Sunday, February 28, 2010

Who says fund raising can't be fun?

Had a great dinner in a private home compliments of some generous clients who purchased and donated a wine dinner - complete with moi as your wine guest, Chef Gavin McLaughlin as personal Chef for the evening, and all the food and wines as well - to a fundraising auction. It was a win/win situation - the auction raised a nice sum, the purchasers got a wonderful evening of food and wine with friends, and Gavin and I got to meet some great people and potential new clients.  

I have worked with Gavin before (a freelance private Chef based in NYC, Far Hills and on Nantucket in the summers) and I am a big fan. This evening was no exception with a delicious selection of appetizers as guests arrived and unwound with a glass or two of  Champagne, followed by a multi-course dinner all paired with wines. If the following sounds fun (it was!) and you are looking to do something nice for a charity,  business clients, or just want to have a lovely evening with friends or family, please feel free to give Gavin or me a shout. My contact info is to the right, for more information on Gavin, or to sign up for his email newsletter (the menus are excellent!) contact him at Chef Gavin .

We started with De Meric Catherine de Medici Champagne (magnum), a rare Cuvee from the small family Champagne producer De Meric with only about 20-30 cases destined for the entire U.S. This cuvee is a multi-vintage blend, usually two, and is only made in the very best of years. The current release is 95/96, and was aged on the lees and disgorged in 2002. The last time it was made it was a blend of '89/'90 vintages, and the next will be 2000/02, so made just a couple of times a decade. Only available in magnums to us, this is a perfect format for great Champagne. They age better, seem to taste better - plus there is more! Fullish, dry and fine, with lovely mousse and mouth feel, and complex lemon creme, brioche and nuances that only come from long lees contact, bottle age, and time. Perfect with Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Tarragon in a bite-sized pastry, Nantucket Bay Scallop with Creamed Corn and Apple Wood Smoked Bacon and Scottish Smoked Salmon with Roe, Zest and Chive Creme Fraich on Buckwheat Blini. Each little bite was perfect: the lobster still warm, rich, buttery and sweet, the Scallops also sweet, fresh and melding perfectly with the smoky crunch of bacon and warm creamy corn puree, and the Salmon bites were cool, creamy and nicely tinged with hint of chive.

First course followed - Hamachi Crudo with Clunitra, Preserved Lemon, Radish, Scallion, Hawain Lava Salt and Shaved Wakame - paired with Didier D'agueneau Pouilly Fume Pur Sang 2007,  a perfect match. One of the Loire Valley's greatest winemakers, Didier sadly lost his life in a plane crash in the south of France and this is the last vintage made by the master. Cool, elegant and fine, with brilliant detail, citrus fruits, very pure, very intense, very focused. Ethereal and refined, seamless, with white flowers and citrus, lovely weight and purity into a long  finish. For more about Didier, his life and wines, click here and follow the links to Eric Asimov's NY Times Blog The Pour, where there is also a link to an article in Decanter Magazine. 

Second course was a salad, normally a wine-killer in my book, but the baked Coach Farms Goat Cheese and Baby Beet Salad with Heirloom Citrus, Pickeled Fennel, Windfall Farm Micro-Mesclun, Baby Dill and Pistachio worked well in this case. Kudos Gavin! Dressed delicately, with dashes of 35 Year Old Balsamic, the flavors of the beets and baked Goat Cheese added enough richness and savory flavor to eliminate any clashes with the wine. It definitely worked well, but the Corton Blanc Grand Cru 2005 Domaine Maillard was a lot of wine for this course. Still youthful and primary it is solid, compact, with a hint of oak, a wisp of petrol. very mineral and focused on the palate. Firm, fresh, youthful, and flexing plenty of power. Give it 5-10 years and this is going to be special! We are huge Maillard fans, stocking everything from his deliciously affordable Bourgogne Rouge, my fav pinot and house wine, to this delicious Corton Blanc, Corton Renards Rouge Grand Cru, and plenty in between. Visit the shop online to purchase or sign up for our newsletters to keep informed of new arrivals from my trip to Burgundy in January.

Third course was Red Wine Braised Short Ribs on Celery Root and Golden Potato Puree with Chanterelle, Blue Foot and Baby Shitake Mushrooms, Asparagus Tips and Beef Jus. I won't give up Gavin's secret, just enough to say that these were from de-boned short ribs and they were absolutely fork tender, rich and flavorful, with no dryness and no fattiness at all.  Hearty fare that was rich but not cloying - a great dish for a cold winter's night. This delicious course was paired with a magnificent, off the charts red, the Vega Sicilia "Unico" 1989. Still deep and dark, almost youthful color, with dusty warm earthy fruit. Solid, powerful, mouth filling, and elegant at the same time. Really a tremendous wine that showed even more after decanting. Still seems like it has 10-15 years of life in it, and not just hanging around: this will decidedly improve. If this is its adolescence, I can't wait until it grows up -  a real treat! For more info visit Vega Sicila . We only have three bottles left and a mag of '95.

Finally on to dessert with a Molten Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Liquid Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream and Hazelnut served with a D'Oliveira Malmsey Madeira 1907. Cake delicious and wine absolutely rockin', with the intense Madeira jumping from the glass with super aromatics: cola, lime, sarsaparilla, carmel, notes. Razor focused on the palate, sweet with incredible focus, brilliant acidity and almost bracing, and a long, lingering finish. You can smell this a room away when it's opened - Wow! For information on D' Oliveira visit Polaner Selections .

Thanks Gavin,  M & J, and everyone for making this night happen! 


  1. It is glad to see this blog, it is good and detailed post, fun to read this...

    Term Paper

  2. Mmmmm short ribs and Vega Sicilia...sign me up! Sounds like it was an amazing evening. Let's do a similar dinner this spring and we'll host it. Cheers!