Sunday, May 13, 2012

Think Pink Rose Wine Class at Bottle Cellars

STLwinegirl, Angela Ortmann, is now hosting classes all over St. Louis, including south county, at a cute wine shop called Bottle Cellars. The store is bright and inviting and is the right size so you are not overwhelmed by too many bottles to select from.

This month’s class focused on rose or “pink wines” and it was the perfect topic now that spring and warmer temperatures are here. Like any other wines with the same varietal or style, they are not all the same! This was the biggest point I learned that night since every wine was so much different than the others, whether by color, taste, or type of grape they were made from.

We started with the Mirabelle Sparkling Rose from California and this was definitely one of my favorites mostly because it’s bubbles. This rose had more of a salmon color and smelled fruity and yeasty, but had a drier taste to it. Not the overpowering sweetness like I had expected.

Next up was the Chateau Revelette Rose from Provence, France, which had a pale pink color and was mostly made from the Granache grape. While this wine had a lot more of a stone fruit or floral aroma, it definitely was among the drier wines. I think this would be perfect for regular red wine drinkers!

My favorite wine of the night was the Charles & Charles Rose from Washington state. This was the perfect balance between not too dry and not too sweet. The wine still had a good body with plenty of flavor, but there was a lot more fruit to it without the sweet flavor. I enjoyed it so much that I bought two bottles!

Going back to France, we tried the Domaine Lafond Tavel Rose, from the Rhone Valley. I just assumed I would enjoy this wine because the Rhone is one of my favorite regions, but this wine was a dark, ruby color and smelled of dark cherries. That was a good warning because it had a very dry and full bodied taste to it and the tannins were a bit too much for me.

We finished the night with the Jelly Jar Rose from Lake County California, which is made from white zinfidel, believe it or not. It had a typical pink coloring to it but once again, no overpowering sweetness. In fact, it tasted dry and crisp with a citrusy flavor to it and I definitely would recommend this one as well.


Photo by Angela Ortmann

STLwinegirl =

Bottle Cellars =

Blood & Sand Birthday Dinner

Normally I don’t write about second trips to restaurants, or I may just add some comments when I get to try new dishes, but I know that it won’t be often that I’ll get to go to Blood & Sand since it is a membership only bar and restaurant. It just worked out that I have a well-connected friend who was celebrating a birthday so I made sure not to miss!

Since Blood & Sand is known for their cocktails, thanks to top mixologist, TJ Vytlacil, I made sure to study their drink menu closely to find a good match for myself. I went with the drink entitled “Baby Don’t You Change” since it includes Riesling among its many ingredients. I try to go for sweet when it comes to mixed drinks, but the alcohol was still quite overpowering for me.

Like most top restaurants, I want to order one of everything and I really struggled with trying to select something from the menu. I tried to focus on the entrees at first and was torn between the Filet and the Mushroom Cannelloni since it’s something different, but there were too many small plates that I wanted to try.

Before I could even order, our hostess went ahead and selected the well-known Truffled Tater Tots with Parmesan sprinkled on top for everyone to try. Oh my goodness. They melted in in your mouth with such smooth and creamy insides. I probably could have just dined on several servings of them for the night. Amazing.

I broke down and went with a couple small plates, hoping it would be the right amount of food, as well allow me to try the Chilled White Asparagus as a starter. After tasting it at the Celebrity Chef dinner the week before, it was just as good this time around and came with Baetje Farms Bloomsdale Cheese, in addition to Basil and Mixed Nut Granola. Such great flavors together!

The first small plate I tried was the Tallegio Cheese Agnollotti. I had been wanting to try agnollotti after hearing about it at Stellina so I figured I’d try their version. I knew I couldn’t go wrong since these were stuffed with oyster mushrooms, pecans, and truffle honey in addition to the cheese. Delicious!

The second small plate I chose was the Gnudi because I had it before at Acero and it was one of my favorites there. The gundi were mixed in with a plate of smoked chicken as well for a very heavy and filling dish. Perfect on a cold and rainy night.

I also was very lucky that I was with such good friends that I got to try the Mushroom Cannelloni after all and it was definitely “mushroom heaven”. All you can taste is mushrooms and creaminess.

Since we were there celebrating a birthday, our server generously donated the desserts and I got to try them all. Even though I was so full already, I forced myself to make room for dessert. Every single one was fantastic, although with my bias, the Chocolate Mousse was the best. I also tried the Rhubarb Buckle, Carrot Cake (huge piece!) and trio of sorbet that consisted of some crazy flavors like “bubble gum”! hehehe

Special shout out to Patrice Clements for organizing the birthday party and allowing my friends and I to join you.


Blood & Sand =

Celebrity Chef Tour

Last month, I went to one of those “once in a lifetime” kinds of dinners that I just had to take advantage of because something like this is somewhat rare for St. Louis. The Celebrity Chef Tour came through town thanks to a couple of local chefs, Gerard Craft (Nice), Kevin Willmann (Farmhaus), and Josh Galliano (formerly of Monarch) who received James Beard nominations this year. Finally…we are on the map!

