In clearing out some old papers and brochures earlier this week I came across Gastronomy's wine dinner flyer. The theme from last night, "$15 vs $50 Wine, 3 Pairs To Test Your Palate" was intriguing, and the menu looked good, so we called for reservations.
While we are frequent patrons of their Oyster Bar locations, it had been over 10 years since I had been to the New Yorker, and Denise had never been. It proved to be even better than I remembered, and my better three-quarters was duly impressed as well. We look forward to many happy returns...just need to wait for a couple more $25 frequent diner certificates to show up in the mail.
When we arrived we were escorted to a small ante-room where Pacific Echo champagne and hors doeurvres were being served for the dinner participants. The bubbly was more than quaffable and the appetizers were excellent...grapes coated with bleu cheese and crushed pistachios, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears and yummy escargots in puff pastry. Off to a good start!
The restaurant manager came in and gave us a little background (a late bloomer to wine as is often the case in this state) and proceeded to tell us about our upcoming dinner. There would be a pair of whites, a pair of reds and a pair of dessert wines, one cheap and one expensive for each varietal. The pairs would be from the same grape, but not necessarily the same country or region, and the staff had been instructed not to tell anybody the identity of any of the wines. That would be discussed with Gastronomy's beverage director at the conclusion of the meal.
When we were finally led into the adjoining wine cellar, the tables were set with the 2 reds and 2 whites, the glasses sitting on a slip of paper with spaces numbered 1 through 4 for identification purposes. I took the opportunity to get some sniffs in, trying to get an advance sense of what was which. Novice oenophile that I am, my nose would wind up deceiving me.
First course was a pair of rock shrimp skewers crossed and sitting on a bed of sweet chili sauce. The crustaceans were perfectly cooked...nice and succulent...juxtaposed on the skewers with squares of red onion and red and yellow bell peppers (we hate bell pepper, but the red ones were relatively mild). The white wines were recommended with this course (not all participants could restrain themselves from having some red too) and could not have been more different. #1 was dry and crisp, a bit astringent, #2 was lush and fruity but with a quick finish.
I started out preferring the former, but by the end of the salad course both me and the missus were really liking #2.
The aforementioned salad was another winning dish...a nice assortment of greens with Maytag blue cheese and spiced walnuts. A fairly common dish these days, but very well executed. The fruitiness of #2 was a perfect match.
I had already killed #1 by the time the salad was served, but there was no way that it could have matched as well as #2, so no harm no foul.
The entree was a beef tournedo with foie gras in a truffled port wine/madeira sauce. The only misstep was that patrons were not asked how they wanted their steak done. Mine came out a little more cooked than I would prefer (I'm a lead-it-in-on-a-rope kinda guy), the woman seated to my left would have preferred hers more medium well. Only other complaint came from my wife, the original foie gras slut, who complained the disc adorning the filet was too well done. But she still ate it, so it must not have been too bad.
As with the whites, the red wines presented quite the contrast. #4 (the glass I sniffed first as it was closest to me) smelled as if it needed to breathe a bit and #3 smelled wonderful from the get go. By the time I got around to tasting them, #4 had settled in nicely, and proved to be a much more complex offering with a deep, dusky taste. #3 was good, but definitely did not have the same character.
Dessert was really good...peach blackberry cobbler with caramel ice cream. Afterwards the chef indicated that he had wanted to use Utah peaches, but with our long winter this year the crop was not as good as he would have liked, so he used SoCal peaches instead, and they were lovely, as were the blackberries. The cobbler crust was more like a shortbread than a traditionaly crumbly offering, and it was delicious as was the ice cream. The 2 dessert wines were much more similar in taste and texture, though VERY different in price as we would come to learn.
All in all it was a terrific meal, made all the better by our most-interesting dining companions...our table was a much more worldly bunch than you expect to meet in Salt Lake City.
And the wines you ask? Here's the rundown...
The whites were Riesling, #1 was a 2002 Dr. Loosen Dr L, priced about $13 retail. #2 was a 2000 Franz Hirtzberger, priced about $48.
The reds were Cabernet, #3 was Estancia at about $15, #4 was Fisher Coach Insignia priced at $62.
Unfortunately I didn't write down the names of the dessert wines, but they were Sauternes, one priced at about $16, the other was quoted at $50 for a half-bottle! These 2 were almost a dead heat, proving that price doth not a great wine make!
Total tab for the 2 of us was a skøsh over $240 including a mandatory 18% gratuity (smart move as even monied Salt Lakers are notoriously poor tippers). Considering that we both had a total of 9 glasses of wine, plenty of hors d'ouevres and a delicious 4-course meal, we felt the evening was well worth it.
The August 30 wine dinner at the New Yorker is being called "Rhone Rangers - Syrah, Grenache, Viognier Around the World", and we look forward to participating, and hopefully seeing some or all of our tablemates for another go-round.