(Originally posted 4/27/07)
Last weekend, I hosted a private wine dinner at Savory Tastes Café in Reading for my family, friends and members of my local wine group. It was a Spanish Tapas wine dinner and Chef Stephen Bell worked with me to create the menu and accompanying wines. I wanted a diverse menu, with Spanish wines that people might not be familiar with but that they would enjoy.
We began the evening with glasses of Casteller Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine that is made like Champagne but which has a different style. It is a bit fruitier and sweeter than Champagne, and lacks that common yeasty flavor. I have had this Cava before and have always enjoyed it. It started off our evening well as everyone arrived and settled in.
Prior to our dinner, the Chef started us off with a little Amuse Bouche, a Blue Cheese and Apricot Tart. This was paired with a glass of dry sherry, a Pedro Romero Manzanilla “Aurora.” The sherry went very well with the tart, their flavors complementing each other. I found the sherry to have almost a nutty and floral taste that meshed with the bit of tartness from the blue cheese. Even those who did not care for the sherry alone enjoyed it when they had it with the tart.
The dinner then started with our first course, the appetizer. This consisted of two tapas, the Trucha Con Jamon (Trout with ham) and the Pimiento De Piquillo Rellenos De Pollo (Chicken stuffed piquillo peppers). This was paired with a Laxas Albarino from the Rias Baxas region. The trout was very simply prepared, with little more than salt, pepper and some olive oil. There was Serrano ham between the two pieces of trout. Many of the guests stated this was one of their favorite dishes of the evening. The trout was obviously very fresh, quite flavorful and the salty ham went well with the trout. The stuffed peppers provided a nice contrast as they sat in a spicy tomato based sauce. The large pepper was stuffed with minced chicken and was quite tasty. The Albarino paired well with both dishes. It is a fruity, crisp white wine, and complemented the fish as well as the spicy stuffed pepper.
The second course, our soup and salad, included Sopa de Ajo (Castilian garlic soup) and Ensalada De Escarole Con Jamon Y Peras (Frisee with pears and honeyed lardoons). This was paired with a Falset Marca from the Montsant region, which is near Priorat. If you love garlic, then you would have loved this soup. It was a simple soup but very flavorful. The salad was also very good, especially the lardons. They were crunchy, sweet and so very tasty. I could have eaten a plateful of just them and the other guests raved about them as well. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carinena, and Garnacha. It is light, fruity and very smooth. It is an easy drinking wine that would pair well with many foods, including the soup and salad.
Our next course was our first entrée, including the Albondigas Con Manzanas Y Setas (Catalan meatballs with almond saffron sauce) and Patatas Bravas (Crispy potatoes with spicy tomato sauce). This was paired with a Vinos Sin Ley M5 Monastrell from the Yecla region. The sauces for both of these dishes were superior, with interesting flavors that complemented the meatballs and potatoes. The wine is 100% Monastrell, one of my favorite varietals, and added a bit of an earthiness to the flavors, though the wine had plenty of fruit as well. It stood up well to the different dishes. The next course, our second entrée, consisted of Carre De Cordero Con Pistachios (Lamb chop with pistachio pesto) and Arroz Cremeso Con Idiazabal Con Pechuga (Creamy Basque smoked cheese risotto with duck). This was paired with a Pares Balta Hisenda Miret from the Penedes region. This was another phenomenal course. The lamb chop was incredibly tender and most delicious, with an intriguing coating. Again, this was one of the favorites of the night. The duck was also very tender and flavorful. The risotto was outstanding, with a nice smoky flavor. I could have easily devoured a full plate of either dish. The wine was Garnacha based and stood up well to the meats, without overpowering them.
Our final course of the evening, our dessert, was Mousse De Yogur Y Chocolate Blanco Con Gelatina De Fruta De Passion (Yogurt mousse with white chocolate and a passion fruit gelee). This was paired with a Pedro Ximinex Barbadillo, a sweet sherry. I generally dislike yogurt but I really enjoyed this dessert. It was sweet, fruity and did not have that yogurty taste which I dislike. Everyone else seemed to enjoy this very much as well. The sherry paired well with the dessert.
Service throughout the evening was excellent. We were not rushed in the least. Chef Bell was very personable during the dinner, even sharing some of his recipes with the guests. Overall, this wine dinner was exceptional. With five courses of food and seven wines, everyone left quite sated. I did not have a single complaint about the meal. And all of the guests thoroughly enjoyed themselves as well, some telling me this was one of the best meals they have had in quite some time. Chef Bell really outdid himself for this wine dinner.
I have long been a fan of Savory Tastes Café and it is meals like this one that continue to prove my faith in Chef Bell’s talent. Savory Tastes is available for anyone to hold a private wine dinner or similar private function. Chef Bell is very good at working with you to develop a menu as well as any other extras you might need. I would highly recommend Savory Tastes Café to all.
Savory Tastes Cafe
601 Main St.
Phone: (781) 942-8287