Monday, June 29, 2009

Andaluca Winemaker Dinner Featuring McCrea Cellars

Sorry that posting has been basically non-existent recently. I've been graduating, writing for my other blogs and, to my dismay, not doing a whole lot of anything interesting foodwise. S'alright... the wife and I went to a wine dinner on Friday that merits the telling of the tale.

The dinner was held at Andaluca, a really good, Basque(-ish) restaurant in downtown Seattle. If you find yourself in the area or, heaven forbid, live in there area and haven't ever been, I recommend that you hie yourself there at the earliest opportunity. Wayne Johnson, Andaluca's executive chef, really went all out for this event, serving four (yes, that's right, four) entrees plus a dessert. The meal was accompanied by the generally excellent wine of McCrea Cellars, a winery specializing in Rhone varietals. For whatever reason I generally think of white wines when I think of the Rhone region, but McCrea does very respectable reds as well. Here's the menu:

  • King Salmon Salad, 2005 Sirocco, 2007 Sirocco Blanc

    Chef Johnson set the salmon salad up as a test of which pairing works best with fish, white wine or red wine? The wifey and I agreed that the Sirocco Blanc went better with the fish but the Sirocco, though it clashed with the fish, was a better wine overall.

  • Pork Medallion with Bacon Wrap, 2007 NV Rose, Ciel du Cheval Vineyards

    The pork was especially well-executed. Any time I try to do bacon-wrapped anything the bacon ends up soggy, but the bacon around the filet was nicely crispy. It was also dressed inventively using rehydrated craisins (gotta remember that for home) and cranberry gastrique1. Unfortunately, the accompanying rose was just plain boring.

  • Duck Confit, 2007 Grenache, Red Mountain

    The presentation of the duck was interesting. Any time I've had confit in the past it's been served on the bone, but Chef Johnson pulled his confit off the bone and shredded it. To his credit the confit was not overly greasy and went well with the Grenache, but the accompanying potatoes were a little bit underdone.

  • Lamb Chops with Creamy Morel Sauce, 2005 Syrah, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard

    There's not much to say about the lamb chops other than they were fine and morels are overrated. The syrah, on the other hand, was definitely a keeper.

  • Liquid Chocolate Cake, 2007 Roussanne

    This was the only disappointing part of the meal. Chef Johnson had talked up the cake and the accompanying pear compote when he was making his pre-dinner round, but I wasn't terribly impressed. The pears were fine, but they weren't anything special; I've made better at home. The chocolate cake was mediocre; there wasn't much to distinguish it from other incarnations of the same I've had at various restaurants. The Roussanne didn't work well either; it was sweeter than the other wines we had during dinner, but really didn't seem appropriate for dessert.

If I were to make an overall critique of the dinner it would be that it was a little like drinking from a firehose. Four entree-sized portions plus a dessert, even over the space of three hours, bordered on overwhelming. And it was just meat... meat meat meat meat meat... there's nothing wrong with meat per se, but there's plenty of other things to eat as well. The dinner could have been improved by mixing things up a little, maybe tossing in a cheese plate or some amuse bouche instead of one of the entrees.

Also, I feel like the McCrea Cellars crew present at the dinner really missed a sales opportunity. My wife and I wanted to snag bottles of the 2005 Sirocco and the 2005 Syrah, but there wasn't any wine for sale. What's up with that? Did someone decree that selling wine at a wine dinner is declasse?

1 I had to look up "gastrique" in my copy of Larousse after the fact; it's a hot sauce made from a reduction of sugar and vineagar seasoned as appropriate for the subject matter.