Thursday, September 27, 2007

Northern Italian Wine Dinner

Last evening, I attended the Northern Italian Wine Dinner at Savory Tastes Café. As usual, this was an excellent event with a bounty of food and wine. My family and friends also enjoyed it very much. Jeff and David of Ruby Wines were present, explaining all of the wines paired with the courses. And Chef Bell presided over the dinner, talking about the foods and making sure everything ran smoothly.

Our first course was an Antipasti, a large plate for two that included Prosciutto, Soppressata, melon, olives (black and green), eggplant Caponata, white bean puree, roasted red peppers, cheeses, pesto and toasted bread. This was certainly a smorgasbord of flavors and textures. Everything was very fresh and we had almost nothing left on the plates when we were done.

Paired with this course was the Borgo Magredo Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. Borgo Magredo is located in the Grave del Friuli appellation. Borgo Magredo is also the largest estate in Friuli. The wine is 100% Prosecco, estate grown and hand harvested. This wine has a mild carbonation, more a frizzante than the typical Champagne bubbles. It has some nice fruit flavors, like peach and other citrus. An interesting alternative to French Champagne and likely to appeal to those who do not like Champagne.

We also got a large loaf of fresh Italian bread with dishes of spiced oil. We just tore chunks off the loaf and dunked them into the oil.

The second course was Linguine with Clam Sauce, three steamed clams in open shells over linguine in clam juice, white wine and cayenne pepper. The clams were small and tender, and the sauce was mild and tasty.

This was accompanied by the 2006 Falchini Vernaccia di San Gimignano "Solatio." This wine is 100% Vernaccia, estate bottled and single vineyard. It is lightly oaked and has a crisp, clean taste with nice green apples flavors. This was my favorite white wine of the evening.

Our third course was Poached Salt Cod and Fennel, two pieces of salt cod in a fennel cream sauce and accompanied by two fennel hearts. This was a very tasty dish with a nice sauce. The salt cod was tender though it has a bit of springy texture, which is just its nature and not an error in the cooking. Its saltiness was mild and the wine helped to cut even that. Another good dish.

With the salt cod, we had the 2006 Marchesi di Barolo Gavi "Le Lune." This is the only Gavi subjected to an arrested and non-malolactic secondary fermentation. The wine is made of 100% Cortese. It reminded me of a mellow Chardonnay, without all the oak. Though I thought it was ok, it did not thrill me. But then I am very particular on which white wines I enjoy. I am sure white wine aficionados would have enjoyed it very much.

On to the wild game. The fourth courses, was Wild Boar with Parmesan Pignoli Risotto. This consisted of a couple thin slices of wild boar, tender and delicious, accompanied by a creamy risotto with pignoli and parmegiano reggiano. I definitely could have eaten plenty more of the boar. I also enjoyed the risotto. It had a nice creaminess to it and was cooked perfectly. Savory Taste definitely knows how to make good risotto. My favorite risotto though remains their smoked Gouda risotto.

With the boar, we had a 2005 Fattoria Le Sorgenti Chianti Colli Fiorentini "Respiro." This is 100% Sangiovese that is fermented in stainless steel tanks and 40% of the wine then refines in barrique for 6 months. This was a fine example of a Chianti. It has nice cherry flavors and was very smooth. It made an excellent pair to the food. This is a wine worth seeking out.

As a bit of a breather, there was then an Intermezzo of Peach Sorbet accompanied by a glass of 2006 DeForville Moscato d’Asti. The sorbet was delicious with a strong peach flavor and it went well with the slightly sweet Moscato. A nice palate cleanser as we geared up for the rest of our enjoyable meal.

The fifth course was a bowl of Minestrone Soup, filled with lots of veggies, beans and potatoes. I don’t like Minestrone so I did not eat mine but those at my table who did liked it very much. The broth was very good as were all of the veggies.

But I did enjoy the wine with this course, a 2006 Bastianich Rosato Colli Orientali del Friuli. This wine is made from 100% Refosco, an obscure red grape found in northern Italy. This was an excellent Rose, just a bit of sweetness and lots of lush fruit flavors like strawberry and raspberry. It is definitely a more Old World style and could compete with many French Roses. I do question though the pairing of a Rose with the minestrone. Just does not seem to me to pair well. But it is a wine I will seek out.

Our sixth course was the Bisteca, a 5 oz. rib eye steak accompanied by creamy polenta and sauteed spinach and garlic finished with a beef au jus. Well, I did get mine without spinach as it is another veggie I am not keen on. The steak was thin, tender and flavorful with very little excess fat. Very good. The polenta was also tasty, a nice creamy, corn dish.

For the Bisteca, the wine was the 1999 Salcheto Vino Nobile de Montepulciano "Salco Evoluzione. This wine is made from a local clone of Sangiovese called "Prugnolo Gentile," made from their oldest vineyards. The wine is wood aged for 27 months, then bottle refined for 10-12 months. This was a superb wine, a powerful red with an abundance of flavors, from black cherry to spice and leather. Just a perfect pairing for the steak. The wine had a nice lingering finish. My favorite red wine of the evening.

Finally, our Dessert course. Can we really eat more food? Well, we did. The dessert was a Gelato and Balsamic Vinegar, scoops of vanilla bean and chocolate served with a reduced balsamic vinegar. A perfect ending to the meal. The ice cream was creamy and tasty and the balsamic vinegar was like a sweet syrup. Don’t think the taste of balsamic on salad as this was nothing like that. A satisfying ending to an excellent meal.

Our final wine was the Casa alle Vacche Vin Santo del Chianti which is made from 90% Trebbiano Toscano and 10% Malvasia. It is a sweet wine that reminded me of a mild port. As I am not a big fan of port, I was not a big fan of this wine. Though those who did like port, enjoyed this sweet wine with their dessert.

Overall, this was another fine wine dinner put on by Chef Bell. For the price, you cannot beat the value of all of these food courses plus eight different wines. Service was excellent, as usual. And everyone at the dinner seemed to be enjoying themselves. If you did not go, you missed out. So I definitely recommend you go to the next wine dinner. I know I will be there.

Savory Tastes Cafe
601 Main Street
Reading, MA

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