Our VINO Chef Keith Endo just came back from a 2 1/2 week food trip in Italy. Needless to say, he was completely inspired. Here are some of the food specials he created in VINO since he returned.
BRESAOLA SALAD—with baby arugula, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, pecorino, olive oil drizzle, fresh squeezed lemon & freshly cracked pepper. While many would approach this kind of dish with a light red or perhaps even some kind of rosé, we feel this dish needed a white wine because of the sweetness of the tomato, the tartness of the lemon & the sharpness/saltiness of the pecorino. The wine we chose was the 2016 “Zoe” white wine from Domaine Skouras from the Peloponnese in southern Greece. This Greek “country” styled wine has the high toned, floral, yellow fruit aromatics from the indigenous Roditis & Moschofilero grape varieties & a real crisp, high pitched lemony edge the dish really needs. I know this dish is Italian inspired, but we felt we needed this particular Greek wine to partner up with.
LINGUINE CON VONGOLE—fresh Manila clams, extra virgin olive oil, Italian parsley & fresh cracked pepper. This was now a very different approach to the preparation than what Chef Keith had done before. For his base, he cooked the clams & some clam meat in olive oil at lower heat. Then he added the pasta & some pasta water & garnished with chopped Italian parsley & fresh cracked pepper. (NO cheese). The wine we chose was the 2017 Virgona Salina Bianco. Salina is one of the Aeolian Islands, just north of Sicily. The soils are very volcanic in origin, but I am told there is also limestone to be found as well. Interestingly this wine also has salinity, which I surmise is because of the close proximity to the sea. While the main core of this wine is from the indigenous Inzolia & Cataratto grape varieties, I would garner because of the perfume, there is also some Malvasia blended in as well, which gives the wine an aromatic lift. In any case, the mineral nuances, the innate salinity, the lemon like edge & the uplifting aromatics works wonders with such as dish.
ROMAN STYLE PIZZA—baby arugula, prosciutto, cheese. While I might normally pair a light red or rosé wine with this style of pizza, on this night we chose a white wine–the 2017 Zenato Lugana “San Benedetto”–a mesmerizingly perfumed, uplifting, completely refreshing Italian white wine from the northeast. We feel there is no need to overthink this kind of pairing, as it is casual enjoyment after all. This style of wine will simply help wash down the food, because of its wonderful gulpability & completely freshen the palate between bites.
WHITE WINE BRAISED PORK, ARTICHOKE & POTATO “STEW”–our VINO staff really took to this dish. We loved its savoriness & deliciousness. Nothing fancy or Michelin starred about this preparation & presentation here. Just plain, downright good! The wine we chose to pair with this staff favorite was the 2017 Ciavolich Pecorino. I once read that sometime in the mid 1900’s, Pecorino was thought to be extinct, generally replaced by the higher production oriented Trebbiano grape variety. Subsequently plantings started to increase because of a handful of winemakers who championed this grape in mainly Marche & (Abruzzo). Still, in 2000, there was just only a little over 200 acres thought to be planted. We now carry two Pecorino based whites at VINO, 1 from Marche & this one from Abruzzo. Ciavolich has a very different take on what this grape variety can be & ages the juice 5 months on the lees & in older barrels for texture, complexity & framing. That little bit of lees contact & older oak aging is really what makes this wine just quietly slide in with the dish’s savoriness & understated richness.
LINGUINE WITH GENOVESE STYLE PESTO–VINO Chef Keith Endo spent some time in Genoa this last trip & was especially fascinated with “the historic home of Pesto” & its universally beloved product. Having visited several different “hole in the wall”, family owned, homey eateries, he came back & worked on a completely new version of pesto for VINO. For me, while seemingly simple, this was a total revelation in comparison with what I had encountered here in Hawaii previously & even in restaurants throughout my travels. It had a very different blend of aromatics, melding of tastes & was noticeably less bitter in the finish. While there are many Italian & Mediterranean basin white wines which would readily work with this dish, on this night we chose the 2016 Birichino Malvasia Bianca, which I think many would find surprising & really unexpected because it is Californian. Still, it pairs really well nonetheless. While this wine’s profuse aromatics plays well with the basil, it is really the wine’s remarkable lightness in the mid palate to finish which seems to be less confrontational with the saltiness of the cheese. And then, the wine’s lively crisp, refreshing, lime like finish keeps the palate fresh & alive between bites.
RISOTTO MILANESE—saffron & pecorino. This is an amazing dish because of its remarkable dynamics & savoriness, while seemingly simple in its list of ingredients & presentation. Over the years I was also taught that lighter, spiced red wines work well with this dish. On this night, however, we instead selected a light to medium bodied, spiced white wine. One could therefore readily pair with the 2017 Ciavolich Pecorino that was mentioned above. I might also consider some of the lighter, more “country” styled Vermentino based white wines from the island of Corsica or even some of the more mineral driven Gavi wines from southern Piemonte. Interestingly, however, considering what would create magic, we settled on the 2016 Rudolf Fürst Müller-Thurgau “Pur Mineral” from Franconia, Germany. The wine’s pristine minerality, very civilized, tempered, seamless flow on the palate from beginning to end, we thought would work well with the dish’s saffron spice & the pecorino’s saltiness. This wine has a certain pliability in the mid palate, which I think is what makes it work here. A dish from Milan & a somewhat obscure German white wine? Who would have thunk it?