This was definitely my most expensive dinner I have ever gone to, although we got lovely parting gifts from the sponsors: a Mercedes-Benz credit card holder and a Stella Artois glass with velvet pouch. The Stella glass is SO beautiful!

The Celebrity Chef Tour is a fundraiser to benefit the James Beard Foundation, an organization that supports events and programs in the culinary world, along with the annual awards for naming top restaurants and chefs.

The dinner was held at Sidney Street Café and consisted of an eight-course meal with a top chef in charge of each course. I wondered how the courses got assigned to eat chef…did they draw straws? A different wine was paired with each course so I knew I was going to seriously have to pace myself and leave a lot of wine behind to make it through the night. The restaurant staff was just incredible keeping up with the wine pouring with each course and clearing away dishes and glasses as the night went along.

Not only were there eight courses, but the evening started off with hors dourves, including a charcuterie table. I may have tried a few different items, but I’m sure they were mostly salami and pickled vegetables. We were also served a complimentary glass of Stella Atrois after sitting down at our tables. I was seated with a gentleman who had recently graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and another couple who were enjoying a birthday present.

Here are the courses along with a few notes:

1) John Shields (Philadelphia, PA): Oyster seasoned with the new spruce, spinach, and infusion of fresh seaweeds, black radish paired with Segura Heredad Brut Reserva.

Chef Shields actually got his start at Cardwell’s so he was happy to be back in St. Louis. His oyster dish had very rich, bold flavors so the sparkling wine helped cut through them.

2) Josh Galliano (St. Louis, MO): Illinois asparagus, stinging nettle cavatelli, local pecans, bottarga, purslane paired with Chase Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2012.

The white asparagus (from Freeburg, IL) was actually covered from the sun in order to get its ghostly appearance and tasted so much lighter and less earthy than regular asparagus. This helped to not overpower the wine, which actually tasted more like an overly creamy Chardonnay. I now think all asparagus should be white.

3) Gerard Craft (Nice, St. Louis, pictured at the top): Cauliflower, lamb, ramps, mint, and lemon paired with Rodney Strong Russian River Reserve Chardonnay 2009.

I wish all cauliflower side dishes could be served this way: cooked with braised lamb and served with a crispy lamb topping and a side of mint sauce. This Chardonnay was not oaky and had a crisp flavor to it but overpowered the lighter cauliflower dish.

4) Kevin Willmann (Farhaus, St. Louis, pictured on the right): Grilled wild caught Gulf Cobia filet with ramp and its belly “bacon”, golden raisin chutney, sauce soubise paired with Bethlehem Valley Chardonel 2009.

This light fish went well with the crisp wine to help mellow out the creamy sauce and chutney topping that came with it. The Chardonel is actually made from a hybrid of Missouri grapes and had a fruity finish.

5) Debbie Gold (The American Restaurant, KC): Mackerel, ramps, morels, sake miso paired with Domaine Serene “Evanstad Resrve” Pinor Noir 2007.

Besides the St. Louis chefs, I was most looking forward to Debbie’s course due to her prescense as the only female chef of the dinner. The pickled mackerel was very rich and so I was glad to have a fruity Pinot paired with it. I finally figured out that a “ramp” is a type of onion!

6) Martin Rios (Restuarnat Marin, Sante Fe): Crispey Newman Farm pork belly, roasted tenderloin, cherry-soy caramel, celery root, polenta parchment paired with Hirsh Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008.

I really enjoyed the tenderloin in this course, especially since it was cooked just right and paired very well with a drier Pinot Noir. I am sure the same could have been said for the pork by those who are fans, but I did not enjoy the fatty bite I took.

7) Alex Lee (Glen Hill Country Club, NY): Roasted Eieio Acres lamb loin and pulled shank with Moroccan spices, olives, spring turnips and radishes paired with Ethos Reserve Syrah 2008.

I learned that Alex is the former executive chef at Danielle. The lamb was delicious but there was still a hint of gaminess to it so the drier red wine was a good pairing. Since the meat was tender and soft, it didn’t exactly match up with the crunchy nuts that came with it.

8) Kevin Nashan / Robert Zugmaier (Sidney Street Café, St. Louis): Green strawberries, black sesame cake, balsamic, dill, buttermilk sorbet paired with Chateau Ste Michelle Late Harvest Riesling 2008.

This was my least favorite course since both the food and the wine were way too overpowering. The green strawberries were very tart and dessert wines are often overly sweet. Even the sorbet was too much instead of being light and palate cleansing. At this point I was ready to be done eating and drinking so I didn’t mind leaving behind some leftovers anyway.

I had definitely paced myself well with the wine but was very tired after four hours of nonstop eating and drinking. This is probably not something you’d want to do every day, but definitely a great experience.


James Beard Foundation =

Sidney Street Café =