Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fleming's Summer Treats

I recently went to a preview of the new Summer dishes being served at Fleming's Steakhouse and was so impressed that I had to create a slide show so you could see also. First two dishes we sampled were the roasted mushroom ravioli and the lump crab Louis wraps. the ravioli had delicious chunks of portobello and shiitake mushrooms and was paired nicely with an earthy Ponzi Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Tavola. The crab wraps were a perfect summer treat, light and tasty!

Next up were small plates of the Tillamook Bay Petrale Sole served with crab beignets that I could've eaten all night and the new Salmon Nicoise which I could eat every day! This dish truly had everything; broiled salmon, roasted Yukon Potatoes, French green beans, truffled deviled eggs, roasted sweet baby peppers and a lemon-balsamic vinaigrette. We enjoyed it with a Mer Soleil Chardonnay full of honey and spice from Santa Lucia Highlands. It was wonderful to have so many light and delicious choices at a restaurant known for its big juicy steaks.

Speaking of steaks, we could not dine at Fleming's without having some and it was so tender I didn't even need a knife to cut it. Truly spectacular and pictured above. We were then treated to the most expensive wine poured by the glass at the restaurant, 2006 Kelly Fleming Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. The founder's wife wanted to make a wine that would stand up to the "cult" classics so she called in some big guns and got some land next to another cult winery you may know called Araujo. The result is a comforting, full, balanced, velvety, peppery wine. It's nose had a hint of popcorn. The wine had been decanted for about an hour and a half and a glass costs $30.

Just when I said, "Put a fork in me, I done!" a tray of desserts was festively placed in the middle of the table beckoning us to take a bit of each; cheesecake, chocolate lava cake, creme brulee and walnut turtle pie. Any bit of restraint that was left was thrown out the window and I dove in to a sweet, decadent dessert coma! When you go to Fleming's, no matter how much you are enjoying your steak, put some aside to take home so you can save room for one or all of these mouth watering desserts!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Charitable Chow

Two wine dinners in 3 days! How lucky can a girl get! Last night’s soiree at The Grill Room in Coconut Point was also a benefit for Eden Florida and Autism Speaks. The chef put out a great spread heavy in protein with healthy pours of Clos du Bois Reserve wines.

Of course we began the evening with some festive bubbles and light hors d’oeuvres while perusing the silent auction items. First course was baked Grouper with toasted almonds and Limoncello cream with micro greens. The wine was a 2007 Reserve Chardonnay from Russian River Valley. I didn’t like the nose at first, woody and a bit chemical but it was nice on the pallet, even better with food and perfect with the dish! The fish had great texture and the flavors were fabulous. I would order it again in a heartbeat!

The next dish was something I would love to have again for the holidays; Cornish Hen stuffed with pork and prunes, butternut squash and cranberry sauce. Another great pairing with an ‘06 Sonoma Ranch Reserve Alexander Valley Merlot. The Merlot was blended with a touch of Malbec to add color and complexity. It drank more like a Cabernet with a peppery finish. I would like to have it again with a little more age (the wine, not me).

The final dish was a Tenderloin Au Poivre with Dijon brandy cream and a 2006 Sonoma Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine filled my nose and mouth with spice and cocoa. It was full bodied and velvety! I asked for a little more, “just to be sure” I liked it, hahaha!

I have to say I was a bit relieved that there was not a dessert course. Cheers to the chef and wine reps who made the magic of food and wine pairing come to life!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Women's Wine Dinner: Cru

Not so surprising, I belong to a women's wine club. We meet every month at a different restaurant for wine dinners. It is not completely self-indulgent since each gathering has some kind of charitable tie-in.

This month 80 fabulously dressed women gathered at Cru in Fort Myers for an amazing pairing by chef Harold Balink. Chef started us out with a spicy crab, avocado and cucumber Napolean that was to-die-for. It had everything; creamy, crunchy, sweet and spicy and went perfectly with the Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. As the story has it, Smith was a big fan of Chinese take-out and German Riesling. One night while enjoying the combo and watching the movie "Kill Bill" he decided it was time to make his own Riesling and the name (Kung Fu Girl) was so inspired.

