How are your memories?

Memories remain a whole life, things just don’t.

My wife and I recently celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. Over the years, gifts, cards, flowers and the occasional dinner out were the norm. This year we went with the dinner out plan, but did a little twist that will remain a positive memory.

A month ago, I wrote about a great wine pairing dinner we had at the Lake Arrowhead Resort. Since then, I have gotten to know Chef Rodriguez, and have been impressed with his creativity and skill as a chef. As a Sommelier, I am always looking for intriguing wine pairings. So, this year, I called Chef Rodriguez, and asked if he would be working on our anniversary (which he was) and would he break from the regular menu and create a dinner experience? He was excited for the challenge. The only thing he asked was if we were allergic to anything (thankfully, no).

Tempura avocado with Cuban Ceviche
When we showed up at the Bin 189 Restaurant, I had two bottles of wine in my carrier. I never told the Chef what I was going to bring (adding to the challenge). He anticipated a white and a red (correct), and further anticipated a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon (close). This night I brought an older Pouilly Fuisse, the 2005 Chateau De Beauregard (Chardonnay) and a bottle of 2008 Sea Smoke Ten (Pinot Noir). When I revealed the wines, the 4-course dinner was described, and the Chef made his adjustments to the recipe. What follows is a recap of the meal.

The Chateau De Bearegard Pouilly Fuisse was deep gold in color, just what you would expect from a 10 year old Chardonnay. The acid was still present, and the wine had aromas of melon, pear, honey, minerals, just a touch of oak, and a somewhat petrol taste, that only an aged Chardonnay can produce.

The Sea Smoke Ten was opened early, to get a bit of air into it. I wish we had decanted it, as it was still a bit tight. This was a medium weight Pinot Noir, with notes of cherry, earth, and vanilla. Medium plus acidity, but a bit “hot” on the alcohol side.

The first two courses were paired with the Pouilly Fuisse, and both worked wonderfully. The first course was a Tempura Avocado with Cuban Ceviche. The tempura batter was made with rice flour, giving it a very delicate crust, which gave a nice contrast to the creamy avocado inside. The Cuban ceviche included serrano peppers, apple and cilantro stocks (as the chef explained…the stocks give more flavor than the leaves). 

Seared Ahi with Ponzu sauce

The second course was seared Ahi on a bed of greens. The Ahi was encrusted with a simple pepper and sesame mixture. Once sliced over the greens, a ponzu sauce added the finishing touch.

Venison with blueberry risotto
For our third course, the Chef made some changes to his ingredients, to better pair with the wine. While it was a single course, my wife received a different entrĂ©e than mine. We ended up sharing between the two of us. My wife’s course was a perfectly cooked venison tenderloin with a blueberry risotto accompanied by asparagus. My course was a beef tenderloin served over garlic/cheddar mashed potatoes, but here is where things took an interesting turn…the chef added huitlacoche to the sauce for the beef. Huitlacoche is also known as “corn smut” and fungus that grows on the corn kernel, similar to a mushroom. The flavor is very earthy, almost as strong as a truffle. I found it funny that the chef just happened to have some of this on hand, as if he was just waiting for the right moment to use it. To his credit….this was the right time. A wonderful addition to pair with a Pinot Noir.
Beef tenderloin w/ huitlecoche and garlic/cheddar mashed potatoes

Bananas en fuego
Our final course was dessert. Chef Rodriguez served us his take on Bananas Foster, which he referred to as “Bananas en fuego” . Instead of the normal rum, he used a rough Tequila. When lit, the remaining Tequila flavor is stronger than a fine Tequila. The bananas were served with dolce a leche (a freshly made caramel ice cream.

What will you do on your next anniversary, or celebration? If it is something special, you will remember the experience for a longer time. Important memories last forever, and simple experiences like a dinner challenge with your favorite chef can conjure up a smile on your face each time you share it with your friends. I hope this experience will inspire you to create some great memories.

Happy Anniversary!

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