I had such a great experience at the first special Chops n Catch Dinner last month! I definitely knew I wanted to attend the next one, and was excited to find out that there would be another held in March, this time with focus on wine – sign me up! The wines were provided by Gerard Bertrand, a French winemaker that was recently voted European Winery of the Year.
Evan did not join in this time, but Jeff still was up for some wining and dining, even though he is not the biggest wine fan. Kudos to him for being adventurous!
With the dessert course…be patient, we’ll get there.
I was running late but it was still “cocktail hour” time when I arrived. Jeff was a loyal foodie and waited for me before digging into, and by that I mean eating-in-one-bite, the first passed appetizer, the shiraz-braised shortrib. I definitely suck because I didn’t take a photo. My camera was taking forever to get into the correct settings (I don’t even think I ever got it there) and I was impatient and wanted to dig in!
Just picture a bite of beautiful brown shortrib sitting on a silver spoon – at first I was confused as to why it was served that way, but got the reasoning once I finished the bite of meat and saw shiraz left pooled in the spoon. The app was VERY shiraz-braised, and I loved it. The presentation showed, along with the taste, just how much wine was used in the recipe. It was definitely the fruitiest shiraz I have EVER tried. I don’t think I would like drinking a glass of it, but with the meat, it tasted wonderful. I’m also sure there were other ingredients mixed in with it that made it taste fruitier than it would as a glass of wine alone.
We were soon poured our first glasses of wine (paired with that ever-important H2O) that were meant to be paired with the first course, but there was quite a delay between the pouring of the wine and that course being served, signaling the end of the “cocktail hour”. It was a little tough to hold back from drinking our wine, but we wanted to save it to have with the food, as it was meant to be drank. I would hope that at future Chops ‘n Catch dinners, the time period of passed appetizers would not be so long.
We also never received the second passed app, the blackened ahi tuna with cucumber relish. I mentioned this to our waiter, and after checking in the kitchen, he returned with a promise that he would bring one out to us after the first course, asparagus and goat cheese bisque with tri-colored cherry tomatoes, was served. Fine with me!
The bisque was really excellent, but Jeff and I both agreed it could have been presented better. I would have liked to see the tomatoes and asparagus stalk less “buried”, especially since the tomatoes’ interesting colors were essentially hidden under the thick soup. The taste was very impressive though. The goat cheese could have easily overpowered the asparagus, but both flavors were very well balanced and the soup was not too heavy like some bisques are.
It paired pretty well with the white wine pictured above, the Reserve Speciale Viognier. The hostesses from Gerard Bertrand called it fresh and floral. I liked this white because it was very dry. I’m not usually a white person but I was able to enjoy this one, it had notes of apricot but was not too sweet.
After the first course, just as the waiter promised, we were delivered the second pass appetizer, the blackened ahi tuna with cucumber relish. WOW. It was cooked perfectly, slight crispiness on the outside and nice and rare in the middle. The relish was so fresh!
The next wine was a red – yay! And a Pinot Noir too – double yay! The Reserve Speciale Pinot Noir is Gerard Bertrand’s best-seller in New England. It had a lot of soft fruit notes and though it wasn’t as robust or dry as I usually like my reds, I did enjoy it.
I definitely enjoyed the second course’s food component more though – BBQ pork belly with vinegar slaw and fried hot peppers. I LOVE PORK BELLY. It cut like butter and had nice crispy corners – those were my favorite bites. The slaw tasted just like the classic slaw that comes with all the burgers at Catsup & Mustard, one of Corey Wry’s other restaurants. The fried hot peppers were so good, but then again what fried anything isn’t good?
For the entree, we were given a choice of two entrees - housemade salt ‘n vinegar potato chip crusted crab cakes with sweet ‘n spicy broth or herb-seared boneless lamb loin with manchego cheese and potato croquette. For Jeff and I it was a no brainer - crab cakes all the way! The crab cake was served with the white pictured above, the Cremant de Limoux, a sparkling wine similar to champagne. Cremant is actually the original sparkling wine of France, and preceded champagne! The lamb was served with the above-pictured red, the Grand Terroir Tautavel, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan grapes. I love red blends because every one tastes unique and they often contain some of the less common grapes (I had only heard of Syrah in this blend, for example).
I actually ended up requesting that my crab cake entree be served with the red wine, because not only am I not a white wine person, but I am REALLY not a sparkling wine person. I have issues with carbonation (as in I usually can’t stand it). I know that may have “thrown off” the pairing, but I often drink red wine with my seafood. Jeff the not-wine-lover however, jumped at the chance to try a sparkling wine. He liked it, and I liked my red as well. Not so sure about how well it paired with the crab cake – didn’t pair badly, but just didn’t strike me as an interesting combination of flavors.
The crab cakes were so good though. While we were a little bummed that the crab cake was not completely encrusted in potato chips, as the entree’s title led us to believe, we were both extremely impressed by the abundance of crab (and subsequently, lack of filler, a good thing). The sweet ‘n spicy broth was indeed both sweet and spicy and had a great balance of the two flavors. I wish I had gotten to take a big potato chip encrusted bite of crab cake, but I got a similar effect when I had some of it with the potato chips at the same time, perched on top. Yummy!
Our favorite pairing was yet to come though! Dessert was a pistachio souffle and vanilla bean sauce served with vanilla ice cream, along with a glass of port-style dessert wine, Banyuls. I ADORE ports, and was so excited that the dessert wine wasn’t a sparkling white. It was so, so amazing with the ice cream. I just wanted to take a scoop of it, drown it in port, and eat that out of a bowl. The souffle was pretty awesome as well, but the port-ice cream combo stole the show. I didn’t want it to end!
It was another tasty experience at CW’s Chops ‘n Catch, and my calendar is already marked for their next event on Monday, April 30. I await the menu with bated breath!
Which course would you have wanted to try most?