Monday, January 26th, I teamed up with good pal, Dagan Lynn, Executive Chef from B.A.N.K. Restaurant in the Minneapolis Westin. Again, if you missed the class, bummer for you! A good time was had by all with 24 people in attendance and some delicious wines and food to enjoy ~ the menu was truly a success.
While Dagan’s menu was involved, he was lucky to have several Cook’s assistants at his side to make his ‘restaurant’ menu seem easy to ‘dish out’. With many of his recipes layered with many local, in season goodies, I spent a great deal of time making sure that the wines chosen for each dish matched perfectly with the ingredients of the dish.
I have come to have a starter signature when you take a class with me at Cook’s ~ 1. A Rosé or 2. A Bubbly. Because December was filled with bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles, I chose a nice dry rosé for the evening’s event. One of the main reasons for my choice was because the temperatures fell well below zero that week, and I figured the only way to ‘transport’ the minds of my students was to serve something that felt ‘pink’ and ‘springy’. After hearing several of my students using tasting notes like: ‘fresh’, ‘lively’ and ‘strawberry’…I knew I had accomplished my goal. The Hendry Rosé was a beautiful saignée of Cab, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Primitivo. Fresh and fun, this was a great way to introduce the opening appetizers.
Within minutes of the rosé came Dagan’s first appetizer, bacon wrapped California Madjool dates stuffed with Stickney Hill goat cheese and squash. A wonderful way to compliment the fruits and veges of the season, the dates deep with its dark fruit flavors and its creamy goat cheese squash center was amazing with the Hendry wine. Cutting thru the complexities of the dates and the goat cheese, but lifting the aromatics of the squash and its subtle strawberry peel, this was just the first of this culinary circus.
Next, Dagan whipped up one of my favorite dishes at B.A.N.K., his crispy rock shrimp. A ‘perfect bite’ is what I’ve nick named this dish. Crunky, salty, sweet, spicy, zesty, and textured – gotta love every morsel. Sweet aioli, chili oil, shaved melon and starfruit along with delicious pieces of crispy proscuito make this one my favorite appetizers in the city. While I pondered my pairing, I kept thinking about something minerally, complex, yet fresh enough to keep the palate clean with flavor. My first thought- Oregon Pinot Gris. One of my favorites to enjoy at B.A.N.K.’s bar is the Belle Vallée Pinot Gris, but tonite, I wanted to go with a more ‘old school’ pick. I chose the Varanda do Conde Alvarinho from Portugal. Unique with an old world approach, not bubbly, yet efforvescent with a seabreeze frangrance, underlaying nut and nectarine flavors and hints of citrus – this was the perfect way to compliment every aspect of Dagan’s dish.
Next on the menu, a gorgeous rendition of egg’s bene but with a full soft boiled egg, crab hollandaise and asparagus. Served in a sweet little ramekin, I continued to pour the Alvarinho with this course. As the wine opened it started transforming itself into this deeply layered- lobster shelled, creamy, wet stoned soft citrused beauty. Perfect with the soft dripping yolk, bits of crab and fresh asparagus. Awesome!
The entrée ended up with two wines for the course as I couldn’t quite make up my mind between all the flavors in the flank steak roulade that Dagan had prepared. Stuffed with pomodoraccio tomatoes, spinach and mascarpone cheese, the dish was accompanied by a sweet potato, apple, and northern blue cheese gratin. Finding a soft way to approach the dish, I used Chapoutier’s entry level Belleruche Rouge, which is an ‘A typical’ example of Cotes du Rhone, Grenache and Syrah. Found on the shelf for about $16-$18, the Belleruche is supple with hints of strawberry leave, dried jerky and dark clay. Gorgeous with the meat, but not quite hearty enough to stand up to the gratin. For this half of the dish I used one of my favorite new Super Tuscans, Mazzoni. Sangiovese with a smidge of Merlot, this Italian baby held tight to its character lifting the aromas of the blue cheese yet subtly blending its earthiness into the vegetables wrapped within the meat.
Lastly, a very cool upside down meyer lemon and blood orange chocolate and vanilla casada cake centered with a tangerined whipped cream. This little puppy stole the show. Hard to say, but this may have been my favorite pairing of the nite when I poured a semi sweet Alsation Gewurztraminer. This producer, Helfrich, new to the Minneapolis Twin Cities area and hard to find, yet with the help of a few distributors in the city, I was able to get my hands on it. The Gewurz ~ lively with a fresh, fragrant nectarine peel to its center and layered with hints of honeysuckle, Alsation soil, and a rich creamy mid-palate. Lovely how this wine spoke directly to the meyer lemon lifting it straight from the dish even though just a hint of was used in the recipe. Certainly, a lot of fun to keep tasting!
The class – a hit and the food, chef and pairings – a slam dunk! If you haven’t had a chance to try Dagan’s food down at the Westin Mpls, I suggest you get yourself down there. Don’t forget to tell him, “Leslee sent ya”. He’s a wonderful chef with great personality, very personable and easy to talk to, unlike many of Minneapolis’s ‘behind the scenes-too good to walk out onto the floor every once in a while’ chefs.
Trust me, check out the restaurant. And, if you find you like the food at B.A.N.K. – check Amusee’s website under ‘WINE EVENTS’ at: www.amuseewine.com for my upcoming wine dinner there featuring Hendry Winery on Thursday, Feb 26th.