26 April 2010

Dinner With A.

From time to time it's nice to dine with a friend, though not everyone wishes to become world famous on a wine blog. Thus I respect the privacy concerns of my associates, and present this dinner with the lovely Miss A.

The first course was seared mahi-mahi topped with a fire-roasted orange bell pepper sauce and steamed broccolini. Between this particular cut of fish and the cooking method, I ended up with something as rich and succulent as a lobster tail. A. was quite fond of the pepper sauce, which was a nice balance of smoky, bitter, and sweet.

There was also a salad course after this--simple mesclun greens with shaved Asiago and thinly sliced croutons from a baguette. Both first courses were served with the 2008 Höpler Grüner Veltliner from Burgenland in eastern Austria. $15, 11.5% abv. Clean and crisp at first, but smooth and rich on the finish. Light and refreshing with a very mild citrus flavor. Touches of lime peel and jasmine linger on the nose. I absolutely love this wine and I think it's a great one to keep on hand for all sorts of occasions. Despite coming from a landlocked country, it is superb with seafood.

The main course was mostly prepared ahead of time... I braised short ribs in beer, shallots, garlic, and tomato sauce for about six hours. On the next day, I shredded the meat and stuffed it in homemade ravioli. I used a bit of the braising liquid as a sauce, and also used a sour cream-horseradish sauce just to punch things up. Here I was somewhat mimicking Michael Symon's beef cheek pierogies at Lola in Cleveland. (Actually, now that I have a nearby source of beef cheeks, I might have to really make this recipe.)

This dish didn't come off quite as I expected, but it was still very good and full of savory flavors. My pasta dough was a little sticky this time around, but the ravioli still boiled up properly.

For the main course I poured the 2006 Signaterra Three Blocks from Sonoma. $49, 14.5% abv. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Merlot, roughly 4400 cases made. The three lines on the label signify the forces of Earth, Nature, and Man (the name Signaterra means "earth sign"). Most of the grapes are grown using biodynamic practices. I visited Benziger last spring in Sonoma, and while I didn't taste the Signaterra then, I was very impressed with the property tucked back in the hills and valleys of Sonoma.

The initial profile is of black cherrry, earthy, plum. After some breathing, swirling, and sniffing, you get more classic Bordeaux-style aromas like tobacco and cocoa. With the braised short ribs, it worked quite well, but I can see it pairing successfully with practically any red meat. I'd strongly recommend this one in a restaurant, as it opens and develops nicely over the stretch of three hours.

Finally, I have to thank A. for bringing an amazing dessert--cheesecake made in-house from Mosa in east Memphis. We divvied up a pair of slices, one plain, one strawberry. Both were great, but what really set them apart from the herd of factory stamped cheesecake is that they were slightly runny, like brie on a hot summer day, with a similar texture and luscious creaminess to boot. I may have enjoyed mine with a snifter of well-aged Scotch, I'm afraid my notes are incomplete at that point.

Note: The Signaterra was received as a sample from Benziger.


Joe said...

I haven't braved ravioli yet.

Of course, having been married for a while, my usual dinner companion gets treated to crude and uncouth preparations, such as lamb meat cut from the bone, served with no utensils :)

Once I can get my career figured out, I'm coming up to Memphis and we're gonna hang, man. I don't care if I'm third wheelin' with you and A. When the food, wine, and scotch run out, then I'll leave.

Benito said...


I should probably have made this more clear: I currently have no second wheel, although I do have a female roommate. A., like some of the other women mentioned here recently, is just a friend. When possible it's nice to have dinner with an interesting young lady, rather than just another night with the guys. ;)

And seriously, let me know when/if you're in town. Might even do a whole guys' night with cigars and whatnot if it doesn't mess with your travel duties.


fredric koeppel said...

The Hopler wines are excellent. I just tasted the whole line and will write about them soon.

the ravioli looks like a noble experiment.

Benito said...


I'm anxious to hear what you thought of the Höpler Blaufränkisch. I haven't had it yet, but have heard good things. This batch of ravioli was certainly good, but it didn't quite come together as I wanted it. Might have been better as a smaller dish with one or two of the ravioli set in a pool of hot beef broth.