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Seeking help with menu choices, wine pairing

  • k

I'm kicking around some ideas for a dinner I'll be hosting in a couple of weeks, and am having more difficulty than usual in settling on a decision. Would love to get your thoughts both on the dishes proposed and on wines to go with them.

Nibbles
Warm pecans tossed with cayenne, rosemary and a bit of brown sugar
Mushrooms sauteed with parsley and garlic
Olives
Hummous and flatbread
[Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Champagne]

Starter
Roasted asparagus with chevre, pancetta and hazelnuts
[Gruner Veltliner, Sancerre, or Viognier]
OR
Filet de rouget (I think it's like a small red snapper) on a bed of piperade (roasted bell peppers, raisins, arugula, fennel, pine nuts)
[Henri Darnat Bourgogne "La Jumalie" or Ernst Preiss Pinot Gris]
OR
Tagliatelle with petits pois, cream and lardons
[Slightly buttery Chardonnay, or maybe a Saint-Joseph?]

Main
Seared salmon with lentils
[Argyle pinot noir]
OR
Roast pork loin with a mustard cream sauce
[???]
OR Roast pork loin with apples and Calvados-cider cream sauce
[I love this dish, but am hesitating on wine pairing...]

Cheese plate
This could go in a couple of different directions, but I'd like to do a white wine plate, even though I'll probably have a couple of red-wine-with-cheese old guard at the table. Any white pairing thoughts for Beaufort, Reblochon, a well-aged Crottin, perhaps a Pierre Robert?

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  1. That Argyle Pinot would probably taste good with the pork with mustard cream, too. For the Calvados sauce, I'd serve French hard cider.

    Plus, then the white wine with the cheese would be a "natural!" I'd like a St. Veran with those cheeses...

    1. Wow...you're quite a cook! Impressive menu.

      The apps sound lovely. Just remember to go easy on the cayenne with the pecans, so you don't burn out your diners' palates. Bubbly loves the barest hint of heat.

      Let's jump to your main course. The salmon, presently, isn't very good right now, and I presume you want to serve wild, rather than farm-raised, salmon anyway. In which case, the salmon would need to be grilled to match up to Pinot -- you need the smoke and char from grilling for a salmon to go with Pinot Noir. Seared salmon won't be "big" enough.

      So, I'd recommend going with either the pork dishes for your main course. I love both the pork dishes, any the first, with the mustard cream sauce, will go well with the Pinot. Nothing heavier. The second pork dish with the Calvados seems a lovely one for Riesling at a Spatlese level of sweetness (because of the apples, especially). Though I do like the idea of serving a "tru Normande" with it -- a small glass of Calvados itself, perhaps before the wine. A tru Normande is a palate cleanser.

      more later...

      So, working back from your main course to your starter, the rouget won't be

      5 Replies
      1. re: maria lorraine

        Oh no -- my rouget and I are left hanging, with bated (or should that be baited?) breath! Please do continue...

        1. re: Kelly

          OK, back now...my computer tech guy arrived and I hastily skedaddled...sorry for the unfinished post, unfinished sentence even....

          Starter...
          Asparagus: If you're serving a cheese course, I wouldn't serve a starter with chevre. Either way, the Aligote will be a bit light in flavor to take on the asparagus plus pancetta -- those flavors need a bigger white.. My favorite for this dish is a Savennieres, but a Chard with low ML or oak would also work. The Sancerre is too flinty for your flavors; the Viognier too tropical/floral.

          Back to the rouget with piperade... I've often found that US Chardonnay (and I hardly ever recommend US Chardonnay, especially buttery ones) teams up very well with red bell peppers. And it goes well with the other flavors also -- the wine and food have some common flavors. The Aligote (again) is a bit light for a dish with this many flavors. Likewise, the Pinot Gris isn't hefty enough either. The Gruner might be OK if it's a round fleshy one, like some of those from Austria, but those are quite hard to find. I see a White Bordeaux with this dish also and have enjoyed several with other dishes similar to yours.

          Tagliatelle: If you're serving the pork dish with mustard cream sauce, I wouldn't serve the tagliatelle with peas and lardon in a cream sauce. That's one too many cream sauces. The pasta sounds like a great dish though. The Saint Joseph is a big red wine and not at all appropriate. A Chard (again with low ML and oak) and your Aligote (finally) would also work here -- it's zippy with lots of acid. Love the lardons.

          Of the two pork dishes, I'd serve the Roast Pork with mustard cream sauce -- the Pinot will likely pair well with this. But I'd add a light spice rub (a light rub so it won't interfere with the mustard-cream sauce), with perhaps a bit of allspice, espresso powder, salt, garam masala etc., to provide some subtle, deep "grounding" notes so it will pair better with the Pinot Noir. Otherwise, with the other pork dish, it's an all-white-wine meal.

          That's my 2 cents for now...sorry for the interruption...

          1. re: maria lorraine

            Thanks for your comments, which have given me much to consider... the balance between red/white, cream/not cream, etc, is obviously hugely important (so I would do the pasta only if going with the salmon for a main).

