(Originally posted on 7/26/06)
I wanted to have a party, with good food and wine, with my friends and family. And then I thought about having a private wine dinner at Savory Tastes Cafe, one of my favorite little restaurants in Reading. It is an intimate place, that seats only 36 people. So, with enough people, which I knew I could arrange, we could basically take over the restaurant for the night. I spoke to the chef, Stephen Bell, and he was very agreeable to the idea so we set it up. I gave my input on the food and wine courses and we worked out the following menu. All for a very reasonable price.
Amuse Bouche ---Apricot Gorgonzola Tart ---Paired with a Spanish Cava
Soup ---Roasted Corn and Fish Chowder ---Paired with Domaine Fournier Sancerre Loire, France
Appetizer ---Red Potato Crabcakes ---Paired with a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Marches, Italy
Salad ---Classic Caesar Salad
Entrée: Choice of—
---Beef Tenderloin drizzled with Black Pepper Demi Glace accompanied by Gruyere Potato Souffle and Grilled Asparagus Or
---Chicken Wellington accompanied by Saffron Infused Rice and Sauteed Spinach with Marscapone Cheese and Pinenuts ---
Paired with a 2004 Limerick Lanes Syrah
Dessert ---Choice of: ---Warm Apple Tart ---Reve du Chocolate ---Black and White Mousse ---Paired with Rudi Weist Riesling Rhine River, Germany
In the end, we had 32 people for the dinner, with a few last minute cancelations. We began the evening with a pre-dinner wine hour. We brought some of our own favorite wines, so people could have a glass or two before dinner. As well as to try something new and different. An Edna Valley Chardonnay and a Coturri Carignane were big hits during this hour. In addition to the wines, we had a few appetizers, including shrimp cocktail, stuffed (with goat cheese) Duxelle mushrooms and home-made bruschetta. The mushrooms seemed one of the favorites. This was a jovial and festive time, snacking on some delicious appetizers, chatting and relaxing.
Eventually, we all sat down to begin our dinner. We began with the Apricot Gorgonzola Tart, an intriguing tart with a nice tang of blue cheese, but not an overpowering one. Its milder flavor will appeal to even many of those who are not big fans of blue cheese. It went very well with the Spanish Cava, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. I wanted something different that the usual French champagne, so thought that a Cava would do. A Cava is simply a sparkling wine made in Spain using the usual French champagne method. Few at the dinner had ever had a Cava before so it was a pleasant surprise.
The Roasted Corn and Fish Chowder, one of my favorite soups at Savory Tastes, was delicious, with a thinner broth with loads of fresh fish, three or four varieties. It is not a thick, creamy chowder but a lighter fare, which goes well with the summer season. The soup was paired with a Sancerre, which is made of Sauvignon Blanc. It was a clean and crisp wine that did not detract from the soup.
We then moved onto the Red Potato Crabcakes, each plate bearing two of the luscious cakes. They were nice and crispy on the outside and creamy inside. They were superb, filled with lots of crab. The potato served to keep the cake together rather than using breadcrumbs as a filler. They are some of the best crabcakes I have ever had. These were paired with a Montepulciano, which was a nice, lighter red that many found quite delicious.
The Caesar salad was next, without wine, to give us a bit of time to relax after all of the previous wine. This a classic salad with nice large pieces of shaved cheese on top. The ingredients were very fresh and it made for a refreshing change of pace.
We then had a choice of entrees though some of the couples decided to each order one of the choices, and then share their plates so they could taste both entrees. I think that is an excellent way to get to try all of the available choices. The Tenderloin, a good-sized piece of very tender meat, had a nice peppery sauce. And the Potato Souffle was like a little, light potato muffin. The Chicken Wellington was also good-sized with a flaky pastry shell, and lots of mushrooms. The rice also had some very interesting and tasty flavors. The entrees were paired with an exceptional 2004 Limerick Lanes Syrah. The Syrah was very much Old World, a more subtle wine rather than an Aussie fruit bomb.
Out of the dessert choices, the cheesecake was not available but the other desserts were more than sufficient. The Apple Tart consists of slices of spiced apple sitting in a flaky pastry shell. It went well with the sweetness of the Reisling. Others who had the Reve and the Mousse also enjoyed those rich, chocolate desserts.
Besides the top notch food, the service was excellent. The meal proceeded at a leisurely pace, never rushed. The chef himself often walked through the restaurant, talking with the guests, making sure that everything was good and that people were enjoying themselves. He is a very personable man and accomodating to the guests. When the evening finally ended, I heard only raves from those present. And in the days afterwards, I have heard many compliments about the evening, and anticipation toward the next such dinner. Which I plan on doing in the fall. As always, I highly recommend Savory Tastes Cafe.