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Mar 19, 2007 04:30 PM

Early Spring Dinner


I'm putting together a dinner for 8-10 people next month and welcome your ideas for wine pairings:

While everyone gathers:
Seven Layer Salmon Bites

And then:
Fresh Pea Soup with Mint
Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Herbs, Lemon and Garlic
Orzo with Tomatoes, Slivered Almonds and Green Onions

Salad course:
Asparagus and Mushroom Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Rhubarb strawberry crisp (this one is up for grabs........I'd like to do something with rhubarb and strawberrries; not sure this is it).

You have been so helpful in the past. All comments are welcome. Thanks so much.

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  1. Salmon appetizer: my first choice would be an inexpensive Gruner Veltliner, like Huber's lovely "Hugo" bottling. An Alsatian Riesling or a German or Austrian with a fairly low level of residual sugar would also do the trick. Ditto a Sancerre or other dry Sauvignon Blanc. Or choose a dry white bubbly (Champagne, Vouvray, Crémant de Bougogne, etc.).

    Pea soup: many chefs and wine experts suggest not serving wine with soup. That said, the green flavours would put me in mind of a Sauvignon Blanc or a Gruner Veltliner.

    Lamb and orzo: lamb is about as red-friendly a meat as you'll get, and there's not enough lemon or tomato to change that. The spicing for your recipe is Provençal, so I'd probably reach for a rich Grenache-based Côtes-du-Rhône (including Gigondas, Vacqueyras, etc.) or similar wine from the Languedoc or New World. A Rioja or Ribera del Duero would be fine, as would a Zinfandel or Syrah/Shiraz.

    Salad: asparagus, especially in a vinaigrette, is tough to pair. Assuming you aren't adverse to going from a heavyweight red to a lighter white, a dry Muscat or Viognier might be your best bet.

    Rhubarb is inimical to fine wine. You could probably get away with a sweet bubbly, a moscato or, especially if the proportion of stawberries were high, a Maury, Banyuls or Riversaltes.

    1. SALMON BITES... Looks tailor-made for Chardonnay or Champagne here. Since Chardonnay matches your soup well also, go with Chardonnay....Also, are you using a smoked salmon slice here ? I would recommend that as Chardonnay is so good with smoke. Since it's "layered" you might do one smoked slice and one non.

      PEA SOUP. I would re-work this just a bit. You already have Chardonnay on the table, so why not serve a "knockout" soup to match the Chardonnay? Go with a Cream of Asparagus & Artichoke with walnut bits & small chunks of artichoke. Put a hint of Gruyere and/or Chevre cheese into the cream base.... You'll be a genius, guests will be blown away by this. You might not want to highlight asparagus twice on the list since you have a salad featuring it also, so you might call your soup "Cream of Mixed Vegetables" (or "Cream of Verdure Misto" if you want a fancy-sounding foreign name)

      LEG OF LAMB: There are alot of options, but since I see Parmesan and mushrooms in your next course, I really favor Cabernet Sauvignon here. It's superb with Lamb, and killer with Parmesan and mushrooms. If you can do the Lamb grilled I think that's a plus (or maybe "finish" it on the grill, but if not that's okay.

      SALAD: Your salad matches both Chardonnay and Cabernet nicely. Easy on the vinagrette. You might experiment with "Grilled Asparagus and Mixed Mushrooms" type salad dressed with Parmesan dust. Serving it right alongside the Lamb would be a good idea, IMO.

      DESSERT: Try a Vouvray Molleaux, and I would emphasize the Strawberries in the mix.

      Just a thought... you might promote the dinner as "get together for our last seasonal chance for these great rich flavors"...

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chicago Mike

        Thank you both very much. I will mull over all of your very thoughtul suggestions. I have, so far, decided to exchange asparagus soup for the pea. ( I mean, who wouldn't want to be thought of as a genius). And I will look for a more strawberry-focused dessert.

