As you know, Tabla takes it’s food and wine very seriously; mostly because all of us at the restaurant like to drink and eat! But also because we pair the food on our 3 course menu with different wines from around the world, hopefully creating an interesting and delicious match. Yet as some point, we ask ourselves, ‘what else would go well with this octopus?’ or ‘what food can we pair with a fino sherry?’ So recently Michael and I got together and tested the boundaries of pairing food and wine.
We decided that the best way to discover pairings and flavors which we would not have normally thought of, or which were not classic, was to cook a very eclectic menu and open a vast variety of wines all at the same time. This way we could drink every wine with all the food, and hopefully discover something unexpected and delicious! We also needed more than just the two of us to take on this experiment, so we recruited some help.
First my wife Kathleen, who had been in the service industry for a long time and has a great palate, and her best friend Courtney from J Winery in Healdsberg were on board. To round out our numbers to an even 6, one of my best friends, Neil, who distributed Kermit Lynch wines years ago for Vintage House, and now works at Liner and Elsen joined us, along with his boyfriend Blain, for what was about to be a very interesting and tasty evening.
The wines that we decided to open for this occasion covered a wide spectrum of different tastes, winemaking methods, countries and microclimates. Michael and I wanted a very diverse selection of wines for the dinner, and we got just that.
These are Michael’s picks:
2006 Arnaldo Caprai Grecante, Grechetto dei Colli Mentani, Umbria, It.
2007 Hippolyte Reverdy, Sauvignon blanc, Sancerre, Fr.
2004 Pierre Frick, Riestling, Alsace, Fr. 2001 Paysan a La Sansonniere, La Lune, Chenin Blanc, Anjou, Fr.
207 Le Clos du Tue Beauf, Gamay, Touraine, Fr.
2006 Francois Gay et Fil, Pinot Noir, Cherey-Les-Beaune, Fr.
2005 Uccelliera, Sangiovese Grosso, Rosso di Montalcino, It.
2001 Ribera Del Duero, Condado de Haza, Tempernillo, Sp.
The location of this momentous event was my home in Sellwood, where we were able to take a seat around my kitchen table and really go to work (yes, I really cook like this on my days off). I designed the menu to have three distinct sections, each with 4 courses, and each containing ingredients that are either classically hard to pair with or that had strong seasonings and interesting flavor combinations. I also put some pretty classic food combinations on the menu, in order to see if a classic paring results in a GOOD pairing. Each round of four courses was plated on one large plate, so that we could circle around to each item, revisiting it with different wines.
The menu and our group tasting notes for each of the courses appears below. The bold lettering describes the dish, the smaller text notes individual ingredients that are in the dish, and the italicized text represents flavors to keep in mind while tasting different wines. But first allow me to add my overall thoughts on the task that we accomplished.
Pairing food and wine is both easy and difficult. Somethings that seem like a guaranteed match on paper were way off on the palate(Gamay with Duck, Rosso with NY), and some wines that were truly out of the ordinary turned out to be delicious with a wide array of different food(crazy, apple-cider-y Radikon, Sherry-like d’Arley Chard/SB). What I as a chef take from this, and what you as a cook or diner should also, is that food and wine have no boundaries as long as you keep an open mind to tasting new things. Our time is limited, but not our palates!
Course 1: Seafood
-nicoise olives, preserved lemon
--garlic, red wine vin, pickled fennel
Marinated Clams with Paprika
–garlic, onion, sherry vin, tomato pulp
Octopus and Potato
-roasted fingerlings, chorizo, parsley
–paprika, sherry vinegar
wine: Chateau d’Arley/Radikon 2nd
Fried Halibut in Saor
-orange, pine nuts, currants
–onion and pepper sweet and sour sauce,fried crust and orange zest
wine: Gamay/Chateau d’Arley 2nd
Course 2: Pasta and Salad
Beet Tartar with Carrot Chips
-creme fraiche, capers, corichons
–worstershire, tabasco, lemon
wine: Radikon/Gamay 2nd
Kathleen’s Shrimp with Creamy Angel Hair Pasta
-chili, lemon, parm, white wine
–butter, parsley, creme fraiche
-marinated artichokes, fried sunchokes, fennel
–olive oil, garlic, lemon-parley dressing, caramelization
wine: Sancerre/Grecante 2nd
Pan-Fried New York
-spinach flan, gorgonzola fonduta
wine: Haza Tempernillo
Crispy-Smoked Duck Breast
-green tea smoke, orange mostarda, chive oil
–mustard, duck, smoke, bitter orange
wine: Riestling/ Haza Tempernillo 2nd
-red pepper romesco sauce
–chili, red wine vin, bread, almonds
-herb crust, mint-pea puree, sauteed maitake mushrooms
–lamb jus, sherry, lemon
wine: Anjou Chenin Blanc/ Haza Tempernillo 2nd