Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pairing Dinner: The Lazy Goat/Saintsbury Vineyard #euphoriagreenville

It was a beautiful evening. As the sunlight faded, we sat on the patio overlooking the Reedy River and Wyche Pavillion, sipping Cava and eating passed Hors d'oeuvres of Chorizo Empanadas and skewers of Salami, Cheese & Olives. Just inside, a tuxedoed chamber ensemble from the Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities were playing ; some of the proceeds from euphoria are funding their upcoming tour - these are some very talented high-schoolers.

Inside, our tables were set for groups of ten.  We sat down relative strangers, and by the end of the evening walked away as friends. There is something about sharing a meal with people.  A meal with wine by candlelight? That is almost transcendent.  As each course and pairing was introduced we got to know a bit more about each other.

First course:  Delicious and intense Butternut Squash Soup, from Chef Rory Golden of the Deerhurst Resort in Ontario, Canada.  Phillippa Ward, Partner (and daughter) at Saintsbury Winery introduced us to the pairing for the course: their Saintsbury Carneros Chardonnay `09 $20.00.   A rich, buttery soup with a hint of maple sweetness paired with a crisp, fruity California Chardonnay - the meal had begun.  Our conversations were just starting too - from health care, to America's Cup Racing, to NASCAR to religion  (but then again, isn't NASCAR a religion?); we were a diverse, yet single minded crowd - we were all there for the food and wine.  Me from NY, Jodie Jacobs from Chicago, a couple from Southern California who had read about euphoria in an in flight magazine, and three foodie couples from South Carolina.  All came for the food and wine; the fact that we had a wonderful evening was simple math: good food + good wine + good company = wonderful memories.

Second course:  Haley Bitterman, Corporate Executive Chef, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group gave us Crispy Petit Soft Shelled Crab with corn maque choux, pea tendrils and roasted red pepper remoulade sauce, paired with our "rosé" for the night  Saintsbury Vin Gris of Pinot Noir `10 $14.99 (sold out). Pairing the bright, fresh strawberry hints in the wine with the richness of the crab was an interesting experience.  When I looked to the woman on my left (she and her husband were from South Carolina and were serious foodies) we both admitted that we had never eaten soft shelled crab before.  It was a bonding moment.  The crab was intense and the vin gris was well matched.

By now, we had all been chatting, and my picture taking was under scrutiny.  (I'll admit to being lazy and using my blackberry over the Nikon) BUT it was great to know that at the end of our table hailing from Southern California was a serious amateur photographer, and she styled plates for us.  It was so much fun and almost like being at home, having the whole gang in on it. (I am so sorry that I did not write down names)

Third course: Bouillabaise with petit rouget, royal red prawn & cockels, preserved orange and saffron broth, rouille from the Lazy Goat's Executive Chef Victoria Moore. This is where we went modern.  None of us have ever had Bouillabaise with 1oz of broth. It was more like a spritzing on the fish (The picture was taken AFTER the broth was poured).  It was amusing.  Phillippa paired it with their Saintsbury Brown Ranch Chardonnay `07 $37.00.  Intense, provocative and conversation starting, this is when our table really got their foodie on.

Fourth Course:  The hands down hit at our table for the night. From the home team at the Lazy Goat, under chef Victoria Moore: Goat's Milk Ricotta Cheese Gnudi over sokey braised goat, ahi dolce peppers sultanas and pine nuts. Let's start with:  what is Gnudi?  I'll just say a delicious goat cheese dumpling/gnocchi and leave it at that.  The shredded goat soaked in sokey?  We, serious foodies were perplexed. And finally, two weeks later, I realized we were flying too high on Saintsbury wine to realize that it was a typo in the menu.  Smokey braised goat not sokey braised goat... even though it wasn't as exotic as we thought, it was still delicious. Paired with Saintbury Pinot Noir Carneros `08  $28.00, WOW.

Fifth course:  Seriously, did we think that Louisiana's Haley Bitterman, was going to top that Goat Cheese Gnudi?  Some at the table feel that she did with this Spice Rubbed Duck Breast with a citrus and cherry confit, mache, rich duck demi-glaze (would that rich duck be Scrooge McDuck perchance?) and a blood orange gastrique.  Seriously, those were some intense flavors to go with the duck. Paring it with the dark and spicy Saintsbury Lee Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros `08  $40.00 worked really well.  The dark plum and tobacco undertones in the wine worked with the citrus and cherry on the duck. Even better was that we could had a vertical comparison between the previous Pinot Noir and this "fleshier" cousin.

Dessert:  We were bursting. In a touch of lightness, we were brought Musoka Maple Mousse with a bala cranberry biscotti and a raspberry port reduction. It was the perfect (not too) sweetness, and the textural differences were fun.

We ended the dinner with a quick twitter tutorial over dessert.   I was sitting next to Amy and Dr. Carson Rounds; we bonded over Twitter, BMWs and wine.  Here they are:  two euphoric faces of the evening, Dr. and Mrs. Rounds

Finally, the chefs came out to say hello.  We thanked them for a wonderful evening with a hearty round of applause.  I can't wait until next year, and I can't wait until the Lazy Goat Cookbook comes out.  I would love to make Gnudi, just to say that I made Gnudi....

A slideshow:

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