            I've been indulging in an asparagus orgy recently, doing lots of tweaking (over toasted brioche, foregoing the vinaigrette in favor of a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of lemon zest, etc), in the interests of finding a nice pairing, but have yet to find something that really makes me happy. Have tried a 2004 Australian Hunter Valley Verdelho that was just nasty; last night was a 2006 Sancerre -- Reverdy-Ducruoux "Les Perriers" -- that fell a bit short. Trying a Gruner tonight, just for fun. (BTW, I live in Belgium, so wine availability is a bit skewed for me -- it's a heck of a lot harder to find an Oregon Pinot Noir than an Austrian GV! :o) )

            The Henry Darnat isn't an Aligote -- it's actually a quite nice, round (though young) Burgundy Chardonnay grown in Meursault. I don't think it's quite buttery enough to fill the shoes of a US Chardonnay (which, I agree with you, is largely a good thing). The Pinot Gris, however, is a bit heftier than you might think -- it's a 2005 Alsatian, with nice pear and spice and a very nice mouth-feel and balanced acidity. Which may not make it a better match for the rouget. I'll see what I've got in the way of White Bordeaux.

            The Saint-Joseph I have in mind is actually white, and quite intriguing and yummy. But I'd need to taste it again (haven't done so since I bought a case in March) to get an accurate flavour profile.

            Love the idea of the spice rub with the pork. You've sold me on that one. Any thoughts on sides? :o) I recently had some fabulous carrots, though that sounds a bit odd, that had been cooked with star anise. Warm, rounded, altogether yummy.

            1. re: Kelly

              About the St. Joseph, yes the white is Marsanne/Roussane. Sounds lovely with the pasta, if that's what you decide to serve. I thought La Jumalie was Aligote; it is Chardonnay after all. Sure, give it a go with the rouget, once again, if that's what you decide to make. Bon appetit!

              1. re: Kelly

                Kelly, imho Condrieu is the best pairing for asparagus. and no, unfortunately just any Viognier. Condrieu.

        2. Hi Kelly... Well you certainly have a nice meal in the works there. Here's how I'd approach it given the dishes you're focusing on.

          APPETIZERS:

          Pecans/Cayenne, Rosemary & Brown Sugar. This is "sweet & spicy" and has either a riesling or sweeter bubbly (like a moscato or a sweeter champagne) written all over it. let's choose a nice Riesling Kabinett or perhaps even Spatlese here to start the framework of this meal. You'll see why in a bit.

          Mushrooms/Parsley/Garlic. Chardonnay is probably first choice here but Riesling definitely works. Alternatively, if we have a sweeter champagne with higher chardonnay (or 100% chardonnay) content, then that also hits this dish quite nicely.

          Hummus/ Flatbreads. The primary wine here is probably Sauvignon Blanc but a nice Rose also works. It wouldn't really clash with the riesling so that would also work here.

          Olives. This is Rose or a medium-dry sherry (around manzanilla) to me.

          SO.... Summing up the appetizers, Riesling is just extremely versatile here (and as you'll see also matches a number of your entrees), so I'd do Riesling and probably a Rose with it to give you that color contrast and some tasting options.

          ENTREE FIRST COURSE

          Asparagus/Chevre/Panchetta/ and Hazelnuts. Well until we got to the hazelnuts this dish was pretty much Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. If you pick a chardonnay replace the hazelnuts with walnuts, if a sauvignon blanc replace with pine nuts.

          Snapper, Roasted Pepper, Arugala, fennel, Pine Nuts, and Raisins. Lol, until we got to the raisins this dish was pretty much Sauvignon blanc by a mile. I'd do Sauvignon Blanc if you're serving this and lose the raisins. As a variation on this you could do a "pesto snapper" kind of thing and would match S.B. splendidly.

          Pasta w/ Peitt Pois, Cream and Lardons. The lettuce, peas, cream and especially butter all scream chardonnay here. Add a hint of garlic, should be quite lovely.

          SO, if you do the Snapper it's definitely S.B., IMO, if the asparagus I'd be leaning S.B. but chardonnay would also be quite interesting and with the Petit Pois pasta definitely chardonnay. Note, Riesling matches all of the above appetizers to at least an extent, so definitely leave it on the table and serve it alongside your other wine of choice so the event has some 'wine depth" to it.

          ENTREE COURSE TWO.

          Whatever you pick, I'd definitely look for something friendly to a red wine as you've already had at least 2 or 3 whites to this point. The Roast Pork looks the better bet I think. Instead of a mustard cream I'd recommend doing either a marinade with hint of mustard and then grilling the pork and/ or serving it with a red-friendly parmesan/ mushroom sauce infused with some mustard notes (as opposed to a "cream").... Best wines here: Zinfandel, Rioja, or an earthier Pinot.

          As for the Roast Pork with Calvados option, riesling is probably the best matchup there, but again you already have riesling and other whites, why not make this dish for a red wine ??

