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Photo: Priscilla DicksonDaniel Boulud, Jerome Bocuse, Denman Moody, Thomas Keller, Richard Rosendale

Dinner of the Decade

Last month, I discussed the $5,000 per couple dinner for the Sheriff’s Foundation held at the home of Deana and Larry Blackburn on Sept. 29, 2012. The lineup of chefs — probably unrivaled in the world that evening — were the chairman, president and vice president of the Bocuse d'Or Foundation, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jerome Bocuse respectively, and this year’s contestant from the U.S. to the Bocuse d'Or International World Cuisine contest in Lyon, France, Master Chef Richard Rosendale, executive chef at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. This month, I will focus on the wine pairings (which I did my best to perfect) with the fabulous dishes created by the chefs.

The appetizers from Richard Rosendale: Warm Gougere, Beef Carpaccio and Truffle Aioli, Crisp “Pont Neuf” Potato, Whipped Cream Cheese, Nori Powder, Smoked Duck, Coconut Rice Cake, Hoisin, Enokitake Mushroom, Tuna Tartar, Ginger Bavarian, and Soy Gelee, Melon and Chorizo Pops, Midori Pudding, Vanilla Salt, and Assorted Grape and Goat Cheese “Truffles.”

For such an array of tastes, we needed a sparkling, a white and a red, so we had Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee Sparkling Wine 2004, Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Decoy Napa Valley Red Wine 2010.

The Gloria Ferrer is from the Freixenet stable of wines, and is named after the owner’s wife. It is a noticeable step above the lovely Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut both in taste and price, and competes favorably with Brut Champagnes priced $15 to $20 more per bottle. Toasty elegance. Duckhorn has been making superior Sauvignon Blanc since 1982. This one has bright citrus flavors along with layers of tropical fruit and excellent acidity. Great for pairing with hors d’oeuvre. The Decoy is a new wine made with about equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and is about the best wine of its type I’ve found in its price range. It is round, plumy (from the Merlot) and has a subtle power and long finish from the Cabernet Sauvignon. A slam dunk choice for an all-purpose red.

Jerome Bocuse’s dish was Maine Lobster, caramelized porcini, Chef’s garden mesclun salad and black truffle vinaigrette. The matching wine here was the actual introduction to the Houston market of the new Barons de Rothschild Champagne. I guess the different branches of the Rothschild family got tired of purchasing someone else’s Champagne to serve with their great wines, so they decided to make their own. So, for example, you’ll probably get this at either Lafite or Mouton —whichever you happen to visit for dinner in the future! They’ve come straight out of the gate with a triple--crown winner (three different styles) in this case the Brut. It has a “strong, assertive opening that leads to a well-rounded wine — powerful yet restrained…” It shows off beautiful notes of pear, hazelnuts and toast, and the complexity begs not only for hors d’oeuvre, but also for appetizers — in this case seafood!

The next course was Thomas Keller’s Dover sole “a la grenobloise,” Romanesco cauliflower, Meyer lemon and brown butter mousseline. The pairing was Far Niente Chardonnay 2010 — perfect. Gil Nickel set out to create a Corton-Charlemagne look-alike and has pretty well succeeded. In fact, I wrote about his first Chardonnay, the 1979, which I tasted at the first Far Niente tasting in Houston — at the Houstonian — in 1980. This wine actually has aromas of Meyer lemon, along with figs and a hint of honeysuckle. It is elegant and persistent, enhanced by good acidity and minerality — qualities of many great wines.

Daniel Boulud’s entrée was a Duo of Texas Beef: Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Carrot, and Roasted Wagyu Tenderloin, Five Peppercorn Sauce, Lilliput Capers, Nasturtium Salad, paired with Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard 2009 and Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Syrah 2007.

The Eisele Vineyard has had accolades and fame since the ’70s, with the Phelps Eisele Cabernet being one of Robert Parker’s and my favorite wines. This gorgeous ’09 Araujo Eisele is almost 100% Cabernet, and it “…exudes rich and ripe aromas of bramble, wild raspberry, black cherry and scorched earth with notes of lavender, dried rose petals, sage, bay laurel, loam and bittersweet chocolate.” I guess at over $300 a bottle, it should be rather complex and delicious. And it is! Very rare juice. The Lewis Syrah ’07 comes from Napa mountain vines in low-vigor volcanic soils. It is a northern Rhone look-alike with very ripe, rich fruit, and with balancing acidity and oak. The flavors are peppery/blackberry/sirloin strip, with notable structure and balance.

Although there were two desserts each from chefs Keller and Boulud, the primary ones for pairing with the dessert wine were “Tarte au Chocolat”, Tahitian vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce from Keller, and Caramelized honey crisp apple Napoleon and Granny Smith ginger sorbet from Boulud. In the unlikely event anyone had room for another bite, Keller added Cinnamon sugar beignets and French Laundry Garden strawberry melt aways, and Boulud added Passion Fruit/Raspberry gelee and Coconut macarons! The wine: Dolce Napa Valley 2006 — Once again, we visit my late friend Gil Nickel, founder of Far Niente.

For Dolce, he wanted to produce a dessert wine at the same quality level of appreciation as the most famous dessert wine in the world, Chateau d’Yquem from Sauternes in Bordeaux. I conducted two blind tastings in the late ‘90s of Dolce and Chateau d’Yquem, with the Yquem — which needs more age — about three vintages older (one was ’93 Dolce vs. ’90 Yquem). In both tastings, Dolce won by a good margin. Every vintage of Dolce has a fascinating bouquet with even more beautiful fruit than most wines from Sauternes — at least early on, when most people drink the wines. The ’06 has layers of enticing, delicious, sweet, caramel/butterscotch flavors. Rich in taste and exhilarating in the long, memorable finish — especially when paired with desserts like these — it’s easy to tell this is one of the great dessert wines of the world.


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