Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cocktails, Dinner & New Zealand Pinot With Friends

The Project Food Blog competitors are neck deep in voting for round two and no doubt thinking about what do for round three, a luxury dinner party with friends. Our party was planned and scheduled before we knew what the outcome of round one was, and we went ahead with it with a few modifications when we found out the pressure was off. As part of our wine region project we had queued up the Marlborough
region of New Zealand and its Pinot Noirs for our next destination. Our luxury dinner party combined the following elements: 
  • Guest preparation of the appetizers
  • Classic cocktails made by yours truly (Manhattans, Sidecars and Martinis)
  • A main dish ingredient commonly associated with New Zealand, lamb
  • A beautiful table for us to enjoy dinner at
  • Three 2008 Pinot Noirs from the Marlborough
  • Getting dressed up just because we could
(the full menu and recipes can be found at the end)

Right off I will admit that I was disappointed with many of the pictures I took, so much so that there aren’t any of the dishes we enjoyed for dinner. This is an area I am in desperate need of some breakthroughs and have to plan to practice a lot more at.

(The cucumber canapes did not last long at all!)

(These were my favorites, but I am a sucker for cheese)

For our visit to the Marlborough region of New Zealand Margot prepared some background on winemaking in the country including how Marlborough has grown up to be recognized world-wide for its wines. I focused on the food and wine to pair with it.

Winemaking in New Zealand can be traced back as far as the early 1800s. However, it was not until the late nineteen-sixties that the industry started to become what we recognize today. What changed was the agricultural trade in New Zealand, most specifically the end of historic trades that the country had with Europe regarding meat and dairy. The land that had one time been seen as undesirable for animal pasture were very well suited for growing vines. This was due to the low moisture and low soil fertility in these regions. Combined with new laws allowing pubs to stay open longer, and a rash of young New Zealanders who were traveling abroad and a wine culture was born.

The Marlborough region started to be recognized in the 1980s, primarily for its Sauvignon Blanc which many critics called outstanding. Some critics even claim that the Marlborough region of New Zealand could not be matched as a place to grow Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Due to the growing climate it was always believed that red varietals would do quite well in New Zealand. Pinot Noir was first introduced in the early eighties and have grown in popularity even since. New Zealand Pinot Noirs are primarily recognized for being strongly fruit driven. Today Marlborough is the largest wine district in New Zealand and many consider it to be the home of the modern wine industry in the country.

We started with classic cocktails and it turned out that nobody other than myself had ever a Sidecar so a round of them were setup. I am enjoying learning about tending bar so this was the easy part of the evening!

(First some brnady over ice)

(Then some Cointreau & lemon juice)

(A healthy stir and drink!!)

(When I tend bar I also get to have fun!)

(Can't forget Margot. Cheers everyone!)

When searching for wines I wanted to find three examples of Pinot Noir that would offer a nice cross section of what one can expect from this wine. I was lucky enough to find all of the selections from the same vintage, 2008.

Oyster Bay 2008 Pinot Noir

This was the first wine we tasted and we all agreed that it was smooth with noticeable oak. I personally thought the nose was understated and earthy. This wine made the beets in the salad taste sweet and was a decent match for the earthy, gamey flavors in the lamb. None of really felt that there were lively fruit flavors present and were not overwhelmed by the wine.

Momo 2008 Pinot Noir

From the moment all of us smelled this wine we knew it was going to be different. Lively berry & cherry aromas were easily detected. The flavors in this wine were also forward and easily detected with a nice touch of spiciness and a bit more alcohol. This oak in this was more restrained, but detectable, and promoted a silky long finish. This wine paired fantastically with the lamb.

Tohu 2008 Pinot Noir

We finished with this wine and again were met with cherries and berries on the nose. I also picked up a bit more earthiness in the nose from the Momo. The similarities between this and the Momo seemed more representative of the region’s Pinot Noir, something Margot was able to confirm from the overall descriptions she came across in her research. The toasted almonds from the beet salad were a particularly interesting match for this wine, and it again paired very well with the lamb.

All three wines can be found for around $20 per bottle and I would highly recommend either the Momo or Tohu for an excellent example of Marlborough Pinot Noir.

Menu

Parmesan Wafers Topped With Avocado Mousse
English Cucumber and Boursin Canapes
Braised Lamb with Mushroom & Tomato Ragout
Creamy Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Beet Salad with Feta Cheese, Almonds and Chives
Spiced Pineapple with Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

Everyone enjoyed the meal. The lamb fell of the bone and had a wonderful earthy flavor with just enough rosemary. I placed it on a bed of the creamy mashed potatoes, covered it with mushrooms and tomatoes and then drizzled a reduction made from the cooking juices. It got quiet immediately after everyone dug in. The beet salad was definitely a first attempt as you can even see from my notes in the recipe. It was a nice pairing choice with the wines, something I will get back to again.

(Mmmmmm, spiced pineapple)

We finished the evening with a dessert consisting of spiced warm pineapple with vanilla frozen yogurt. A nice small portion with a cup of coffee spurred conversations of what we were going for our next gathering. Now that is the way to finish a party!

Cheers!

