Friday, July 3, 2009

Spirited Gourmet & Bistro 5: Italian Wine Dinner

When I received an email from Nick Martinelle of The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont concerning an upcoming wine dinner at Bistro 5 in Medford, I was definitely interested. I love the food at Bistro 5 and selected it as my "Favorite Local Restaurant" of 2008. The wines were being provided by Vineyard Road, one of my favorite importers, so I knew they would be very good too. Angus of Vineyard Road would pour and present the wines to us.

Thus, when I attended the wine dinner last Friday evening, I had high expectations. I was not disappointed in the least, savoring some excellent cuisine and fine wines while enjoying some interesting and fun conversation.

Soon after we were seated, we were poured a glass of NV San Giuseppe Prosecco ($14.99). This Italian sparkling wine sees no oak and only has an alcohol content of 11%. I found it to be quite delicious, crisp, tart and with prominent green apple flavors. An excellent, refreshing wine that is low in alcohol and made for a nice start to our meal. (I later bought some of this wine as I enjoyed it so much.)

The chef sent out a little amuse bouche to start our meal, a bruschetta with olive tapenade, sliced cherry tomato, and ricotta. A nice combination of flavors and textures, from the saltiness of the tapenade to the creaminess of the ricotta.

Our first course was a Hamachi Carpaccio with a truffle froth, pink Peruvian sea salt, foccacia crouton, and micro greens. Some lemon juice, olive oil, and purple basil were also used for this dish. There was plenty of tender hamachi and I enjoyed the combined flavors of the various ingredients. It was fresh and clean, a light dish to start the dinner.

This dish was paired with the 2007 La Bella Notte Armonico ($15.99), which is from the Friuli region and is a blend of 50% Malvasia and 50% Friuliano. It is aged in steel and sees no oak. It had a nice golden color and a pleasing smell of pear with mild floral notes. On my palate, there were good flavors of citrus, pear, and a little honey. There was also a slightly bitter finish, which did not detract from the wine. A good match to the hamachi.

You might think this was a spider with all the "legs" visible but it actually was a fried Soft shell Crab with garlic scapes tempura, Spanish chorizo, chipotle aioli and frisee. The crab was delicious, a nice crunchy exterior and moist, silky interior. This was the first time I have had garlic scapes and they too were delicious, with a much milder garlic flavor. The chorizo slices were very spicy and flavorful. Another excellent dish.

The wine for this course was the 2005 Vodopivec Vitovska Classica ($64.99). It is a unique wine that deserves a post of its own so I am giving it one.

Chef Vittorio Ettore makes his own salumi and it is incredible. For this dinner, he made Wild Boar and Duck Salumi, topped by a vincotto rather than balsamic. Vincotto is a sweet, grape must and is not a type of vinegar. With the salumi, was a coriander tart filled with a foie gras mousse and topped with glazed Mission figs. The salumi was exceptional, silky smooth, salty, and flavorful. The mousse and figs went very well together, almost making a dessert. I could have eaten several plates of this salumi.

Our wine for this course was our first red, the 2005 Montaribaldi Barbaresco "Palazzina" ($29.99) from the Piedmont region. This is a single vineyard, 100% Nebbiolo which has been aged for 14 months in 1/3 new oak. Only about 600 cases of this wine were produced. This was an amazing wine, an excellent value for the price. Dark purple in color, it had a very alluring smell, black fruits and a touch of spice. The aroma makes you want to drink it, if you can tear your nose away from smelling it. The taste lived up to its smell, wonderful flavors of blueberry, black cherry, plum, spice, and leather. Its lingering finish was very satisfying as well. I think this wine is good now though would probably get even better with a bit of aging. (This is another wine I just had to buy.)

Our fourth course was Grilled Lamb with baby artichoke risotto and goat cheese. The lamb was absolutely delicious, tender and cooked perfectly. I really love lamb and this dish pleased me. Now, I dislike artichokes but it was easy enough to push them aside and enjoy the rest of the risotto . Chef Ettore always makes delicious creamy, risotto and this was no exception. And the goat cheese added a nice taste to the dish.

Our wine this time was the 2003 Convento Muri Gries Lagrein "Abtei Muri" ($34.99) from the Alto Adige region. This wine is made in a monastery and spends 20 months in 40% new oak barriques. A rich wine with a great nose, and flavors of dark berries and even a bit of chocolate. It had a lengthy finish and was well structured and very pleasing. We also got to try the 2004 vintage and I found it to be more restrained, austere and elegant. Yes, vintage definitely matters with some wines.

We had another wine with this course, though after the Lagrein. This was the 2006 Oasi Angeli "Kurni" Montepulciano ($99.99) from the Abruzzo region. This wine is made from 100% Montepulciano D'Abbruzzo and aged for 2 years in new oak barriques. "Kurni" is the nickname of the grandfather. This wine smells like a port, and even tastes like one too, though a bit drier. The smell and taste were very unexpected. I liked its taste, though see how it could easily overpower many different foods. It almost might be better as a dessert wine.

Dessert was a tasting of three items, including: ginger-caramel ice cream, chocolate ravioli, and strawberry crepe. An excellent ending to our meal. The ice cream had a unique flavor, with a strong ginger taste, and the chocolate was actually very spicy. The crepe was light with fresh, sweet strawberries.

The dessert wine was the 1999 Riecine Sangiovese Passito ($39.99) from Tuscany. This is 100% Sangiovese with a touch of botrytis and which has been aged in oak for about a year. A powerful sweet wine, with rich, complex flavors. Lots of ripe, dark berry flavors with hints of spice. It is not cloyingly sweet though, and paired well with the various desserts, especially the spicy chocolate.

Such a wonderful dinner and everyone else seemed quite satisfied as well. Service was excellent, and Angus did a great job of presenting the wines. Chef Ettore created another winner menu and I continue to highly recommend Bistro 5. If you would like to order any of these wines, you can get them at The Spirited Gourmet.

The Spirited Gourmet
448 Common Street
Belmont, MA
Phone: 617-489-WINE

Bistro 5
5 Playstead Road
Medford, MA
Phone: 781-395-7464

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