinot Gris, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc are the grapes in the blend, and I thought the smaller concentrations of Muscat and Gewurtz might have a similar effect on the dessert experience that the varietals do on their own. The pairing was very pleasing with each of the dishes, from a strawberry shortcake-type dessert on a citrus infused biscuit (served by The Bristol) to the buttered croissant bread pudding (served by Socca).

Each restaurant team provided bartenders to mix and serve fresh cocktails using ingredients purchased at the Green City Market. But having tasted each cocktail with each dish, I was pleasantly surprised at just how well our wines shined next to each phenomenol dish.

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