Chef Daniel Patterson deserves applause for the food he made for the Washington wines at the dinner I organized last week.(See Part I of this blog for what the dinner was all about, and my comments on the wines I plucked from my cellar.) His series of nine dishes for the six wines not only shone on their own, but different dishes made the same wine show unexpected strengths.
The appetizers, for example, demonstrated Patterson's knack for waking up taste buds. He uses unlikely combinations of natural flavors and aromatics, drawn from ingredients he insists on buying directly from the farm, and his presentations also delight the eye. Each of these first three dishes brought out different aspects of Eroica Riesling 2002.
The first plate, a delicate arrangement of pink grapefruit segments seasoned with ginger, tarragon and black pepper, used the spice flavors to balance the sweetness of the citrus. It made the Eroica taste almost dry and steely, and teased out a lime note that I hadn't noticed in the wine by itself.
The next dish dressed a few slices of roasted baby beets with a spoonful of Bellwether Farm's creamy sheep's milk yogurt. Seasoned with smoked salt and cilantro, the combination brought out a distinct minerality in the wine.
Finally, a little tart of caramelized endive got a drizzle of black olive vinaigrette to round it out, and that returned the wine to its fruity, apricot-scented self.
With the three appetizers, served in sequence, it was like drinking three different wines. Talk about bang for your buck!
The Chardonnay 2004, made from Canoe Ridge Vineyard grapes, silky and creamy on its own, discovered all kinds of mineral notes with a wild nettle soup, a bright green puree topped with a spoonful of fresh ricotta encased in lemon gelée. I was surprised when Patterson chose a soup to go with the Chardonnay, but darned if it didn't work. Check out my video on that matchup.
A second dish with that wine balanced a coddled farm egg over sautéed chard and wheat berries in brown butter and Parmesan. As precious as the previous dishes were, this one was earthy, and it brought out the creaminess in the wine.
Patterson used wild mushroom ravioli with hazelnuts to underline the fruit in Spring Valley Uriah 2003, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. He cooked a leg of suckling Berkshire pig for 24 hours to buttery meltiness, using the sous vide (slow-cooking food that's held in vacuum-sealed plastic pouches and immersed in liquid) method. It was a great foil for the delicate Cayuse Syrah Cailloux 2000.
Finally, with the Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1990 and the Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, served together, what else but roasted beef loin? Two small slices with potato puree and oxtail jus delivered the richness and meatiness to show off the fruit in both these wines.
The only misstep in the menu from a wine matching standpoint was the Bethmale Herve Mons, a Pyrénees cheese that was way too aggressive for these wines. "We didn't taste this cheese until they delivered it today," allowed sommelier Paul Einbund. "It's a bit more challenging than they described it to us." Einbund and I are on the same page on cheese and wine. For my money, the best cheeses for red wine are mellow and well aged. Strong flavors need a sweet wine, not a dry red.
Patterson is a fearless chef who juxtaposes unexpected flavors and textures on the plate, which I find exciting when they work as well as he makes them do. When those flavors make wine dance the way these dishes did, that's a big bonus.
James Marinello — spokane, wa — February 13, 2008 8:57pm ET
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