Monday, October 03, 2011

If you're hungry, don't read this.

Chef Brian McBride

by contributor Donna Shor

Two genuine talents converged recently at the Park Hyatt Hotel’s Masters of Food and Wine event at the elegant Blue Duck Tavern: Jed Steele of Steele wines and Brian McBride, the Tavern’s executive chef.  Guests arrived from New York and as far as from California and Chicago for the intimate dinner, here's why.

McBride created imaginative dishes to pair with Steele wines which added up to five sumptuous courses. Brian takes traditional food apart, reconstructs it and accompanies it with an unexpected but satisfying element.

Consider the first two courses: Fried Pork Trotters and Maine Scallop in star anise broth, or the Roasted New York Squab with cream of Chestnut, Hazelnut and Huckleberries.

Third course: Long and Slow Braised Veal Cheeks, blessed with an echo of cinnamon, and cacao nibs, accompanied with celeriac and pear puree. Fourth course brought Confit of Lamb Belly (much more delicious than it sounds) with neroli, eggplant jam and ginger-baked apple, a rich dish of perfumes and flavors that formed a perfect blend.

By Number Five, we soldiered on with Baklava enhanced by Vanilla Yoghurt, roasted and candied pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds.


The five Pinot Noirs that accompanied the food were preceded at the reception by Steele’s Shooting Star Aligote, a perfect preparation for the sturdier wines to follow.

Winemaker and winery consultant Jed Steele has been 43 years in the vineyards, and after producing some prodigious wines for others, began his own label. His fame began when he created and produced nine vintages for what has become one of the best-known domestic chardonnays, Kendall-Jackson, and when it reached a million-case level, he moved on to his own wines, garnering awards along the way.

He commented on each the six wines served, with grapes ranging from Washington State to Santa Barbara.  Several of the wines served were sold out, so he brought the bottles from his own “library,”

One very special wine was the last served, an interesting treat, a Late Harvest Chardonnay Carneros, Sangiacomo Vineyard. Delaying the picking is always a gamble because if the winemaker waits one day too  long, rain can wreck the grapes. But here the late harvest worked beautifully. The added days of sun dried the grapes, concentrating the sugar, and letting the hoped for botrytis (noble rot) develop. The extra sun, and Steele’s skill, rendered the wine as silky-sweet as a French sauternes.

The dinner ended with a special flourish, Zoe’s Chocolates on the terrace. Zoe is a young woman who is a third generation chocolatier, and whose many-flavored chocolates—ranging from cognac to apple pie—are prestigious enough that they were served at the 2011 Emmy Awards Salon.

She arrived from her Pennsylvania base, accompanied by her brother Petros, to arrange the plates with five of the Zoe flavors. They were delectable enough to dream on, but get more?  Googling Zoe’s Chocolates brought a happy answer: eight places in our area.