My Saturday afternoon was devoted to volunteering for the Grand Tasting to benefit the San Francisco Foodbank. Organized by Daniel Johnnes of the Myriad Restaurant Group (Nobu, Tribeca and others), the tasting featured wines from13 of Burgundys leading domains poured by the growers themselves and delicacies prepared by SFs finest chefs. Keeping with its origins in Meursault, the Cadets de Bourgogne were on hand to entertain us with Burgundian drinking songs.
What was my job among this stellar group? The most important of all, to stand guard over nearly 70 cases of premium Burgundies once the workroom was unlocked. Provided with snacks of honey -roasted peanuts, Cheez-its and a couple bottles of Evian to fortify me for the task, I was pretty much bored out of my mind for about two hours before the show began. But, this was a much better job than polishing Riedel crystal next door. At least I could be close to the wines and study the crus and vintages in anticipation of tasting them. Later I would assist Bruce Yang, sommelier at Montrachet, to stage the bottles for service, which means I schlepped cases, unpacked bottles and matched labels to the wine list.
My reward for this was an hours break to wander through the event, enough time to taste 22 wines and sample most of the menu. The tasting menu by chef included
Jeffrey Amber & Salina Rubio, XYZ
Patisserie assortment of Chocolates and Petit Fours. My favorite was the Danish butter mint sandwich cookie.
Jody Denton, Azie
Red curry braised Hudson Valley duck with coconut milk risotto. The risotto was incredibly rich Ill have to try this twist. The curry seasonings hit the right counterpoint, however, completely overwhelmed any duck character.
Traci Des Jardins & Douglas Keane, Jardinière
Wild Mushroom Tart. Missed this one.
Elizabeth Faulkner, Citizen Cake
Assorted Citizen Cake Cookies and Petit Fours. Didnt try.
Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti, Farallon
Lobster Sausage and Duck Gizzard Confit with Beluga Lentils and Black Truffle Coulis
The lobster sausage was great, although firmer and not as moist as Ive had at the restaurant. The duck gizzard was excessively tough and served in a half-inch chunk, would have been much better sliced thinly. Couldnt taste or see any black truffle.
David Gingrass & Bridget Batson, Hawthorne Lane
Peekytoe Crab, Sweet Pea and Wild Mushroom Salad in Porcini Tuiles
Delicate sweet flavors, but structurally unsound. Served ice cream cone style and wrapped in paper, the lacy tuiles shattered on first bite, making them hard to eat.
Loretta Keller, Bizou
Spring Onion Ravioli with Sweet Pea and Mint
Truly the taste of spring, so fresh and green. The beauty of simplicity.
Dennis Leary, Rubicon
Smoked Pheasant Terrine with Pistachios and Black Trumpet Mushrooms
More eye candy than deliciousness, the presentation was beautiful with a side garnish of a perfect asparagus tip and other miniature vegetables. However, it was served icy cold and the pastry casing was sopping wet detracting from the taste appeal. The delicately smoked pheasant part was fine.
Michael Mina, Aqua
Potato Crusted Scallop, Domestic Caviar, Smoked Salmon Cream. Missed it.
George Morrone, Fifth Floor
Roasted Sonoma Quail with White Truffle Emulsion
Now this was a dish that both white and red Burgundies can wrap themselves around. It was my favorite. Nearly half a boned birdwith the drumstick at center for a finger food handle, the quail was the most succulent and flavorful Ive ever had. The nearly ultra-violet Peruvian purple potato mince used as bulls eye garnish really drew the eye. And, who couldnt help but love the generous hand with the white truffle oil. Well-designed for a walk-around tasting and the ethereal and earthy aromas and flavors which echoed the featured wines made this a winning combination.
Nancy Oakes & Pamela Mazzola, Boulevard
Braised Veal Cheek, Celery Root Puree and Morel Mushroom Sauce.
A close runner-up. Broad and comforting flavors of richly unctuous veal cheek melded with the taste of the soil in root vegetables and morels were wonderful with the Pinot Noir-based wines. Each plate was adorned with a whole morel, and no, I didnt get sick this time.
Mitchell & Steven Rosenthal , Postrio
Warm Epoisse with Onion Vermouth Sauce
The weakest of the bunch. The Epoisse was grainy and NOT warm, served on a mushy baguette slice in a pool of excessively sweet oniony purée. Even the chaser of Brocard Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre Chablis which should be its perfect partner could not save this one.