Next up was a delicious Spanish Botani, Malaga Blanc paired with a dish chef's Grandma used to make: spinach stuffed chicken with a tomato Ciabatta salad. The winemaker recently passed-on so this his last vintage(crisp, dry, floral). As soon as the third course was put on the table the power went out and the hot waiters got even hotter! We dined by candle light on a pepper grilled Ribeye with Cru sauce and crispy onions. Another phenomenal pairing with a Block 9 Pinot Noir from Sonoma, California. The Pinot had a traditional nose and was a little tight at first but opened up with more fruit, a bit of cocoa and a lingering finish. A little chill on the bottle took out the bite and rounded it out. Loved it!

Finally a dessert course without a dessert wine! We had a Dark Chocolate Bomb; white chocolate mousse and roasted banana sauce, served with a Turnbull Old Bull Red from Napa. I love a big red wine with chocolate for dessert and was not disappointed. The wine had lots of cherry but not lots of tannins. The dessert caused much discussion. It was comforting, like some "old school" cookie or cake treat. I heard the word "Moonpie" a couple of times but that wasn't it....maybe Malamar??? I'll keep working on it and let you know.

It really doesn't matter because the entire event was awesome. The pairings were spot on! Good job Chef! By the way, the power did come back on.....just in time for dessert.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Viva Spain

Last night my friends and I braved a raging thunderstorm to drink wine at Austin's Wine Cellar. It was time for Frank's monthly tasting and we just couldn't miss it no matter how fierce the lightening was. The wines were from TransAtlantic and Stacole and two of my favorite were from Spain.

We started with an '09 Shaya, Bodegas Vinedos Shaya. It was an Old Vines Verdejo that was so refreshing. The combination of minerals, fruit and a slightly spicy finish was right on target for summer consumption! One of my favorite red's of the night was an '08 Xiloca, Granacha (Ribera del Jiloca). It was juicy and good with food and for under $15 a great bargain!

So much goodness! You should also look for Syrose', Rose' de Syrah. It is a fabulous French Rose' made from Syrah of course. It has the nose of Champagne but no bubbles. It's crisp and dry and even the manly men said they would take the chance of being spotted with a glass of something pink in their hands, it was that good! A nice surprise for me was the '06 Women of the Vine Chardonnay from Napa. It was just slightly buttery (not heavy at all) with pineapple, melon and passion fruit. This wine has a great story! You may have seen the book "Women Of The Vine" about the inside world of women who make and taste wine. The author was so inspired that she gathered award winning female winemakers to create this label. That alone should make you buy a bottle or two!! I bought a bottle and can't think of a better way to drink it then while reading the book!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Umberto Cesari Wine Dinner

I did some teasing in my blogs about the Umberto Cesari wine dinner planned for Bistro 41 in Fort Myers and finally the day arrived! Last night Umberto's cousin Ricardo showed up with his thick Italian accent to showcase the family wines and enjoy a spectacular food pairing created by Executive Chef Reiner Drygala and Executive Sous Chef Heath Higginbotham (featured in the photo to the left). Look at these guys! You know it's gonna be a good night!
First course was thinly sliced prosciutto with pecorino Romano tuile, cantaloupe ice cream, Saba balsamic drizzle and chives. THe dish was paired with an '08 Moma White. The wine was a blend of Trebbiano, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and it was so clean and velvety! What a great balance of fruit and minerals, peach, pear and herbs! It was a perfect match to the sweet and salty dish! And who would've ever thought to substitute the fruit with ice cream on the first course. Bravo!!

Next up was a phenomenal plate of Wild Boar ravioli over wilted spinach, finished with pancetta, garlic, olive oil and crispy leeks. The wine was one I already bragged to you about the '06 Liano! It is Sangiovese with a 30% blend of Cabernet aged in Yugoslavian Oak. Cherry, balanced tannins, give me more! The ravioli had just the right amount of Wild Boar, nothing was overpowering. Every plate at my table appeared to be licked clean!

