The Pleasures of Food & Wine Pairing by Rick Riozza
Benjamin Franklin said, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”
Clearly, wine’s principle role is to give pleasure, and that role is best played out on the table. Now to gather at the table with family, friends and new acquaintances to enjoy food and wine is really one of the great joys of life.
Food & wine as partners truly contribute to well-being and happiness; but surprisingly, I am asked more questions about the problems meal planners have of matching the “right wine” to the “right meal”. First off–in the real world, this doesn’t even come close to a “problem”. We should all have such problems!
Secondly, I’m amazed that so many of you find it to be a concern to even ask about: But I’ve got it! There is artistry in matching a good wine to a meal where the appreciation and enjoyment is brought to a different level. And what an artful, considerate, and graceful endeavor that is to offer your family and guests.
There’s a whole bunch of info regarding food and wine pairings—stuff that this column will no doubt continue to discuss as we play through the game of wine. But let’s do it right for starters. Let us hear first from the professionals.
Robert Nyerick is the Executive Chef of Miramonte Resort & Spa’s acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant, Grove Artisan Kitchen. Full of culinary credentials, Chef Robert is one of the desert’s top gastronomic artists creating in the kitchen.
Displaying a relaxed smile, Chef Robert spoke of the fun aspect of the up-coming Rodney Strong Wine Dinner Event held this Friday evening, June 15th at the Resort. “It’s already summertime here, we’re not looking to put on a ‘heavy and serious food & wine match-up’. The staff and I are simply having a good time lining up lighter and inventive fare to pair with lighter bodied wines.”
I then broke out with a large smile when Chef Robert told me that his personal go-to wines, in and out of the kitchen, are Rodney Strong. Hey!—those are the meals I want to be enjoying by a consummate chef who knows well the flavor profiles of the wines he is cooking with. And shall we say he’ll really be “pouring it on” as three of the courses, the starter, salad and the main, will be prepared with the same Rodney Strong wines served at dinner.
As to the Reception/Appetizer course, Chef Robert gave me some insight: this course is thought up after the other courses are set. The dinner menu is extensive, ranging from Roasted Duck Confit to Pan Seared Halibut to Grilled Prime Flat Iron Steak. So the Chef takes advantage of the Reception to showcase an additional array of flavors and textures, pairing Shrimp & Salmon Mousse, Proscuitto Wraped Asparagus, Tuna Tartare Cone, and nuts, fruit, and Brie, to that of the Northern Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc 2010 that is crisp in minerality for cleansing the palate but not overly bracing so as to blow you away with acidity—ripe pear and melon notes persist.
The Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2010, although barrel fermented in new French oak, is not overly oaky but is both creamy and crisp with ripe apple, Meyer lemon, and spiced vanilla flavors. Chef Robert reduces this wine with scallops and saffron and serves it up in the Starter course with Pan Seared Halibut & Baby Spring Ratatouille. One can even visualize the great balance of flavors on this food spectrum.
Appearing in the Salad course is the Roasted Duck Confit Spring Roll, Hearts of Boston Bibb, Daikon Sprouts, and Carrot Curls along with a tangy ponzu whose traditional ingredient of soy sauce is replaced with the 2010 Russian River Pinot Noir, with its intriguing floral and crushed pomegranate aromas. This medium bodied red owns a wonderful spice complexity that simply dances with the Duck Confit.
Just because we mentioned a “lighter fare” dinner, that does not preclude the enjoyment of a great tasting steak for the Main course. Same idea with the wine: the 2008 Symmetry Meritage Alexander Valley with a bouquet of black fruits and sweet spice, opens boldly on the palate with blackberries, cassis and dark chocolate. This mouth-filling wine is rich, silky in texture, and expansive on the finish. It’s in the class of outstanding California red blends that are harmonious, powerful, and elegant. Chef Robert left behind the filet idea and went with a steak of great flavor and texture to match with the Meritage. Grilled Prime Dry Aged Flat Iron with Symmetry Wild Mushroom Ragout is the call along with Pot-au-Feu Spring Vegtables. C’est magnifique!
And for Dessert, we are treated to Rodney Strong’s private stock of what I’m guessing is a late-harvest Zinfandel or Syrah dessert wine they call Gentlemen’s Port. Obviously not commercially available, but with the “port” clue, Chef is sweetly dusting the bases with Flourless Chocolate Decadence, Orange and Strawberry Compote, and Fresh Mint.
Now is that a primer on food & wine pairing, or what! Our salute and thanks to Chef Robert.
Seating for this event is limited so call quickly, and, if you happen to miss it—not to worry, Chef Robert’s artistic food creations appear on the plate weekly at the Grove Artisan Kitchen located at the MIramontes Resort and Spa, 45000 Indian Wells Ln. Indian Wells Ca. 92210. Reservations: 760.341.7200
See you at the Event! BON APPÉTIT! CHEERS!
Rick Riozza is the desert’s sommelier-about-town hosting and entertaining at private & corporate wine events and tastings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org