By Tracy Dietlin

My husband and I recently had the experience of participating in our first wine pairings dinner at Cork & Fork Restaurant in La Quinta. Being a bit set in my ways as to what wines I prefer to drink and with what food, I was a bit hesitant, however every dining experience we have had at this lovely eatery has always been top-notch and it has become one of our favorite spots to dine.

The event took place on their private patio which is located next door on the side of Cooking with Class, which they also own. The ambiance was perfect with total privacy from the high bushes with white lights and ample heaters to keep us toasty in the brisk evening air.

We were served a crisp glass of Prosecco as we were seated which was followed by the evenings amuse bouche; a tasty squash blossom. We were off to a good start. Our first course was the roasted butternut squash bisque with the most delicious lump crab, finished with vanilla bean brown butter and crispy fried shallots and was accompanied by a glass of 2012 Tahbilk Estate Viognier from Central Victoria, Australia. The two fit together well and the presentation of the bisque was well done.

Next we were presented with a Baby Beet & Laura Chenel Goat Cheese Terrine with orange Muscat pesto, caramelized fennel, pistachio, upland cress. I was excited to move onto the reds of the evening with our first being a smooth 2012 Benovia Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA. This wine was absolutely delicious and made me wonder why I don’t stray from my Merlot and Cabernet more often.

Our next course would be served with a NV Chateau St. Cosme ‘Little James Basket Press’ Grenache Gigondas (Rhone Valley), France and had a smoky, heavy taste that I wasn’t quite sure about until the Orecchiette ‘Oreganata’ Wild Mushroom & Eggplant Melange, Gorgonzola Dijon Crème, Applewood Bacon entrée’ arrived. This pairing was impressive as they went together like hand and glove. I was so surprised how the texture of the wine changed after enjoying it with the food. I purchased 2 bottles.

The star pairing of the night was indeed the last course before dessert and was a Tuscan Beef Stew ‘Pepperonata’ with pancetta, sweet onions, pine nut Meyer lemon gremolata and was accompanied by a 2012 Farm Collective Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley wine. This was hands down the best stew I’ve ever tasted and paired perfectly with the Cabernet. I hope they will consider including this on their regular menu. If not we will simply have to take a cooking class from owner/Executive Chef Andie Hubka and see if she is willing to part with this delicious recipe.

Our final tasting of the night was a velvety Pumpkin maple mascarpone mousse with pumpkin seed brittle. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better it did. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous meal.

I highly recommend signing up for one of Cork & Fork’s wine dinners. They will be having another one in January and they also do beer dinners. You don’t have to wait for one of these events to go and enjoy this amazing food. Cork & Fork is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4-9pm. Reservations are strongly suggested as they fill up every night. Call 760-777-7555 or visit them at www.corkandforkwinebar.com. They are located at 47-875 #A106 Caleo Bay Dr. in La Quinta, CA.

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