With the bar already set pretty high the third course knocked it over-the-top! Oak grilled Elk lolly pop with white bean Swiss chard eggplant ragout finished with a demi glace, beurre monte and gremolata. It was paired with a delectable 2004 Tauleto> The award winning vino is 90% Sangiovese, huge, tannic, inky and impressive!! The Elk was extremely tender, cooked perfectly!

The final surprise was a dessert made with honey thyme polenta, mandarin oranges, white balsamic vinegar, extra virgin mandarin orange olive oil, candied fennel leafs and a strawberry garnish. Talk about unique! We drank an Albano Passito dessert wine that was late harvest with the grapes dried in racks. I would love this wine with some cheese and dark chocolate also!

Congratulations to the chefs, the wine maker, Opici (the distributor) and everyone involved! Another amazing pairing. It totally put to rest my fears of eating big, gamey food in the hot summer! Bring it!!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sassy Sauv Blancs!

I love drinking a great wine out of a brown bag! How ghetto fab! We have a "brown bag" group that is hosted by a different person every other month. We decide on a theme or a grape, everyone makes an appropriate purchase and puts it in a brown bag. With the identity of the wine concealed it leaves little chance for judgement based on perceived value or reputation.

This month the grape of choice was Sauvignon Blanc; no restrictions. Perfect choice for the begining of a long hot summer. We tasted several wines from France, New Zealand and California. After tasting all 7 we unveiled the wines worst to first. The top scorer in a narrow vote by .5 was a Clifford Bay from New Zealand followed by a French Sancerre from Christian Salmon. Both are pictured above. After the blindfolds were taken off the bottles and we tried these two top vote getters back-to-back, the Sancerre won outright!

The Sancerre's nose was bursting with pear, it was slightly effervescent, crisp and clean. The Clifford Bay was well balanced with lots of citrus and zest. Both wines come in at under $20 and a great buy for the hot summer months ahead! If you like citrus in your wine and a price under $10, you should try the Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc. Sooooo much lemon on the pallet and the label just so happens to be yellow to match!

One gentleman who attended our tasting apparently felt the need to assert his masculinity by saying "I can only be seen drinking white wine while the sun is up". Good thing for him the days are long in the summer!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good Summer Red

I love red wines but when the heat index is 100 degrees I find myself reaching for something chilled more often than not. I found a great summer red yesterday that has some structure but doesn’t punch you in the face!

It’s a Chilean Pinot Noir from Casablanca Valley; 2007 Veramonte Pinot Noir Reserva. The nose is very earthy, it has a bit of white pepper and raspberries on the pallet. More wine tasting tonight so stay tuned for some updates!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Preview Party!

I was very privileged tonight to go behind the scenes of the beginings, the creation of a high-end wine dinner. Italian winemaker Ricardo Cesari is coming to Southwest Florida in a couple of weeks and his wines will be featured at a special dinner at Bistro 41 June 14th. Setting a wine dinner apart from an everyday dining experience begins with detailed planning. The chefs and winemaker or distributor hold a summit! They sit down together, taste, compare notes and create a masterpiece for the senses.

I quietly slid into a seat at the "summit" with an empty glass in hand, head bowed out of respect and it worked! I got to try the wines while eves dropping on the right herbs to use to bring out certain notes in the wines, how much sweetness to add, what kind of reductions to use, etc.

I got much pleasure from tasting the lovely Liano. It's a blend of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 70% Sangiovese. There are only a few thousand cases made at the winery about 10 miles south of Bologna. Big cherry flavors with full tannins, woodsy and herby, I can't wait to taste it again with the dish I heard the chefs planning to pair it with. While the Liano made me smile, the wine that follows it at the dinner will knock your socks off!! I know I'm teasing again but I did a pinky swear to secrecy, at least for now. Let's just say this wine dinner could rival the infamous Shug dinner that I already blogged and bragged about. Seriously, make your reservations early. There is limited space the buzz has begun! Call 239-466-4141!