Last night was the last wine dinner I will be hosting at Fare Restaurant here in Philadelphia, at least for the time being. It all started fine, but once my champagne saber broke out, things got kind of crazy. One of the guests grabbed the saber without my knowledge and tried to open a non-sparkling bottle with the sword. Needless to say, that did not go well.
An ambulance needed to be called, as were the police and the owner of the restaurant.
Actually, none of that happened.
But that would have made for one heck of a story.
It was indeed my last dinner there for the simple reason that I will be moving to Houston early next month.
By all accounts, the dinner was a huge success. I usually have some cohesive theme around the dinner and last night was no exception as I chose some of my favorite wines from the last year that I have tried through this little blog.
There was a fairly good turnout for a Wednesday evening, including many good friends as well as a fellow Philadelphia-area wine writer, Doug Zimmerman (@uncorkedremarks), whom I finally got the chance to meet in person.
As some of you know, I was away in France for nearly two weeks, but when I came back, the creative chef at Fare, Jonathan, already had the menu planned:
Heirloom tomatoes are one of my favorite pleasures on this earth, but they can be a challenge when it comes to wine pairing. When I ever say “challenge” and “wine pairing” in the same sentence, I almost invariably reach for a sparkling wine, and last night I chose one of my favorite Cavas, the Anna de Codorníu Blanc de Blancs, which I included in an article about sparkling wines this Spring.
For the second course of fava and lima beans, I opted for the 2014 Cycles Gladiator Central Coast Merlot. Cycles Gladiator has been around for a few years, and has gone through a few iterations. In my opinion, it is clearly back on track and poised to retake its previous position as a fantastic inexpensive (under $15) wine. I also have a personal connection to the brand, which I wrote about back in April.
Course number three, the seared scallops, called for a white and I knew just the white I wanted to serve: 2013 Anselmi San Vincenzo. I first met the lovely Lisa Anselmi, daughter of owner Roberto Anselmi, over a year ago, when I was taken aback by their wonderful wines. I had the opportunity again this Spring to have lunch with Lisa and jumped at the chance (post coming shortly). I will always consider the wines of Anselmi as those that changed my perception of Italian whites.
The next dish, a New York Strip steak, called for a big red, something bold to hold up to the flavors and slice through the fat. Ever since I had a lunch here in Philadelphia with Germán di Césare, the winemaker at Trivento in Argentina, I have been craving his 2012 Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec Luján de Cuyo. Luckily, I found some here in Pennsylvania and it was perhaps the pairing of the night.
Dessert at wine dinners is always tricky for me. At home, they are easy since I have a few dessert wines at my disposal, but the good ones tend to be pricy (and therefore not all that attractive to the restaurant). Recently, though, I received a few wines from one of my favorite producers in the Dry Creek Valley, Estate 1856. I visited the part-owner and winemaker of Estate 1856, Janice Schmidt, way back in the Fall of 2014, and I was smitten with her wines. Back then, as a nascent winery, she focused almost exclusively on Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends. Since, the winery has expanded the range, including, among others, Zinfandel. When I opened the Zin, a wash of blackberry engulfed me, so when I saw that the desert was a blackberry tart, I knew I wanted to serve the 2013 Estate 1856 Zinfandel Tzabaco Rancho Vineyards. A daring pairing, but it worked!
At the end of the evening, I went around and asked all in attendance what they saw as the wine of the night and every wine was mentioned several times. To me that is the sign of a successful wine dinner.
Thanks so much to all the people who have come out to the dinners over the last couple of years, I hope you have had as much fun as I have! I consider many of you some of my dearest friends and while I appreciate your support in attending these dinners, I will always value and cherish our friendship far more.
A special thanks goes out to the wonderful people at Fare, Andy, the owner, who trusted me enough to give him a bit of free rein in the dining room, the talented chef Jonathan who continually amazed me with his creativity, the former manager Andrew who was my partner in crime getting this idea off the ground, and the current manager George who has put up with my shenanigans for well over a year and has been a great partner in all of this.
And last to the City of Philadelphia. We do not always get along, but I know I am going to miss you dearly.