Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mei Lee Wine Pairing

I know it was a good wine pairing class since I actually drank all my wine! I finally made it to a Mei Lee (http://maileerestaurant.com) wine pairing at The Wine Merchant (http://www.winemerchantltd.com). I haven’t been there in a while since they stopped having cheese classes and I made sure to point that out to them.

Anyway, when I think Mei Lee, a Vietnamese restaurant (that I unfortunately haven’t been to since they’ve moved), I automatically think spicy, which usually signals sweeter white wines or some strong reds. Luckily, I was quite pleased to find out there were a variety of dishes beyond the traditional noodles and curries that immediately came to mind. The class leader also noted that Mei Lee has an extensive wine list thanks to a close relationship with the Wine Merchant.

We started off with a Lotus Root Salad, which was a light, simple dish with vegetables and shrimp, so of course this went well with a white wine. But the salad was slightly tangy and was paired with a dry Pinot Grigio from Italy. I was surprised because although the wine had a fruity smell, it tasted much drier.

Next up was a Chicken Curry dish that I was initially nervous about but ended up having a real mild coconut flavor. This paired well with a creamy Chardonnay, that actually came from Washington state. Robert Parker gave the 2008 Cote Bonneville Chardonnay 94 points, and the class leader went on to explain how unique climates such as higher elevations make for excellent places to grow grapes. Locations such as Chile and New Zealand as well asclimates that have sunny days and cool nights, in addition to a long growing season like in Washington, really make for excellent wine producing areas.

Switching back to appetizers, we were served a Crispy Sweet Potato Cake which was fried shoestring potatoes with a giant shrimp trapped in the middle. Our leader explained that fried, oily foods need more of an acidic wine to be paired with them so he served a dry Rose that was excellent. Quite a few of the attendees were surprised that Rose was not the usual sweet flavor.

Another appetizer, a traditional spring roll that contained pork was paired with a full bodied Pinot Noir from the Santa Barbara region of California. I expected a greasy flavor from the pork to require a red wine, but it turned out neither one was overpowering and the Pinot was actually quite smooth. This was definitely the best wine of the night.

For the first time, I tried a dish called Bahn Bao, which looked like a hamburger. A doughy biscuit filled with a flat sausage patty and a hard-boiled egg on top. Together, it was a sweet, heavy dish, served with an equally heavy (full bodied) Chateauneuf-du-Pape. While this is not my typical favorite style of wine, I often purchase this as gifts for those who enjoy dark reds.

The last dish consisted of a Rare Beef that was very spicy, even though I drowned it in the fish oil. This was paired with a sweet Muscat from Alsace, France, but it wasn’t enough to keep my nose from running and downing several glasses of water!

I certainly hope the Wine Merchant does more food and wine pairings in the future and the coolest one the class leader talked about was a pizza and wine pairing! I hope I can make it!

Here are the pairings:

Lotus Root Salad
2010 Scarpetta Pinot Grigio
Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy

Chicken Curry
2008 Cote Bonneville Chardonnay
Yakima Valley, Washington

Crispy Sweet Potato Cake
2010 Chateau de Manissy Rose
Tavel, France

Pork Roll
2009 Belle Glos Pinot Noir
Santa Maria Valley, California

Bahn Bao
2008 La Ferme du Mont Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Southern Rhone Valley, France

Rare Beef
2008 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Muscat
Alsace, France