Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Forbidden Love...and a whole lotta good food!

As you all know, I have a terrible penchant for good food. I will leave no stone unturned, I will not rest....until I find a dish that makes me go..."Mmmmmm".

Well, once again, Ginny came to visit this past weekend. Generally, when she visits, its because she wants to see me. Not this time. See, Ginny and I attended a class at the Kitchen Conservatory a while back and suffice it to say, we found our Happy Place. We've since determined that the appeal was just as much the two gentlemen presenting the class, as it was the food, as both were phenomenal.

We signed up for this session before we even had any idea what it was going to be about, based solely on the presenters, executive chef at Annie Gunn's restaurant in St. Louis, Chef Lou Rook, and his partner in cuisine, Wine Director Glenn Bardgett. Ginny's recent visit was scheduled around this class. As it turned out, the class was based on the local foods available right now in our area. Chef Rook is an active proponent of the Slow Food movement in St Louis, and Glen Bardgett is equally adamant about the quality of Missouri wines. We think they are both geniuses. (Lest there be any confusion, let me just say that we are not in love with these men, the "forbidden love" comes in a little later in the story.) Also, please bear in mind that I may have some of the wines with the wrong entree here as we moved back and forth quite a bit.

Adam Puchta Signature Port (Hermann) served chilled - Mostly Norton - Aestivalis
served with Maytag Blue Cheese (Iowa) on Lardo Bruschetta

Montelle Dry Vignoles 20080 (Augusta) - NY Hybrid Ravat 51 and
served with Sauteed Troutdale Farm (Lake of the Ozarks) Rainbow Trout, with a Grilled Red Haven Peach Chipotle Chili Ginger Salsa

Montelle Chambourcin 2008 (Augusta) - French Hybrid
served with Herb Crusted Leg of Lamb with Blackberry (Top of the Hill Farm, MO) Adam Puchta Norton Verjus (Hermann, MO) Butter Sauce
and Roasted Candy Onion (MO) St. Isidore Farm (Moscow Mills, MO) Heirloom Tomato Thai Basil Relish

Stone Hill Traminette 2008 (Hermann) - Illinois & NY Hybrid
served with Grilled Medallion of Jones Heritage Farm (Cape Girardeau, MO) Berkshire Hog Loin and Braised Baby Fennel (St. Isidore Farm, Moscow Mills, MO) Sweet Corn (Theis Farm, Creve Coeur, MO) Ozark Forest Mushroom (Salem, MO) Sautee

Augusta Winery Icewine 2008 (Augusta) 17% RS - Vidal Blanc - French Hybrid
served with Poached Red Haven Peaches (Eckert's, IL)
with Herb Crusted Goatsbeard Farm Fresh Goat Cheese

The first course was an amuse bouche of a Maytag blue cheese and lardo on ciabatta bruschetta. This lovely little grilled bread with its pungent smear went along famously with the chilled Port. I am not accustomed to being served port chilled, and there was discussion about how difficult it can be to convince people to try it, but I've got to tell you, at least in this particular case, it was wonderful. The berry notes in the port really brought out the flavor of the blue cheese. Having spent a number of years in Iowa, I am partial to the Maytag anyway, so I was very happy to start with this dish.

After that, we moved on to the rainbow trout. Admittedly, I am not a big fish eater, but I'd also be hard pressed not to try something so beautiful. I have been introduced to some amazing foods by keeping an open mind, and this was no exception. Ginny was shocked when I not only ate my serving, but took seconds when the dish was passed around.The slightly spicy peach and chipotle salsa really complemented the mild flavor of the fish.

Sadly, I was so engrossed in the event that I didn't take a sing\eel picture of the first two courses. That changed once we started moving on to the pork and lamb.....

