Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What A Fun Evening . . .

Right after work we headed over to City Hall where all the Fire/EMS folks that responded to the Peking Fire (and that could break away from work) were presented with Unit Citations by the Mayor.

Then we headed over to the Grand Aleutian for a going away party for our dear friend Baby Bear. Baby Bear flies out Thursday to start a great job in the big city of Seattle, and she is going to be sorely missed. She is one of a small handful of true thick-and-thin friends on the island, Chico is devotedly and passionately in love her her dog Kali, and I am still in a bit of denial that she is leaving. She baked and decorated our wedding cake when Goldfish and I had our island wedding, she is always willing to dog-sit if her busy schedule allows, and she is one heckuva cook. She is my island baby sister, and even though we didn't spend a ton of time hanging out, it made my heart smile to know she lived here.

What we did to see her off in style was make sure we got the high bid on the wine tasting/food pairing offered as an auction item in the Channel 8 Auction. The fact we were sucessful in our bidding plans is entirely the work of fellow island baby sister Elaine, who Goldfish enlisted to be a backup bidder. Picture me dialing and redialing furiously in the final minutes of the auction, watching the price on the tasting go up but not able to get a connection to make a bid, totally stunned and dismayed when I finally got an open line just a second too late . . . . then Goldfish pipes in "Elaine got it!" Elaine, I owe you one - again . . . . Above is the menu with the food and wine pairing listed, let me just say right out front that the Executive Chef Rich and Food & Beverage Manager Lisa did an amazing job! I have had special meals in special places all over and would put last night on a short list of favorites, it was simply a blast in every aspect.

This is the group that got together for the event; there was supposed to be 8 of us but Sherri couldn't make it. What a beautiful group of island gals - was I a lucky guy or what?

Let me apologize right up front for the photos, they just don't do the food justice. I should have slapped on a macro lens, I couldn't decide between the white glare of the flash or the odd coloring of no flash and longer exposures, sometimes I was just too distracted by the good conversation and food to take a decent photo. With that said, this was the first course, the Amuse Buche, Sea Scallops with green apple, honey, coriander and mustard oil and Goi Cuon, a shrimp and mango spring roll. The wine pairing was a Zardetto Prosecco Brut NV.

In addition to the food pairings, there was a wonderful cheese, fruit and nut tray set up by our table. Did I mention we had the whole of Margaret Bay Cafe to ourselves??

The second course was a Sesame Seared Sockeye Salmon in a soy, ginger and sake sauce, paired with a Bergstrom Winery De Lancellotti Pinot Noir 2007. Amazing. So amazing all I have for photos are ones of my empty plate. I tried, honest . . . . possibly my favorite dish of the evening among all the stellar candidates.

Steak au Poirve, a USDA prime ribeye in a cabernet-beef reduction and a gratin of potato. Paired with a Les Domaines Barons de Rothchild Reserve Speciale Pauillac 2005, the cabernet sauvignon of the evening. Rich reminded us that only 1 - 2% of all the beef served in the United States achieves the USDA Prime label . . . a truly amazing beef experience, and the only prime beef available anywhere on the island. Okay, I think I liked this one more than the salmon.

The 4th pairing was a Produttori del Barbaresco 2004 with Tagliatelle, hand made pasta with braised pork shank. The real stars for me in this dish were the oven sundried tomatoes and the white truffle oil! The Nebbiolo varietal was new to me, and this ended up being one of my favorite wines of the evening.

This creation Rich calls a China Town Duck Burger; it is a ground duck slider with shitake mushroom ketchup paired with a Cirrus 2003 Syrah from Africa which unexpectedly was Goldfish's favorite of the night. The duck slider was amazing, even better than Rich's Kobe beef sliders I've had in the past.

The 6th course was grilled New Zealand lamb "lollipops" with a pomegranate-orange glaze. These little pieces of heaven were paired with an amazing Quita do Carmo Reserva 2002.

Our last course was a vanilla bean mousse with candied kumquat sauce and toasted hazelnuts. This was paired with a stunning 2006 Inniskillin Ice Wine, the likes of which I had never tasted, mainly because I can't afford the stuff. Thanks Lisa for giving us a glimpse of something heavenly, maybe - maybe - I may one day in a moment of weakness spring for some, even at close to ten bucks an ounce. In the photo below, Rich looks on as Lisa explains why the stuff truly is worth it due to the extremely low yields and the complicated harvesting and manufacturing process.

This evening was much more than the sum of its parts however. To have the Executive Chef and the Food & Beverage Manager (a certified Wine Expert) of the Grand Aleutian devote hours of their time to putting on this dinner and wine tasting was amazing. Rich pulled all the stops on the food, introducing each dish with his laid back style and really working closely with Lisa to pair the courses. Lisa had fact sheets and maps and place mats and was an endless source of information on the wines she was clearly excited to be introducing to us. I've read over the little blurbs by the photos above and they really don't begin to describe how the great food and wines, presented by caring professionals giving their best to benefit a local charity, combined with great friends to become something truly special. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


bre said...

Little bro, this looks a wonderful night with friends. You might have missed your calling. You could review restaurant reviews!

gpc said...

Nice! I also tasted an ice wine at a tasting and convinced myself I couldn't afford it -- a year later, I still think about it every few dinners. Some things are just worth it.

Cookie Dough said...

candied kumquat sauce!? WOW!!! That sounds soooooo delicious.
And I'm fascinted by the duck sliders, glad to hear they're good. I may get brave and try them.
Looks like a great night all around1

Suzassippi said...

What an incredible food and wine evening this looks like! The food--as Rich's always does--looks wonderful. I had to do some research on a couple of the wines, and the Cirrus is a new venture between Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch (one of my personal favorites when I visit) and a winery in California, though it is based in Stellenbosch. I will watch for it, though chances of obtaining it in Mississippi are slim and none--slim if I go to the Katz Wine Cellar in Jackson, who on occasion get in some good South African wines, and none anywhere else in the state.

Lori said...

What a great evening - glad you got the highest bid. Everything looks and sounds heavenily. I wish I was a better connoiseur of wines - I need someone to teach me! My sister-in-law is quite the expert - I am going to ask her about the "ice wine".