--Jason



Recipes

PARMESAN WAFERS TOPPED WITH AVACADO MOUSSE
(Made by Amy & Brian Wheeler)

1 ½ CUPS FINELY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE
(I ALSO ADD ½ CUP GRATED ASIAGO CHEESE AS I LIKE THE FLAVOR BUT IF YOU DO NOT LIKE IT, IT CAN BE LEFT OUT.)
2 RIPE AVACADOS
½ TEASPOON FRESH LEMON JUICE
¼ TEASPOON GARLIC SALT
1 BUNCH SCALLIONS INCLUDING LIGHT GREEN TOPS, MINCED
1 ½ TABLESPOONS MAYONNAISE

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 325 DEGREES. LINE A BAKING SHEET WITH FOIL. DROP THE CHEESE 2 TABLESPOONS AT A TIME ONTO THE PREPARED BAKING SHEET, SPREAD INTO 2-INCH CIRCLES.

BAKE FOR 8 TO 10 MINUITES OR UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN. REMOVE TO PAPER TOWELS USING A SMALL SPATULA. LET STAND UNTIL FIRM. (I JUST SLIDE THE FOIL OFF TO LET THEM COOL AND PEEL OFF AFTER IT IS EASIER THAT WAY AND JUST PUT A NEW PIECE OF FOIL ON THE BAKING SHEET EACH TIME)

PEEL AND REMOVE THE PITS FROM THE AVOCADOS AND PLACE THE PULP IN A BOWL. MASH THE PULP WITH A FORK UNTIL SMOOTH. ADD THE LEMON JUCE, GARLIC SALT AND SCALLIONS AND MIX WELL. ADD THE MAYONNAISE AND STIR UNTIL CREAMY.

TO SERVE, TOP EACH WAFER WITH A DOLLOP OF THE AVOCADO MOUSSE AND I GARNISH WITH A LITTLE FRESH CHIVE OR CHOPPED SCALLION

English Cucumber and Boursin Canapes

(Made by Ed Paul)

This recipe used as the foundation for these can be found on page 93 of the Entertaining Newport Style Cookbook. Mini cocktail shrimp and capers were added for additional flavor and texture.

Braised Lamb with Mushroom & Tomato Ragout

6 - ¾ inch lamb chops
1 ½ pounds of sliced mushrooms (baby portabella & shiitake)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup red wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325. Place oil in bottom of a large casserole. Heat briefly and spread to coat the bottom of the dish. Place the onion, garlic and rosemary in the bottom of the casserole. Place the lamb chops in 1 layer. Season with salt & pepper. Add the mushrooms, tomato and bay leaf. Pour the wine and stock over. Cover and cook for 2 ½ hours. Remove lamb chops and most of the tomato and mushroom to a heatproof bowl, cover tightly and return to the oven, which can be turned off. Reduce the remaining cooking liquid down over medium heat, flavor with salt & pepper and thicken with corn starch & water.

Creamy Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds of white potatoes, peel and cut
4 tablespoons of butter
¾ cup milk or half and half
6 oz shredded parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain and mash with the butter and milk. Add the cheese and season with salt & pepper.

Beet Salad with Feta Cheese, Almonds and Chives

3 large beets
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted in the oven
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Salt & pepper
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Place the beets in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and boil covered until easily pierced with a fork. Drain, allow to cool and remove the skin. Cut into bite sized chunks. Place in a bowl and toss with the feta cheese. Season with salt & pepper. Spoon into small bowls and garnish with the slivered almonds and chives. (It occurred to me as I was eating this that vinegar or lemon juice might be a nice addition to this to prevent the beets from being too dry and adding some additional flavor)

Spiced Pineapple with Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

1 pineapple, peeled and cut into ½ slices
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons light gold rum
1 vanilla pod, cut lengthwise, with seeds removed (for use)
seeds from 4 black cardamom pods
1 tablespoon honey
1 pint vanilla frozen yogurt

Heat the butter in large sauté pan. Add the vanilla seed, cardamom seeds, honey and rum. Cook for a few minutes to allow it to combine. Lay pineapple slices into pan in one layer. Cooking, turning every few minutes until just getting golden brown on each side. Remove to a cutting board and cut into 1 inch chunks. Serve with frozen yogurt and coffee.

8 comments:

Joshua Burgin - New Day, New Way said...

Great post! Love all the recipes provided!

The Manly Housewife said...

Great post my friend! The pictures will come one trick I have learned just dress up a plate and take the picture outside you will be amazed at how well they turn out. My wife laughs at me each time I do this. Great read keep it up.

Emily Malloy said...

Lovin' it!

Yo' send me an invite next time ;-)

Magic of Spice said...

Love the menu...and the post :) Looks like fun times.

Megan said...

Looks like you were having a total blast! megs

Judy said...

What a great sounding party. I, too, am still working on the photography. When the food is ready, I just want to eat. Not mess around with trying to get a picture.

elizabeth said...

Yes, I will take one of each of everything on the menu and a healthy tasting of the cocktail and wine list. :-) Don't mind if I do!

Dinner parties are the hardest to photograph if you ask me, because it's awkward as hell. I'm all "go ahead, eat, eat!" while I lug out the tripod and snap away, but fortunately my friends are very, very understanding. :-)

Monet said...

What a lovely dinner you had! I only wish I could have attended. There were so many dishes I wanted to sample. Photography is so hard, and I think that many of your shots turned out beautifully! I know that I'm learning new tricks all the time. Thanks for sharing!