Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mirassou Wine Dinner at Woodfire Grill

As a food blogger, I sometimes get invited to free dining events. I consider nearly all free food events to be a win, but every once in a while I get invited to something so spectacular that I'm even jealous of myself!

I had just such an experience when I received an invitation to a free, media only dinner at Woodfire Grill with Mirassou Winery. Six courses of Kevin Gillespie cooking with wine pairings from America's oldest wine-making family? Yes, please!

I went almost expecting for there to be a catch, but fortunately there was none. The event was just as amazing as I anticipated!

Our menu for the night:

Upon arrival we were served a glass of Mirassou's 2008 Chardonnay

Amuse 
Charred local peach, spicy pepperonata, pecorina di puglia

First Course  
Crisp fried laughing bird shrimp with confited shrimp salad, ginger, chile, meyer lemon vinaigrette
2008 Mirassou California Sauvignon Blanc
 
Second Course 
Pan roasted day boat scallop, sweet potatoes, winter squash, black lentils, pear and cashew salad,
green chile jus
2009 Mirassou California Pinot Grigio

Third Course 
Border springs lamb crepinette, cured olive tapenade, lemon cream, mint
2008 Mirassou California Pinot Noir

Taste
Local watermelon "agua fresca" and chile-lime salt

Fourth Course 
Wood grilled local bob white quail and smoked pork belly, roasted local okra, hakurei turnips,
lacinato kale, chicken jus
2008 Mirassou California Merlot

Fifth Course 
Wood grilled border springs lamb leg, roasted local pac choi, mixed young beets, parsnip puree, cardamom lamb jus
2008 Mirassou California Cabernet Sauvignon

Dessert
Peach streusel cake, almond mascarpone mousse, peach puree, peach ice cream, feulletine crumble
2009 Mirassou California Reisling

Woodfire Grill Executive Chef and Top Chef alum Kevin Gillespie walks us through the menu
The last time I had been to Woodfire was before Chef Gillespie blew up on the national stage. Now that he's such a star, I worried he'd no longer be focused on the kitchen, but this meal was in fact even more delicious than the first time I ate there long ago. Gillespie tackled a wine pairing menu with the added challenge of only picking the freshest seasonal ingredients from his farmers. Only once he picked out fall's bounty of squash, scallops, kale and parsnips did he begin the task of pairing it with the Mirrasou wines.

Gillespie walked us through the menu, and it didn't take long to see why he's emerged as arguably the biggest star of his Top Chef season despite not winning. He has a warm presence, due in no small part to his teddy bear like look. But more importantly he displays a passion for food, and an impressive intellect (he did turn down MIT after all). When Kevin Gillespie talks about food, it's poetry, and that fluidity, creativity and beauty comes through in every bite.

David Mirrasou, sixth generation of the Mirrasou wine-making family was there, too, to share his wines with us and entertain us with 150 years of wine-making lore. Turns out once upon a time, the likes of Robert Mondavi, Ernest Gallo and Peter Mirrassou were living it up together in California as they grew an agricultural area into a thriving wine country.

Today Mirrasou makes an array of affordable and quaffable wines. The pairings were universally successful with the food and wine melding in a very happy marriage with every taste.

Amuse: Charred local peach, spicy pepperonata, pecorina di puglia
Upon arrival we were served a Mirassou Chardonnay. So many California Chards are what Mr. AT likes to call an oak bomb, but Mirassou's take was surprisingly fruity with hints of green apple and pineapple. All too often, I'm not enthusiastic about Chards, but this one is infinitely drinkable and would be perfect with or without food.

First course: Crisp fried Laughing Bird shrimp with confited shrimp salad, ginger, chile, meyer lemon vinaigrette
Unlike most of the food, the shrimp in the first course was not local. Never fear, though, Laughing Bird is apparently the most sustainable seafood company around. Wherever it was from, it was incredible - sweet and full of flavor, this dish managed to have layers of complexity despite fundamentally being shrimp with confited shrimp. The citrus of the meyer lemon emulated the grapefruit citrus in the Mirassou Sauvignon Blanc. These dishes were appropriately sized for a multi-course dinner, but oh what I would give for more of this memorable pairing.

Second course: Pan roasted day boat scallop, sweet potatoes, winter squash, black lentils, pear and cashew salad,
green chile jus
We tend to think of seafood as a year round option, but even scallops have a season, and this is it. The earthy ingredients matched the richness of the scallop, while the unique pairing of the wine and lentils' minerality added another layer of flavor. While neither scallops nor Pinot Grigio are my favorites, I appreciated the challenging pairing.

Third course: Border springs lamb crepinette, cured olive tapenade, lemon cream, mint
Up next was a lamb crepinette, a dish I'd never previously heard of. A crepinette is sausage-like, encased in a lacy fat that actually melts into the meat as it cooks, moisturizing it as its fat renders. The crepinette also included pork, which served to mellow the gaminess of the lamb. Once again the pairing was thoughtful - the cured olives were borne out of the same terroir as the Pinot Noir. Also interesting to note is that Mirassou's Pinot is the number one selling premium Pinot Noir in U.S. restaurants and retail. With fruity flavors of cherry and strawberries, and a price tag of only $12.00, nearly unheard of in usually overpriced Pinots, I can see why!

Fourth course: Wood grilled local bob white quail and smoked pork belly, roasted local okra, hakurei turnips, lacinato kale, chicken jus
It wouldn't be a Chef Gillespie meal if there weren't some pork in the mix, so our fourth course was a Woodfire favorite - quail and pork belly, paired with a Mirassou Merlot. As Gillespie told us, "if it grows together, it goes together," so this dish paired local okra, turnips, and kale. These autumnal flavors paired perfectly with the Merlot's dark fruit and velvety texture. This pairing was rich and smoky and oh so good!

Fifth course: Wood grilled border springs lamb leg, roasted local pac choi, mixed young beets, parsnip puree,
cardamom lamb jus
The last savory course, a lamb leg, was prepared in a somewhat unusual way. The muscles of the leg were separated and grilled like a filet, rather than the more traditional roasting method, allowing it to have a more steak-like texture while keeping its lamby flavor. The parsnips were pure bliss -- creamy and redolent of vanilla -- and along with the hint of cardamom in the lamb jus were a great match for the vanilla, dark chocolate, blackberry, and cardamom flavors of the Mirassou Cab. I would like to dive into a bowl of these parsnips. Really.

Dessert: Peach streusel cake, almond mascarpone mousse, peach puree, peach ice cream, feulletine crumble
The last pairing of the night - a peach streusel cake and ice cream paired with a Mirassou Reisling was one of the best. The crisp, sweet wine with an aroma and flavor of peach was heavenly with the cornucopia of peach-inflected components of the dish.

David Mirrasou clearly lives a charmed life. His family has epic tales of immigration, bootlegging and creating an industry, and today he's able to travel the country introducing people like me to his wines. I was impressed with their portfolio, and even more excited to see their incredibly reasonable prices. Everything we drank retails for $12.00 and can be found at your supermarket (even the pathetic Publix wine aisle), and there's no doubt in my mind I'll be trying the Mirassou Pinot, Chardonnay and Reisling again very soon.

Thank you to David Mirassou, Chef Gillespie and the Woodfire team for impeccable service and an epic meal!

Woodfire Grill
1782 Cheshire Bridge Road
Atlanta, GA 30324
404-347-9055

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