The grilled pork loin was another winner, tender and juicy, and, yes, here is where the Forbidden Love comes in....As you may remember, I am allergic to mushrooms. Fortunately, on the occasions that I have eaten mushrooms, I have never really cared for them, so it has made the allergy more bearable. However, I do react differently to different varieties of mushrooms and there are many types that I've never tried. I hate to be left out as much as I hate missing the opportunity to try something I might not otherwise be exposed to. Sometimes that involves mushrooms. I know, I know, I'm allergic. But Ginny and I always carry Benadryl, and after the last class with Chef Rook, where we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sample Colorado Black Truffles, I came prepared. I was glad I did, too, because the vegetable sautee that was served with the pork loin had some lovely wild mushrooms in it. I was happy to pas on the little baby shitakes to Ginny, since I'm familiar with those already, but I had never had a Chanterelle and I wasn't about to be stopped. I carefully cut the little delicacy into tiny pieces so I could taste a bit with each bit of the pork.
**insert heavenly voices of angels singing**
All I can say is.... "hello, beautiful..."
Not only did I not expect to like it, I certainly didn't expect the barrage of wonderful taste sensations it had to offer, nutty, a little smoky, and buttery at the same time. Just a little nibble of heaven.
Great. So NOW what am I going to do??? I've fallen in love with the enemy....I mean, just look at this little melange of gorgeousness....*ahem* ok, so I guess I should tell you about the rest of the class, eh?

Yes, well, moving right along.....probably my favorite dish of the night was the leg of lamb. But really, what's not to love? I adore the flavor texture of lamb, and you know I am a huge fan of fresh herbs, so naturally I'm going to approve of this combination. And Chef Rook did not fail me.It was a fascinating mouthful of flavors, paired with a blackberry Verjus butter sauce and an heirloom tomato relish. If you've never had verjus before, you really should try some. Verjus, if you are unfamiliar, is unfermented grape juice, but let me tell you, this batch of Norton Verjus was ambitious....it really wanted to be wine....it was trying.....and we didn't mind a bit.
(see the blackberries just bubblig away on the stove top?)
Another local find was the heirloom tomatoes that went into the relish. If you're a foodie at all, you already know that fresher is better, but when it comes to tomatoes, these lovelies tasted more like tomato than anything I've ever put in my mouth. The flavor was just outstanding. It really made the dish sing. Last, but certainly not least, a dessert, of sorts. Early in the class, some peaches were covered in a Riesling and put on to poach.Those were later paired with little rounds of goat cheese which were delicately coated in an herb crust and pan fried until they were golden.The tartness of the goat cheese paired beautifully with the mild flavor of the peaches and the dish was accompanied by a sweet ice wine to bring it all together. Absolutely heavenly. I have not meant to leave out the wines, because believe me, they were a star as well. Glenn does a fantastic job of pairing wine to food and I now have two new Missouri wines to scout out at the local stores. By far, my favorites of the night were the Adam Puchta chilled port (rich and complex), the Stone Hill Traminette (crisp and citrusy), and the Montelle Chambourcin (just a mouth full of flavors, without being too tannic).

All in all, another memorable day for Ginny and myself, which we hope to repeat the next time Lou and Glenn are holding class. Cheers, guys! Hats off to you! Please forgive me if I missed any details or got anything mixed up, I'm still learning! I must need another class....when did you say you were going to be back again? *hint, hint*

Not to be overshadowed by all the wine, we couldn't resist making a quick stop by the Schlafly brewery on the way home to pick up a couple of growlers of their seasonal brews. If you get a chance, stop by and check out their Hot Liquor Lager and their new Scotch Ale. After tasting the Hot Liquor Lager, we knew without a doubt that it would make a perfect Michelada (beer with lime, salt, and bitters, Mexican style), and it was gorgeous, the foam turning just a slightly pink tinge from the bitters. It made for a heck of a midsummer's day and night!


Linda said...

I am drooling. That lamb...the blackberries...the peaches...
I wish I had been there! YUM!
And how much fun that must have been...except for the scary part of trying those mushrooms. You are daring!!

Joanne said...

This sounds like an amazing meal. I'm so jealous!

ARLENE said...

I've been staring at the goat cheese for WAY too long. OMG! Great menu, great friend to share your forbidden pleasures. Great photos! I would have to pass on the chilled port, though, lol.

Caroline said...

Wow, that is just beautiful! If I'm given a last meal, I'm calling you!! :)

I saw you just joined My Girl Paula! We're glad to have you and hope you have fun making the recipes. You're blog is fantastic and I'd give anything to live in the styx in a renovated schoolhouse!!

Kim said...

This sounds like a great girls night. I love going to cooking events like this. And, I don't blame you for trying those mushrooms. Hopefully you didn't get a reaction from them!! Plus, I see Caroline's comment above that you joined My Girl, Paula! I'm glad : )