Cheryle & I recently participated in a HUGE food & wine learning opportunity at the first class Resort of Paws Up, located an hour’s drive outside the town of Missoula, Montana. The culinary weekend was named WinterFest & featured a top echelon of chefs including Hosea Rosenberg winner of “Top Chef” 2005 and chef/owner of Blackbelly restaurant of Boulder, Colorado; Brooke Williamson first runner up “Top Chef” 2010 and co-owner/co-chef of Playa Provisions, The Tripel and Hudson House; Colby and Megan Garrelts of rye and Bluestem restaurants (Colby was also a 2015 James Beard awardee) and of course Ben Jones, the Executive Chef of the Resort at Paws Up.
It is opportunities like this where one can really have a lot of fun working with chefs as they prepare their creations, and mutually come up with some sort of food and wine “magic” which can inspire all, including the guests. Thankfully, each of the chefs were open to collaboration, which made the weekend a real hoot of a time and a real learning opportunity.
One of the culinary highlights was named “Streams”, a very colorful dish of beet cured trout, trout roe, smoked whitefish roe, 63C quail egg and garlic parmesan powder created by Resort Chef Ben Jones. The wine we served was the 2013 Fürst Muller Thurgau “Pur Mineral” (roughly $22 a bottle) , whose, wonderful though delicate aromatics and soil driven minerality made for a striking, memorable pairing. This opportunity clearly reminded me how aromatic white wines can really uplift foods, just as fresh herbs do. While we may not have trout readily available here in the islands, one can readily use this wine with a myriad of fresh fish dishes for similar reasons. Take, for instance, mixing ahi cubes with sea salt, a tiny bit of chili pepper flakes & chiffonade of shiso and trying it with Birichino Malvasia Bianca. Or, as another example, consider panko-ing a piece of swordfish, sautéing it, and finishing it off, with a squeeze of lemon, a tad of white wine, butter and some fresh thyme. Then try the dish with a wonderfully perfumed, minerally white wine such as the Melville Viognier “Verna’s”. In all cases, I think you will be amazed at the synergy these combinations can create.
Another of the most interesting pairings of the weekend featured a dish–Beets with snow peas, pancetta, mint cream & celery leaves, a creation of James Beard awardee, Colby Garrelts of Kansas City. The wine we paired was the 2013 Dr F Weins Prum Kabinett Feinherb “Graacher Himmelreich”. I know guests must to have asked themselves–A German Riesling? Fortunately, Colby & his wife/pastry chef extraordinaire Megan, understand the merits of high quality German Riesling like this & how it can make food taste better. Therefore, to ensure a more seamless pairing, Colby marinated the beets in a very intense vinaigrette first. The dish’s resulting higher acidity then lent itself to work its magic with the ever so slightly sweet edge of the wine. Furthermore the inclusion of the mint & celery leaf components worked very well with the innate minty/petrol/minerality of the wine. Yes, it was magic!
Another interesting pairing was the Crown of Squab with winter apples, farro, Green Dirt Farm cheese & spiced quince with the 2014 Marcel Lapierre “Raisins Gaulois”. At first the dish sounded like a Riesling dish because of the innate sweetness of the apple & quince, so the dish was adjusted by adding a red wine component to both the apple & the farro. For those, not familar with the wine, it hails from the Beaujolais region of France. Marcel Lapierre was truly one of the game changers in the French wine community, mainly because of his more sustainable, naturale, “back to basics” approach to grape growing & winemaking. His Cru Morgon bottling was what received most of the accolades & high acclaim. His “Raisins Gaulois”, in comparison, is a wine he would regularly serve at his dining table, because of its innate food friendliness, terrific deliciousness & total gulpability!
Another of the real highlight pairings featured Elk Loin, jerky and demi glace, red currant jam, pine dust and potato pillow. This preparation deftly worked with the 2012 Cantina Valpane Grignolino del Monferrato, an exotically perfumed, Italian “country” styled red wine, which worked so effortlessly with the leaner elk meat, making the meat taste juicy & so tasty. Furthermore, the wine’s exotic & rustic scented character made for a very interesting pairing with all of the fixings. It is pairings like this one dreams about experiencing. Here in the islands since elk is not readily available, we could also pair these wines with savory prepared local lean meats such as wild boar or Lanai venison. We could also the same with the next dish.
On the second night dinner, the entree was a Peppered Venison Loin with smoked sweet potato puree, brussel sprouts & red wine apple & port-red wine sauce. As you will also see in the picture, Chef Hosea marinated the venison for a few hours with olive oil, garlic & rosemary. Furthermore, he, based upon the paired red wine, instead poached the apples in red wine, smoked the sweet potatoes for an hour before pureeing & added red wine & some wild Montana cherries to the Port sauce. The dish was an amazing pairing with the 2012 Faury St Joseph served, both smokey, peppered, savory & wildly rustic.
Other wonderful pairings included the Potato Gnocchi with roasted wineter squash, bitter greens, lardon & mushrooms, which was paired with a Hans Wirsching Scheurebe Kabinett Dry “Iphofer”. I walked away from this trip with even a greater appreciation for this German white wine, its mesmerizing minerality, wonderful though delicate perfume & therefore its remarkabe affinity with a wide range of foods.
“Earth & Sky”–5 spiced Duck, roasted cauliflower puree, wild mushroom terrine, sherry vinegar “ice cubes”, chive oil, Killing Frost Farm micro herbs–which we paired with a very earthy, minerally 2014 Meyer Naekel Pinot Noir from the Ahr region of Germany. Yes, we chose the Meyer Naekel because of its earthiness, muskiness & intriguing spices, PLUS how remarkably UN-heavy & delicious it really is. Furthermore, this dish called for youthful fruit, balance, rather than any hard edges & more moderate alcohol levels. I thought this was an amazing pairing!
While I normally don’t look to pair wines with dessert, at the end of one of the night’s meal, we thoroughly enjoyed a Spiced S’Mores Pudding with graham cracker crumble, thyme marinated blackberries & Earl Grey toasted marshmello with a well chilled glass of 2013 Domaine La Tour Vieille Banyuls “Rimage” & it was magic!
I am really looking going back next year! If you are interested in being there too, the dates are January 19th through the 22nd, 2017. Either mark your calendars or call them for more information.