Once in a great while, an opportunity arises for foodies. A chance to sit down with good friends, drink great wines, eat wonderful foods and enjoy an evening you'll remember for years to come. Except, if you happen to cook, and you also get to cook with those friends, AND sit down for the dinner- it's an even bigger blast, as anyone who has done it can tell you.
Nine years ago, fellow chefs, wine guys, foodies and friends (12 in all) got together to experience a generous gift of wine bequeathed to one of our friends from a colleague. It was a collection of 8 or 9 bottles, including first growth bordeaux from stellar vintages, like 1982 and 1985 & 86. There was 1966 la Tache burgundy and cult cabernet from California I didn't even know existed (Maya). And, the mother of them all: Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes.
We wrote a menu around the wines, throwing in a couple others to fill in some holes (like Sauzet Montrachets and Grand Cru Champagnes). We used extravagant, expensive ingredients, but simply, so as to complement these beauties, not kill them. It was 7 or 8 courses, and it was a once in a lifetime dinner. Or so we thought.
This past May, the core group assembled again with our benefactor and an entire case of wines that would make any enthusiast weak in the knees. Then came the news: among more great 1st growth bordeaux, Chateau d'Yquem, gorgeous white burgundies and Taylor Port from 1963, there would be a bottle of 1919 Chateau Haut Brion. *Whimper & Sigh* *Jaw drops*
Again, writing the menu around the wines, filling in the blanks with equally remarkable wines and vintages, we met several times before to discuss pairings, view tasting notes and discuss the progression of the meal. If you've never written a menu of multiple courses or paired wine for them, many factors are considered when doing so. Building in intensity of flavors, while not losing your navigation is one of these factors. Throw in ambition, truffles, foie gras, caviar and a previous wine dinner that shook our world, and you've got quite a bit of anticipation, not to mention some healthy anxiety.
It didn't seem possible to have out-done the previous dinner, but it was so.
Amuse Bouche- Smoked Salmon Cheesecake- with fine herb crème fraîche,
paddlefish caviar Kentucky
1st Course- Pan-Seared Canadian Halibut- over melted baby leeks with crisp pancetta
2000 Chevalier Montrachet, Leflaive
2000 Chevalier Montrachet, V.Giradin
2nd Course- Pan-Roasted Rabbit Loin with sage,
Kennett Square mushrooms and olives
2006 Chambolle Musigny F.Mugnier
2001 Charmes Chambertin C.Dugat
1986 Charmes Chambertin
3rd Course- Raviolo filled with Braised Piedmontese Beef Cheeks, Black Truffle and Taleggio; natural braising jus
1996 Chambertin, Jadot
1988 Charmes Chambertin, Roty
4th Course- Spice Rubbed and Grilled Wild Boar Loin with a “reserve” of braised pork belly, cipollini, rosemary and balsamico
1990 Chateau Latour, Pomerol
1990 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Paulliac
5th Course- Confit of Lamb Leg over roasted beets, braised beet greens with local feta cheese and natural lamb reduction
1990 Chateau Haut Brion, Graves
1919 Chateau Haut Brion, Graves
6th Course- Epoisses with pumpernickel, roasted nuts, blueberry jam and honey
7th Course- A study in Chateau d’Yquem- Seared foie gras over toasted brioche, blue cheese, peach brulée
1975 Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes
The Cookie- Citrus and Lemon Thyme Shortbread