“It was a brisk Sunday morning when I headed over to the small town of Santa Margarita to meet Chef Cheyne Jackson and Randy Caparoso. Both are highly recommended in their fields. Chef Cheyne a young and energetic Chef who graduated from the CIA in NY then trained in SF and Napa before returning to his hometown to lead the charge at his families legendary restaurant. Randy on the other hand is somewhat of a legend in the industry as a previous partner in Roy’s Restaurant, avid traveler, wine writer and legendary at food and wine pairing. We were warmly greeted by Chef Cheyne in his small and well respected restaurant, the Range. There was a table set for us and we had the restaurant to ourselves.
What happened next will likely go down as one of the funnest, most interesting and eye opening experiences I’ve had in a long while!
Our goal was to create a lunch menu which showcased a few of the best wine of Paso Robles: Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, L’ Aventure Optimus, Epoch White, and Tablas Creeks Grenache. Since our audience as is heavily trade we knew it needed to be something a little different than the normal pairing menu.
We wanted something daring, exciting and innovative! We needed a menu that would delicately highlight the strengths of the producers.
The previous month we tasted all the wines as a group and brainstormed ideas for the menu.
Chef cheerfully led us to the kitchen excited to talk about the first course. This was a scallop with pork belly paired with the Daou Cabernet. I watched in awe as chef sprinkled the scallop with salt and the frying pan screamed. Chef gently pinched the scallops from time to time ensuring they were cooked to perfection. We each carried a plate back to the table and pouring the 2017 Adelaide Cabernet Sauvignon from Daou. I have to admit I was slightly concerned… first wine of a meal is a Cab? Not just any Cab but one you might normally pair with beef or wild game and now there is a scallop on the plate. I hope these guys know what they are doing! As we started eating Randy and Cheyne bantered back and forth about the dish and the wine… chef commented he will smoke the pork belly himself next time and Randy commented it needed a little crunch. To my amazement the power of the pork belly was perfect and the rich flavor balanced what some might think is a softer course. It was incredible.
As we continued to taste each course with each wine I was totally in awe of the care and attention in every ingredient. For example the duck breast salad needed its own blend of lettuce with arugula and endive instead of a spring mix. The stroganoff garnished with a different cheese and the dessert needed less chocolate and switch to a bitter Mexican.
The meal and all the ingredients were chosen to highlight the wines. Whether it was higher acid, oak, weight, richness, or spice. All things were taken into consideration and Chef and Randy excitedly discussed all elements and how it would work together! ***It felt like my kids working in a “play doe” palace together creating a piece of art that would likely go to the Luv. The excitement and wonder of a child.
I walked away from the experience with a true appreciation of their craft!!! All I thought was, I hope that attendees to our lunch take time to appreciate just how much energy and thought that has gone into this meal“.
Randy Caparoso–longtime award-winning restaurateur and Editor-at-Large of The SOMM Journal
Chef Cheyne Jackson–The Range Restaurant in the town of Santa Margarita
Key note speaker–Fred Dame–MS, Global Wine Ambassador of Daou Vineyards & Winery.
2017 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles–Pan Seared Diver Scallop, with crispy pork belly, criollo hollandaise, black cherry reduction & watercress
2016 L’Aventure “Optimus” – Salad of House Smoked Duck Breast, baby greens, fennel, toasted hazelnuts, Chioggia beets, pomegranate seeds, Farmgirl Creamery chèvre, plum vinaigrette.
2017 Epoch “Estate” White– Veal Stroganoff, Etto organic reginette, confit of wild mushroom, smoked grana parmesan.
2016 Tablas Creek Grenache–Grenache Decadence Cake, cactus fruit reduction, Champurrado Crème Chantilly.
“Other than the fact that this will be a 4-course affair, we can promise you this: There will be culinary fireworks, involving unexpected, yet edifying, combinations. Prepare to have your senses wowed!”