Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Frank Cooked It Up And We Paired It Up!

( Kath and I enjoying the party. )

Kathy Nelson, the owner of Salon Outlooks in Manchester, definitely knows how to plan a fun event. Combine the talents of two of her clients and the energy of quite a few others and what do you get? A great Italian cooking demonstration and a few good food and wine pairings.
On Friday November 12th Frank Carpentino walked us through a selection of Italian dishes using his philosophy of “no recipes”. Margot and I were given a rough idea of the ingredients that would be in the dishes and were challenged to recommend wines to pair with them. Our challenge included making recommendations that would be available from the local liquor store as well as several from our own collection.
We kept with the Italian theme and recommended the following wines available locally:
  • Folonari Soave 2008 - very light body, subtle fruitiness, very dry & crisp
  • Ruffino Chianti Classico Aziano 2007 - ripe fruit, earth, very complex for a lighter red
  • Martini & Rossi Asti NV - sweet sparkler with great fruit flavors
We added the following wines from the Ancient Fire collection:
  • 2009 Pinot Grigio - medium bodied, dry, grilled pear/melon flavors
  • 2008 Amarone - full bodied, red fruit and oak, unique aromas
  • 2009 Riesling Ice Wine (we don’t have any homemade Italian dessert wine)
Frank has an impressive list of food accomplishments and he easily kept the attention of the audience as he prepared his meals.

( A solid base for a great dish! )

Some of his credits are:
  • The development and instruction of a Basic Cooking Program as part of the Derry Adult Education Program.
  • The development & instruction of a basic cooking program for school age children
  • Prior Head Cook for a Middle School with a population of over 1,000
  • Cook for Passaconaway Country Club & Hidden Creek Country Club
Frank started with a salad dressed with an oil and vinegar based dressing. I had hoped the Soave might work here but alas it was too light. The Pinot Grigio worked better, but the dressing did have some character and a good wine pairing would be tough.

Moving from salad to the main course Frank prepared pasta and fresh vegetables, which consisted of onions, peppers, mushrooms and broccoli in a light sauce of tomatoes, butter and white wine. Several of us found the Pinot Grigio worked better than the Chianti making my initial recommendation the winner. The score is all tied up!

The next dish was Frank’s North End Pasta, a tomato based sauce with sausage, onions, peppers and garlic over fettuccini. For this dish either of the red wines would work and which one exactly would be the best would depend on individual taste. The Amarone was the winner creating a nice bump for us coming from the homemade collection.

A shrimp scampi pasta dish came out next. My initial pairing advice was toward the white wines and the Soave primarily. It worked and people agreed. Score one more!

The last dish was chicken, vegetables in a rose (white and red wine) sauce. I didn’t actually eat this one because I was too busy serving wine. I think both of the whites and the Chianti were pairings people enjoyed, but I wouldn’t declare a win here since I didn’t work hard enough on it.

At this point everyone was feeling pretty full, but there was one last dish. Dessert. Cannoli to boot. Frank enlisted help from the audience to get these made and I prepared the ice wine and Asti for accompaniment. Both wines paired well with the lightly sweet dessert, but I think folks enjoyed the wines more on their own. Points for everyone.

This was a hugely rewarding experience for Margot and I. We got another chance to try our hand at food and wine pairing and in the process we created a bunch of smiles. Frank was commanding in the kitchen, with his passion and energy showing through.

Renee thanked us profusely for introducing her to Amarone, a style of wine she had yet to have enjoyed. We received other feedback which was truly humbling. We make wine at home for fun and always enjoy the fact that it brings others happiness when we share it.

Food and beverage pairing is a combination of art and science. I am always willing to to be wrong as long as I learn something in the process. Tonight I did OK, and learned that salad dressing can be a formidable adversary and that the the sauce of an Italian dish really makes the difference, almost without regard to whatever else is in the dish.

(The Outlooks crew with food and wine smiles! )



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