Côte-Rôtie Comes to the Smokies

Blackberry Farm creates a holiday menu for Rhône lovers

From the Nov 30, 2008, issue

Where do you go for a holiday menu to complement a stellar flight of Rhône wines? How about east Tennessee? Blackberry Farm, which enjoys a remote location on 4,200 acres in the Great Smokies, has quietly secured a place in the top tier of luxury resorts. Like other destinations at this level, it has high quality accommodations, a spa, world-class service and fine dining.

WINE SPECTATOR MENU

Smoked Trout and Golden Beet Salad With Crème Fraîche
Philippe Faury Condrieu 2001

Chicken Confit With Black Truffle Gnocchi
M. Chapoutier Côte-Rôtie La Mordorée 2004

Roast Rack of Lamb With Sweet Potato-and-Lamb Hash
E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 1995

Quince Torte With Grapefruit Gelée and Cinnamon Cream
Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Vin de Paille 1996

There are two elements that set Blackberry apart from the rest, and that were key to producing this menu: A working farm supplies much of the food for the two restaurants on the premises, and those restaurants have one of the most impressive selections of Rhône wines in all of North America.

While Blackberry proprietor Sam Beall has searched the globe to procure the 6,000 selections and 155,000 bottles on the Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning list, he's also made sure that Blackberry provides guests with a local experience. As wine director Andy Chabot puts it, "We focus on foods that are in our streams, hills and rivers."

Wine Spectator asked Beall, Chabot and chef de cuisine Joseph Lenn of the Main House, one of the two dining venues, to create a holiday menu that would show a selection of Northern Rhône wines at its best. The team responded with four courses that mix stately versions of American classics with simple, direct preparations that highlight the quality produce.

The tasting progressed from food fit for the elegance of Condrieus to dishes with the power to stand up to a mini-vertical of one of the La La's—the legendary trio of single-vineyard bottlings from E. Guigal's Côte-Rôtie holdings.

The first dish used the great Southern tradition of smoking. Lightly smoked trout was accompanied by golden beets with a floral sweetness, and a salad of baby beet greens dressed with Banyuls vinegar-spiked crème fraîche. Flavors and textures recurred throughout the simple dish: The rich fish echoed the mouthcoating dressing; the Banyuls' sweetness was similar to the sugary beets'; the mineral greens and the smoke in the fish seemed like distant relatives.

Philippe Faury Condrieu 2001, made solely from Viognier, played to each of these elements. Its toasted almond aroma up front and a hint of oak worked with the smoke in the fish. The honeycomb waxiness on the palate played to the beets, and a rich butteriness that Chabot called "almost Burgundian" stood up to the texture and heft of the fish and dressing. Similarities found between the plate and the glass can lift the whole experience.

The next course was an inspired interpretation of a classic Southern dish: chicken and dumplings. Gnocchi stood in for the dumplings; chicken legs were cooked confit-style in chicken fat; and local—yes, local—black truffles took the country cousin to the opera. And while the elements were simple, the flavors were underscored: The truffle was mixed into the dough but also added as a finishing touch, and the gnocchi were cooked in mushroom stock. Lemon zest brightened the flavors just enough.

The ideal wine proved to be M. Chapoutier Côte-Rôtie La Mordorée 2004. Chabot pointed out that it is a darker-style Côte-Rôtie and has vanilla and ripe, dark cherry flavors. He added, "It's well-built, so that even young, the tannins, alcohol and fruit are in balance." But the match was made for two reasons: First, the wine had what Chabot called "a kicked-up-earth dustiness to it" that was amenable to the earthy dish. Second, the lemon zest in the gnocchi kept the wine from getting too dark and earthy, and even lightened it a bit.

For the main course, a blockbuster wine flight was pulled from Blackberry's holdings. This mini-vertical would show just how regal Northern Rhône reds can be. The wines were E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne from 1999, 1995 and 1991—all Syrah, from a hot slope above a turn in the river, and known for concentration, power and complexity.

Before describing them, Chabot paused thoughtfully. "Let me just say that all the wines were showing very well," he finally said. The favorite turned out to be the 1995, in which Chabot found aromas of truffle and earth, as well as a sanguine character and a smoky finish, "like day-after campfire."

Chef Lenn kept things simple with the main course, to show off the quality of the local products and to throw both the complexity of the mature wines and the vintage character of each into relief. The rack of lamb at the center of the dish came from animals raised at Blackberry Farm. It was seasoned with salt and pepper only—no herbs—and given a quick sear before being finished in the oven.

A hash of lamb neck meat, uncured sweet potatoes, onions and sweet bell peppers again brought in that earthiness that Rhône wines love, and wilted sweet potato greens had a pepperiness that also built a bridge to the wine.

