Monday, March 26, 2012

Wining by proxy...kind of...Shai Cellars wine dinner at Fab's Corner Cucina...

The Goddess was ready to write her recap of a truly delicious evening, when First Acolyte, JD, sent her his write-up. What a good Acolyte he is! Here are his thoughts:

Shai Cellars
There was a wonderful winemaker dinner at Fabs Corner Cucina on March 21, 2012. This delectable event, hosted by Amelia Yokel, paired the Shai Cellars wines of Shawn Shai Halahmy with the food creations of Chef Ian Jerde.

OMG. Now that I have that out of the way I’ll move on, starting with a little background.

Fabs is a relaxed and friendly family owned restaurant in Sherman Oaks, California serving mainly Italian-based fare. One can get marinara-sauced or other lighter-sauced dishes along with other things such as Risotto del Giorno. More on the risotto later. There are always specials available which often distract one from trying items on the regular menu: the entrees, the soups, the salads, the appetizers. There are so many delicious choices and don’t forget the yeasty rolls.

Shai Cellars is a small, fairly new wine operation based in the Santa Ynez Valley and creating fine red wines from local fruit.

This event was attended by almost 35 happy diners spread over 5 well-laid tables in a section of the restaurant. A few of us arrived early and had aperitifs: a light Chardonnay or bubbly Prosecco.

Duck brownie!
First course was the 2009 Grenache (85% Grenache/ 15% Syrah): dried cherry, some earth, leather, beef and a little ground pepper, among the various nose and mouth notes. This wine has just gotten better since its release, getting more relaxed and mellow with the separate notes blending more and more.

The Grenache was paired with Chef Ian’s creation of arugula and fennel salad, garnished with oranges and accompanied with a duck confit. A light drizzle of simple syrup containing a squeeze of the fruit made a suggestion of dressing on the salad. Very subtle. The confit was like a meat brownie, tender shredded duck inside with a light crust top. Any occasional salt notes were cut by the coolness of the salad. The current mellowness of this lightest of the wines blended quite well. This start set the keynote of balance throughout the meal.

Second course was the 2008 Adome blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. This has been such a wonderful wine right from the beginning. It has a very full rounded mouth feel with notes including earth, cassis and spice. Its lush balanced fruit goes down so well either with or without food.

The food for this course was served family style and consisted of thin slices of leg of lamb, spaghetti squash and Chef Ian’s wonderful mushroom risotto. The lamb was so tender and only lightly seasoned. The spaghetti squash was lightly al dente and refreshing. The risotto had such a smooth texture. There were two kinds of mushrooms blended in along with just the right amount of mascarpone. This risotto is just killer and serves as an excellent base for all the risotto specials offered at Fabs. The smooth richness of the 2008 Adome made an excellent companion to this equally smooth and rich food course. Did I mention the blending of flavors and textures?

There was an amuse bouche/palate cleanser of a light mocha gelato between courses two and three, small, just a quick refreshing stop to get us ready for the next round.

Course three was the most recently released 2009 Adome. This wine has the same proportions of Santa Ynez grapes as the 2008 but clearly demonstrates the differences that can occur between vintages. (Note from the Goddess - I believe the Cabernet is from a different vineyard in the 2009 vintage; also makes a bit of a difference.) To me this Adome is more concentrated and intense than the 2008 but has been softening and settling in, removing some of the original rough edges but retaining the intensity, since being bottled. It is always fascinating what even a little time will do for a good wine. It has the smoked meat, leather and cassis but with some additional notes of licorice and a slightly different spice combination. The 2009 makes you sit up and take notice that it is there.

Short ribs...OMG
The food this time was glazed chocolate short ribs (there’s that OMG again) sitting on a bed of so-creamy polenta, topped with a small medley of seasonal vegetables. The chocolate glaze was not a heavy sweet glaze but savory from a reduction with a mirepoix and including some of the Adome wine with a dark unsweetened chocolate added at the end. The short ribs were so tender, no knife really needed. The creamy, no lumps (often a hazard) polenta has that special ingredient of just the right amount of mascarpone in it, as did the risotto. The sharper 2009 Adome was a fine compliment to the more intense flavor of this short rib course.

The finish of the meal was another small gelato, this time a richer chocolate/mocha which paired very nicely with the more concentrated 2009 Adome. Though I would not turn down the 2008 to go with this dessert either.

There were delightful conversations throughout the evening and mixing of groups of people who already knew each other with previously unknown folks. Like the wines and foods of the event, adding different personal elements created an amazingly delicious blend and to me that was a big part of what the evening was about, the joy of blends.

Thanks again to JD! Stay tuned for more great wine and food adventures of the Goddess and JD. Exciting news coming up for April...Cheers!

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