          CHEESE COURSE: Rather than starting with the cheese and looking for wine.... since you already have 3 or 4 wines on the table through the meal, I'd definitely prefer a cheese course that matches the wines you're already serving as follows:

          Riesling: emmentaler is perfection with riesling
          Chardonnay: Gruyere, Chevre
          Sauvignon Blanc: Chevre, Gruyere, and Provolone val Padana. I really like Tomme Basco with S.B. also.
          Zinfandel: Very aged Cheddar (8 years is great), Chevre, Provolone valP, and especially parmesan reggiano
          Rioja: Chevre, Gorgonzola, Iberico, and Pecorino

          Just choose your cheeses based on whatever your final wine selection is for the main meal and you'll have a complete gastronomical indulgence...

          Alternatively, just serve the cheeses on plates in the center of the table along with the main meal and your guests can nibble away on them and mix and match with the variety of wines in front of them. Adds tremendous depth to the whole event.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chicago Mike

            The more I think about this dinner, the more tempted I am to order in pizza. :o)

            Seriously, it's been really interesting hearing everyone's thoughts -- it also perfectly encapsulates the quandary of the individuality of palates!

            I think I'll stick with the Pierre Peters for the aperitif; I adore this Champagne and have drunk it with exactly this variety of nibbles. Its notes of citrus and apple give way to a creamy hazelnuttiness that matches nicely with the pecans and the earthy mushrooms and hummous.

            It's a good thing I like asparagus, because I've been embarked on an asparagus orgy since the OP, tweaking dishes and tasting different wines. And I'll be d*mned if I can find a wine I particularly like. Everything's turned that disturbing "petillant" on the front of the tongue. So much as I adore this veg, I'm leaning toward the rouget or the pasta. Chicago Mike, were you thinking New World SB or something like a Sancerre/Menetou Salon? Agree, of course, on the Chardonnay for the pasta -- though I am curious as to what a Saint-Joseph would do there.

            Funny you should say that about the mustard sauce for the pork -- I'd also been leaning away from "cream" to a pan sauce. Sear the loin, toss in shallots and a bit of thyme, deglaze with a rich white (maybe leftover Chard), add a spoonful of mustard and a chunk of veal demi-glace and monter au beurre. In Belgium, I can't find Zinfandel for love nor money, so will do some Rioja investigation.

            Cheese -- is about cheese :o). Two people there will be *almost* as passionate about the stuff as I am (for me, most meals are simply a necessary evil before the cheese course), so I have no hesitation starting with the cheese and finding a wine to match. (In response to one of your suggestions, serving "chevre" with Chard, SB and Zin would actually require three very different types of chevre, and I'm more interested in doing a balanced plate.)

            Thanks again!

            1. re: Kelly

              Hi Kelly: As to the last point of 3 wines requiring 3 different Chevre, that's not been my experience at all. "Plain old" french chevre log works just fine with all 3, it's probably the single-most versatile "wine cheese" out there.

              If you want to start with cheese and find exceptional wine matches then try:
              1) The afore-mentioned sauvignon blanc and chevre
              2) Riesling and Emmental
              3) Gewurztraminer and Gruyere
              4) Cabernet or Cab/merlot and Parmesan Reggiano
              5) Pinot Noir and Epoisses
              6) Syrah and pecorino
              7) Sauternes and Roquefort

              BUT, again, we're getting away from the wines you already have selected for your meal...

              I 100% agree about switching from cream to pan sauce for the pork dish, sounds scrumptious. Since you're likely serving with a red be sure there's some peppercorn there as well and your favorite red-friendly mushrooms would really help with all senses: visual, olfactory, and of course on the palate.

              Re Sauvignon Blanc if you're referring to the Snapper dish you have so many SB-friendly ingredients there (the pine nuts, the arugala, the peppers... not to mention the snapper itself).... that IMO it really doesn't make that much difference... I'd much rather have a Fume Blanc from a great vintage than a New Zealander from a poorer vintage and vice-versa so I'd concentrate on vintage here rather than varietal version....

              Lastly, I find it extremely interesting that you prefer the Pierre Peters Champagne for your appetizers.... as you may know, Peters "specialty" is blanc de blancs and I had written in my prior post:

              "...Alternatively, if we have a sweeter champagne with higher chardonnay (or 100% chardonnay) content, then that also hits this dish quite nicely..." and of course this high chardonnay (blanc de blancs) is exactly one of Peter's specialties...

              SO, if you're going with the higher chardonnay champagne as one initial wine this would still leave open a 2nd wine given that you have 4 appetizers on the spread... A Rose perhaps ?... but given that riesling keeps popping up as an interesting secondary connection to your entrees I'd probably still prefer that UNLESS there are some sweet overtones to your champagne...

          2. You will find that advice on this Wine Board ranges from excellent to poor. (Not that I am the final arbiter of such things.) You will find advice on this board that is helpful and insightful, and that which wildly misdirects. There are those on this board who have finely honed world palates, who know a vast number of the world’s varietals, their flavors, and how those varietals vary from region to region. Others don't have this knowledge or information, but that does not mean they have nothing to contribute.

            All to say, you, yourself, will have to discern which advice works for you and your meal and the wines available to you, and which does not.