So why did the '95 make the match? "I don't usually use this word to describe wine, but it was just more feminine," said Chabot. "It was prettier and smoother, and had lush cherry and plum fruit. The finish was long and elegant, and the tannins were under control." Very often, a simple preparation of direct flavors on the plate makes the best platform for a sophisticated wine, letting it shine.

The best wine for the last course, a quince torte with fruit gelées and cinnamon cream, was the Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Vin de Paille 1996, made from air-dried Marsanne and Roussanne grapes. There was a surprising, bracing acidity followed by honey, with clover, herbs, flowers and grass wafting out. Chabot's first rule of dessert matching is to make sure the wine tastes sweeter than the food. The torte is a lightly sweet cake, so no problem there; the fruit gelées were another story. Luckily, the high acidity in the grapefruit one disarmed that in the wine, making the wine sweeter but not cloying. Little grace notes became apparent too. The cinnamon in the cream uncovered spice box aromas in the wine.

The lessons to be learned from this menu are simple: Underline flavors and be sure to balance them on the plate. Perk up comforting, homey fall and winter flavors with a bit of acid. If you want to show an elegant, complex wine at its best, keep the dish simple and use products of the highest quality. In fact, simple cooking makes entertaining easier in general; it not only shows off great food and wine, it also allows you more time to spend with your family and friends.

Smoked Trout and Golden Beet Salad With Crème Fraîche
8 cups water
4 tablespoons plus 1¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons Red Oz or black loose-leaf tea
2 lemons, juiced
2 8-ounce fresh trout fillets
2 large golden beets
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup crème fraîche
1 teaspoon Banyuls vinegar
4 cups baby golden beet greens

1. Combine the water, 4 tablespoons salt, sugar and tea leaves in a medium pot, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a shallow pan that will fit the trout comfortably; discard the tea leaves. Add the lemon juice, and allow the mixture to cool. Place the trout fillets in the liquid, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Remove the trout from the liquid, and pat dry. Place in a smoker set at 175° F, and smoke until trout just begins to pull apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from smoker, and let cool. (If you do not have a home smoker, purchase trout that's lightly smoked.)

3. Put the beets, stock and 1 teaspoon salt in a pressure cooker, and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. (Alternately, put the beets, stock and 1 teaspoon salt in a roasting dish, cover tightly, and roast in a 425° F oven until a knife easily pierces to the center, 45 minutes to 1 hour.) Remove the beets from the liquid, and peel when cool enough to handle. Using a 1-inch ring cutter, cut the beets down the center into cylinders. Slice the cylinders into 1/8-inch rounds.

4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the crème fraîche, vinegar and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Dress the beet greens with the crème fraîche, lightly coating the leaves. Cut the trout into 4 equal portions, and divide among 4 plates. Place 4 beet rounds in a line, next to each portion. Distribute the dressed beet greens equally atop the beets. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Chicken Confit With Black Truffle Gnocchi
1 cup plus 6 teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning
¼ cup sugar
20 sprigs thyme
2 pounds chicken legs
2 quarts plus 1 tablespoon chicken or duck fat
1 pound Idaho potatoes
1 egg plus 1 yolk, beaten
¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
4 ounces Tennessee black truffle
1 cup flour, plus more if necessary
2 quarts plus 1 cup mushroom broth
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
Black pepper

1. Combine 1 cup salt, sugar and thyme. Rub the chicken legs with this mixture, and place on a wire rack over a tray. Refrigerate overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Rinse the rub off the legs, and pat dry. Place in a pan that just accommodates the legs in one layer, and cover with 2 quarts fat. Transfer to the oven, and roast uncovered until tender, approximately 3 hours. Remove the legs from the pan, and when cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the bones; discard the skin and bones. Reserve the meat.

3. Raise the heat in the oven to 350° F, and bake the potatoes until tender, about 1 hour. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, scoop out the inside, and discard the skin. Rice the potatoes through a food mill, and let cool slightly. While still warm, fold in the egg, 2 teaspoons of salt and lemon zest. Using a zester, grate 3 ounces of the truffle into the mixture. Add the flour gradually, until the mixture comes together and is not wet. Roll the dough into long cylinders ½-inch in diameter, and cut into ½-inch pieces to make gnocchi.

4. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 quarts of the mushroom broth and 4teaspoons salt to a simmer. Add the gnocchi, and cook until they float, 3 minutes. Remove, and shock in ice water by quickly dunking and removing.

5. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon fat. Add the gnocchi, and sautée until golden-brown all over, about 8 minutes. Add the reserved chicken and remaining 1 cup mushroom broth, and heat through, about 5 minutes. Add the chives, and season with salt and black pepper. Divide among 4 plates, and shave the remaining 1 ounce black truffle over each plate. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Roast Rack of Lamb With Sweet Potato-and-Lamb Hash
1 4-pound lamb neck or lamb stewing meat on the bone
4¼ teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning
4 tablespoons canola oil
8 cups lamb or beef stock
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, halved
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs thyme
2 1½-pound lamb racks
¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups white sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in ¼-inch dice
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in ¼-inch dice
2 cups red onion, cut in ¼-inch dice
¼ cup sweet bell pepper, cut in ¼-inch dice
2¼ cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
4 cups sweet potato leaves or spinach

1. Rub the lamb neck with 3 teaspoons salt, and refrigerate overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 300° F. In a large roasting pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil. Sear the neck on all sides until golden-brown. Add the lamb stock, carrots, celery, shallot, bay leaf and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Cover, transfer to the oven, and braise until the meat is tender, about 3 hours. Remove from pan, and pick the meat from the bone.

3. Rub the lamb racks with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Sear the racks until golden-brown on all sides, and transfer to a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack. Place in a 300° F oven, and roast until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 140° F, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove, and let rest for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the white sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions, and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the sweet bell pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups vegetable stock and the braised lamb neck, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the stock has evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the chives, and season with salt and black pepper.

5. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add the sweet potato leaves and remaining ¼ cup vegetable stock, and stir until the leaves wilt. Add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Divide the greens and the hash evenly among 4 plates. Place 2 two-bone portions of lamb rack on each plate. Serves 4.

Quince Torte With Grapefruit Gelée and Cinnamon Cream
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup peeled and grated quince
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 teaspoons gelatin powder
¼ cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large grapefruit, zested and juiced
2 cups water
2 cups heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Combine the butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the flour, allspice, baking soda, salt and quince, and stir until completely combined. Add the walnuts. Pour the batter into a 9-inch-by-12-inch sheet pan that's buttered and lined with parchment paper. Tap the pan lightly on a table to settle the batter and even out the surface. Transfer to the oven, and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

2. Mix the gelatin with the cold water in a small bowl, and let soften, about 10 minutes. Combine the granulated sugar and grapefruit zest in a saucepan, and stir to coat the sugar with the zest. Strain the grapefruit juice through a fine mesh sieve, into the saucepan. Add the water, and stir until completely combined. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, and stir in the gelatin. Pour the mixture into a sheet pan, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

3. Bring 1 cup of the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add the cinnamon sticks, and steep for 15 minutes. Immerse the saucepan in a large bowl of ice, and stir the cream occasionally, until cold. Whisk in the ground cinnamon and the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, forming soft peaks.

4. Cut the gelée into desired shapes. Divide the torte into 4 slices, and place each slice on a plate with a dollop of cinnamon cream on top and the gelée on the side. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

ALTERNATE WINE SUGGESTIONS
The first choices below are the wines that the Blackberry Farm staff agreed were the best matches with these dishes. Similar alternates are provided in case you cannot find the primary choice.

Smoked Trout and Golden Beet Salad With Crème Fraîche
First choice: Philippe Faury Condrieu 2001 (94, $NA)
Alternate choices: André Perret Condrieu Clos Chanson 2005 (92, $70); François Villard Condrieu Le Grand Vallon 2006 (93, $69); Domaine Chèze Condrieu Cuvée de Brèze 2001 (94, $39)

Chicken Confit With Black Truffle Gnocchi
First choice: M. Chapoutier Côte-Rôtie La Mordorée 2004 (91, $150)
Alternate choices: Michel & Stéphane Ogier Côte-Rôtie Lancement Terroir de Blonde 2004 (95, $165); Domaine de Bonserine Côte-Rôtie La Garde 2004 (93, $90); Bernard Burgaud Côte-Rôtie 2004 (91, $61)

Roast Rack of Lamb With Sweet Potato-and-Lamb Hash
First choice: E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 1995 (94, $323)
Alternate choices: Mathilde & Yves Gangloff Côte-Rôtie La Barbarine 1995 (93, $50); Jean-Paul & Jean-Luc Jamet Côte-Rôtie 1999 (92, $50); Jean-Michel Gerin Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 1999 (93, $150)

Quince Torte With Grapefruit Gelée and Cinnamon Cream
First choice: Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Vin de Paille 1996 (NR, $NA)
Alternate choices: Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Ayguets 2006 (94, $104/500ml); Les Vins de Vienne Vin de Table Français Cépées Caties NV (93, $56/500ml); M. Chapoutier Hermitage Vin de Paille 2001 (97, $180/500ml)

Cooking France Rhône Valley Northern Rhône Côte-Rôtie Recipes

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