I had dinner with an old friend last week... along with 22 students of The Chopping Block. Scott Noorman and I had the luxury and pleasure of entertaining our guests with a lovely five-course meal paired with wine. Scott and I have worked together for many of my years in Chicago at Trio, Alinea and Powerhouse Bar and Restaurant and have remained good friends.
A few months ago, we discussed the idea of a food and wine dinner at The Chopping Block. We began by looking through our current wine list, and Scott realized he was familiar with just about every selection. We ended up picking wines that would make for a nice progression of a meal and then moved on to the menu. We chose a German Riesling to pair with a dish of Curried Cauliflower and Chickpeas, a white Cotes du Rhone to pair with Black Cod, Apple-Celery Broth and Baby Carrots. Next came the Dolcetto d’Alba that matched very well with the Crispy Chicken Thigh with Pancetta Risotto and Rapini. We matched the Dashe Zinfandel with Prime Rib Eye of Beef, Beets and Roasted Root Vegetables. And lastly for dessert, we paired a beautiful ice wine from Washington State with a Maple Financier Cake, Raspberries, Almond Granola and Candied Orange.
I found that once I told the students WHY we chose to pair the wine with the particular food, the idea clicked in their heads. I could literally see the light go on as I was speaking with them. I think the greatest value we added to this class was in allowing Scott and I to walk them through our thoughts around these specific pairings. Scott told me a few ingredients or flavors of each wine and we went from there. Once I got the menu finalized, we discussed again and made a couple of last minute changes. Overall, I felt great about our performance (including my staff who helped create a beautiful night for our guests) as well as the student’s reception of the dinner and the experience.
I look forward to adding another food and wine dinner again in the future, but I would appreciate any feedback on this particular class or thoughts on what you hope to get out of such a class. Please share here.