        1. re: onefineleo

          I think you can include the rhubarb... it actually sounds quite interesting in moderation...., just have a preponderance of berries in the dish, that's all.

          Also, the more I look at this event, the more I like the idea of Champagne with the Salmon Bites THEN bring out the Chardonnay for the soup course....

          OR... you could serve both a champagne and chardonnay with the salmon bites, that way the guests could sample both and experience the differences, both are incredible matches for the dish.

          1. re: Chicago Mike

            Hey Mike:
            I wanted to let you know that the dinner was swell. As you suggested, I changed the soup to cream of asparagus soup wtih bits of artichoke hearts. Small pieces of walnuts floating on top. Bit of grated gruyere melted in. Just wonderful with the chardonnay. We served Champagne with the salmon bites and cabernet with the lamb. Oohs and ahhs abounded. My stawberry and rhubarb crisp was toast (yuck!!!), so I served mini eclairs with fresh strawberries. I served Dolce Stilnoire Rosso in flutes with them. What was that?? It was really delicious! Was it a goofy choice, or ok? Guests went wild for the stuff.

            Once again, thanks to Mike, Carswell and Campania for all the ideas that you shared. I'll be back in June for more. Think Morocco.

            1. re: onefineleo

              Fine... I'm curious, did you keep the chardonnay on the table through at least the salmon course ? It would/ should have been a great match there also and would provide some interesting tasting-note discussion for your diners.

              Also, you might have gone out a bit on the limb and served at least a taste of the cabernet with the salmon (depending on how it was cooked). Salmon can be fairly interesting with "red wine" especially if it's grilled with some peppercorns....

              Keep the soup recipe because it gives you some additional options such as adding crab or shrimp, for example, which would be through the roof with chardonnay :)

              1. re: Chicago Mike

                The salmon bites were just a nibble while everyone gathered. Nice with the champagne.

                Any reaction to the Dolce Stilnoire Rosso, the Italian dessert wine? It was strawberry colored, effervescent, and 6% alcohol. Are you familiar with it?

                1. re: onefineleo

                  I'm not specifically familiar with that branded wine.... but "dolce" definitely designates a sweet sparkling wine which would be one of several obvious matches for a fresh fruit based dessert. Great choice, what led you to that particular wine ??

                  Also, next time you might try a Moscato d'Asti which would have a similar fine match with a fruity dessert.

      2. Antipasto=Fiano di Avellino
        Soup=Also, Fiano
        Lamb=Nero d'Avola or young Aglianico-International style
        Salad=Falanghina..but could still continue with Aglianico...that's what I would prefer.

        1. Lots of these dishes would pair with a lot, I'm just giving my very top choices...

          Salmon bites- Pinot-based or rose Champagne

          Pea soup with mint- Alsatian Tokay Pinot Gris

          Lamb dish- Ribera del Duero

          Orzo- I assume this is a side and doesn't need its own pairing but if it does, a good Beaujolais

          Salad course- White Chateauneuf du Pape (although it would be hard to taste after a Ribera).

          Dessert- Sweet Loire such as a Vouvray Molleaux

          1 Reply
          1. re: whiner

            concur with whiner on the rose champagne with the salmon; it would have been perfect. Henriot, Larmandier-Bernier, Laurent-Perrier are IMHO very good rose champagnes.

          2. I think you can get away with three wines, and get away perfectly.

            It's Gruner Gruner Gruner for most of this meal. I would suggest a fuller-bodied version (look for the word "smaragd" on the label or in the name online). It pairs incredibly well with salmon, peas soup, and asparagus. And for any vegetarians, it will also go beautifully with the orzo.
            Here's one I think is amazing: Donabaum Gruner Veltliner Spitzer Point Smaragd 2004.

            A red with the lamb of course. So why not go with an Austrian theme? St.Laurent, Zweigelt or Blaufrankisch could work really well. Otherwise, many of the other red recommendations are great.

            Dessert wine- something on the lighter side. The sparkling moscato is a nice idea.