For the Foley-Leonardi-Pope family’s annual fall tasting dinner, we decided not to try to replicate — as we have in the past — our Thanksgiving feast.
Instead, we prepared a meal designed to make good use of the flavors we most associate with autumn. And we each brought a wine that we thought might pair well with them. All the wines cost well under $15 a bottle — appropriate in these hard economic times.
Since we’re all huge cheese lovers, and none of us can resist a new one, the meal began with a cheese plate that included Moody Blue and Petit Basque. (The former pleased even adamantly blue-averse Heath, so if you haven’t tried it, ask for a taste at the Davis Food Co-op cheese counter.)
We opened two sparklers to accompany the plate — Tiamo Prosecco NV, made with organic grapes from Italian vineyards, and Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux ’08 Brut. Both went well with the cheese — as I would have expected — but, more surprisingly, with the rest of the meal, too.
We kept coming back to the Prosecco. Light, just a hint of sweetness, and quite fall-fruity (think apple and pear), it offered a good balance to the sharp, creamy cheeses. Away from food, I preferred the drier Cremant (on sale now at the Co-op) but I had to agree that the Prosecco worked beautifully across the board.
The next course was an amazing roasted sweet potato salad (though we thought the Towani blue turban squash looked so beautiful at the Saturday Farmers’ Market that Julian used it instead of potatoes for this Alice Waters recipe). Flavored with lemon juice, cumin, saffron, paprika and fresh herbs, it seemed like fall in a bowl, and the Prosecco just intensified the flavors.
We had two main-course dishes. Allegra made a butternut squash galette. (She’s the family pie czar and used her acclaimed crust —which she swears can be perfect only with Strauss Creamery butter. And this particular crust was perfect indeed.) A Deborah Madison recipe (in “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”), the galette, too, invited us all into the new season.
I made a three-mushroom (porcini, trumpet, cremini) risotto inspired by the same Madison cookbook, but I did a freelance combination of her dried mushroom risotto and her fresh mushroom one. This dish is a great way to use leftover white wine (even red if the ‘shrooms are hearty), by the way, and it pairs successfully with either white or red.
We opened three bottles of red for the main dishes(s) — an ’09 Parducci Pinot Noir from Mendocino, a ’10 Tufo Rosso from Italy, largely Sangiovese, and Fitzpatrick “King’s Red XIII,” a Rhone blend from Fitzpatrick’s Fair Play organic vineyards.
No one voted for the Italian red. A perfectly drinkable wine, it would have loved a good simple pizza, but both the galette and the risotto overwhelmed it entirely — and it added nothing to them. We still had some sparkling left, and a couple of diners thought the Prosecco actually worked better than the reds even with these rich and hearty flavors.
Others thought the Pinot Noir paired best, not surprising given Pinot Noir’s special affinity for mushrooms. I liked the Pinot but thought it tasted a bit too generic Californian. Given the high cost of a good Pinot, though, this Parducci offers a real bargain.
I and a couple of others voted for the King’s Red — fruity, spicy, earthy — which, though medium-bodied, had enough personality to stand up to the strong flavor of the Parmesan in both dishes and the intense porcini in the risotto. One diner who proclaimed the Prosecco the evening’s grand winner, thought — after she had finished her last bite of risotto — that the King’s Red worked beautifully on its own.
My seasonal wine splurge was a case of this blend, which I picked up from Brian Fitzpatrick at the Farmers Market last week.
Fortunately, we had decided on a simple dessert of ice cream (we wanted but couldn’t find pumpkin so settled for French vanilla) topped with ginger snap crumbles and chocolate sauce. No one brought dessert wine, which was fine since we couldn’t linger any longer: The seven young ones had run out of patience with their exile to the anointed Kids’ Room. But kudos to them all — and especially to Seda, child-entertainer extraordinaire — for staying put all that time.
There was some wine left in the three red bottles, so I sampled them again the next evening. The Pinot Noir had degenerated into something heavy and much too oak-y, the King’s Red tasted exactly the same as it had the night before and the Italian had improved. Or at least it tasted better with roasted broccoli and potatoes than with winter squash and mushrooms. I bet that Prosecco would have been good, too.
Just a reminder that local wine events abound. Coming right up is the Putah Creek Winery semi-annual release and tasting party on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 2 to 6 p.m. They’ll be releasing their ’09 Zin and un-oaked ’10 Chardonnay. I can’t wait to try them. Be sure to attend this fun event ($15 admission) that joins music and art to the delicious food and wine.
Rominger West has added a classical/jazz series every Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Don’t miss classical guitarist Elizabeth Bush on Nov. 11, and sip a big glass of RW Syrah while you listen.
The RW Happy Thursdays continue, of course. Head over this afternoon for Portland-based duo Heartroot and put local duo Misner & Smith on your calendar for Nov. 17.
The Davis Food Co-op continues to offer wine tastings, usually the first three Fridays of the month from 6 to 8 p.m. On Nov. 11 they’ll be offering a group of Thanksgiving wines. And I continue to do tastings at Monticello every Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.; they’ve added a Thursday Happy Hour (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.) with music by Bob Wren.
— Reach Susan Leonardi at [email protected] Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com