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Feature Fri Oct 02 2009
Don't get sloshed. Don't get sloshed. Don't get sloshed.
This was my mantra as I walked into Tru to attend a wine dinner. Wine (and beer) dinners seem to be all the rage, don't they? You have a multi-course meal that's paired with wines from a specific winery, and usually someone from the winery is on hand to talk about the wine, answer questions and become your new best friend. Well, maybe not that last bit, but they certainly seem to be pretty accessible.
I'd wondered how good these evenings really were--did you get to understand wine more? Was the food decent? Did it pair well? Or was it just an expensive night out? Then I got the opportunity to try one, when Mirassou Winery (pronounced Mira-sue) invited me and other bloggers and journalists to Tru to showcase their portfolio.
Sounds like a tough assignment, right? Well, of course not--what foodie in her right mind would turn down a seven-course meal at Tru? However, it does actually get tough when you think about consuming seven glasses (or more, if they're good) of wine. After a while, the notes you're taking become scrawls, and you dangerously tiptoe along the line of becoming "that girl," the sloppy drunk one who suddenly says something inappropriate or spills red wine all over the white tablecloths.
Hence my mantra, especially since stairs were involved.
Yep, our party was in a private area on the second floor of Tru. It was a really nice space, perfect for our group of twelve, but I did have to walk up a flight of stairs to get there. Which meant I'd also have to get down at some point. After I'd consumed a good deal of wine.
I perched myself at one of the corners of the table, and immediately the server poured me some Mirassou Pinot Grigio. We drank and chatted with David Mirassou, the head of this winery that's celebrating its 155th anniversary this year, making it America's oldest winemaking family. He told us how the founders of the winery brought grape cuttings over from France to California to start their farm and that he's the sixth generation to continue the family business.
Then Chef Gale Gand appeared at my shoulder to tell us about the amuse bouche course.
Don't get sloshed and drool on Gale Gand. Don't get sloshed and drool on Gale Gand.
Chef Gand popped up to introduce most of our courses (when she wasn't available, one of the other servers capably filled in), which was a little bit of awesome. Apparently, they'd been planning this dinner for months, carefully figuring out what would be in season and working with the flavors to really match them with the wine. It was alluded to--and I'm not sure how true this is--that some wine dinners don't go to this level of detail when planning.
I have to say though, that Tru did a fantastic job, especially given the fact that Mirassou said the winery "designs wines for consumer preference. Others design wines to win awards." "Consumer preference" turned out to be code for "inexpensive." In my book, that's not necessarily a bad thing, and I found it interesting that we had this amazing, fancy meal paired with wine that sells at Binny's and Sam's for $9-10. Don't get me wrong--I enjoyed the wine too, but it was great to see how you can mix and match price points and get a great result (kind of like wearing a cheap t-shirt with a pair of $200 jeans).
The amuse bouche and first three courses were fish-based, paired with white wines from Mirassou's portfolio. Then we had a dish consisting of roasted skate with duck confit and roasted garlic consommé, paired with Pinot Noir, which led us into the heavier part of the meal, with venison and short ribs rounding out the reds. Dessert was supposed to be an apricot tarte tan paired with Riesling, but Chef Gand told us that apricots were lousy this year, so she used nectarines instead. Another fun tidbit I learned was that bread should also be eaten lightest to darkest, so as we enjoyed our white-wine courses, we should eat the baguette. The pumpernickel and onion roll worked better with the red-wine courses.
Tidbits like this are what make wine dinners a special experience. I learned a lot about a winery and how it operates, got some fun stories from the very personable Chef Gand and servers about the food and restaurants, and enjoyed some really good company. It's really a win-win situation. These dinners are a good way for restaurants and vintners (or brewers) to create some loyalty with their customers. Case in point: Before this dinner, I hadn't had much experience with Mirassou wines, but now I'd consider buying them. And for the diner, it's an opportunity to try a full portfolio of wines from one company, without having to travel to wine country or buy all the wine without knowing whether or not you like it. I also learned how to better pair wine with food, which can be extremely helpful to someone who doesn't drink much wine at home.
And Tru? Well, I can't imagine ever wanting to turn down a trip to Tru. Especially since I didn't spill, trip, or say anything that would cause me to be that girl.