Once a quarter friend Michael Agnew, Cicerone of A Perfect Pint, and I teach a joint culinary beer/wine class at Cooks of Crocus Hill with our good pal, Chef Mike Shannon, the school’s culinary director. With every class we teach, the crowd seems to get bigger and the wait list just that much longer. Folks line up over a half hour early to grab their seats for the class and many continue to come to every one of the classes we teach together. From Cozy Comforts (a menu of winter warming food), The Big Thaw (a springtime menu), to our Fall Harvest dinners – the number of combinations we’ve selected for great food, wine and beer pairings continues to grow. With a total of eight libations poured and a menu that consists of a full five courses to indulge – it seems as if the main course and the dessert pairings as we run head to head with our beer/wine picks end up on our Best of the Best list every time we teach.
This past week, Michael and I taught one of my favorite summer classes: Beer, Wine and BBQ.
With a menu that both Chef Mike Shannon and I selected months earlier to execute, one never really knows our actual beer/wine selections until the nite of our class. Nothing is pre-selected and often times I run back and forth on my selections, changing and amending my choices right up until the nite of the event. While we flip the first few courses between Michael’s beer choices and my wine pours – it is the entrée and the dessert courses that come head to head with immaculate pairings.
Starting the menu off with a fresh Grilled Tomatoes & Mozzarella plate, I chose to pair a wine I was most recently introduced to through my Girls Tasting Group. La Mano Mencía. Mencía, a Spanish grape I’ve had quite a few times in the past, yet have never really found one tasty enough at an affordable price-point, until I met La Mano. For a whopping $10 on a retail shelf, the wine is juicy, a bit spicy and sort of smoked and tomato-like – making it a fab pairing to our grilled tomato salad. A combination of fresh vine ripe tomatos with a wine supple enough to pair – started the class off with a bang. Continuing on with a Grilled Romaine & Blue Cheese Vinaigrette Salad, Michael worked his magic with Schel’s Pils – pairing perfectly to the smokey side up of the grilled romaine leaf. Next, a Coconut Shrimp dish drizzled with Vanilla Gastrique. I paired a white Rioja from Spanish producer Cune. A solid, slightly flowery, yet round and melony wine made from only the Spanish white grape: Viura – a really nice compliment to the dish. Making friends with the crunchy side of the coconut, yet lite enough as to not take over the shrimp underneath – the pairing was a really nice ‘outside of the box’ combo.
Moving full steam into our entrée and dessert courses, Michael and I prepared our selections when the Knife and Fork Manchego Burger hit the table. Reaching for one of my favorite BUCK-FOR-BUCK WINES, Alexander Valley Vineyards Cab, I watched as the crowd rolled up their sleeves for the pair off. The rock ’em, sock ’em $18 Cabernet, with its smokey, rich, slightly herbal structure and meaty black fruited body, was an explosive combination of flavor as it melted into Chef Mike’s bacon, garlic, Manchego fresh ground burger. Delish! Yet, the combination of Michael’s selection perfectly cleansed the palate before moving on to our bodacious dessert pairings.
Grilled Peaches with a Grand Mariner Cream – get out of town! This was absolutely lovely. While I’ve said it a hundred times before, I have no problem repeating it a million times more until we all really truly feel comfortable stepping outside our comfort zones with dessert dishes and a non ‘dessert wine’ pairing.
Rule of Thumb: Select a Wine just one degree sweeter than the dessert on your plate
While yes – a Sherry, Madeira or Port – work perfectly with most desserts, reach for a little something outside the box for your next wine and dessert pairing. I selected the Ceretto Moscato d’Asti– a rich, creamy, yet gorgeously balanced Moscato from a famously reputable Italian producer was the perfect combo. Peachy like the dessert, with notes of fresh white flower and brite citrus – a perfect pairing. Michael’s pairing, the Lindeman’s Pêche Lambic also a fabulous pairing. Perfectly in line with the bit of smoke and grill left of the fruit’s outside, at the same time – supple and frothy – pairing perfectly to the combination of Grand Mariner and soft whipped cream. Ahhh, a nite to remember and a combination of pairings fit for only some of the city’s best foodies!
And don’t forget to log on to Amusée’s Wine Events Page for more Beer/Wine Food Pairing Classes this fall and winter at Cooks of Crocus Hill.