The world of wine can be intimidating. Wine drinkers might know that they enjoy certain types of wines and not others, but they might not know that Pouilly-Fuissé is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes or that Pouilly-Fumé is made entirely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. And they might be at a complete loss when wine geeks/cork dorks talk about tasting “terroir” in a wine.
An event held at Ave Restaurant at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa called “He Cooks, She Wines” was designed to help make wine a little less intimidating over a delicious four-course dinner.
Visiting chef Michael Forster did the cooking while his wife, author, wine coach and comedian Laurie Forster, provided the educational entertainment.
“It is my mission to demystify wine one glass at a time,” Laurie told guests before the first course. Her first bit of advice was to tell guests not to think of wine as a cocktail or a drink they have with a meal, but as part of the meal.
“Wine becomes part of the recipe of your meal if done right,” she said. The New Jersey-born Laurie told the story of how she met her chef husband. She was in her 30s, single and not dating and she signed up for a cooking class in hopes of meeting a man who was also taking the cooking class.
“When I arrived, I saw that the class was full of 30-something females just like me,” she said. “Not dissuaded, I did something they didn’t: I snagged me the chef teacher.”
During the evening, Laurie sometimes playfully teased her husband, noting that in New Jersey and New York, good-natured teasing is a sign of affection.
Each course of the meal was served with two distinctively different wines so guests got a sense of how wines pair with food.
She instructed guests to smell their wine by really putting their noses deep into their glasses, telling them that smelling wine is a major component of tasting wine.
“Really get your nose in there,” she said. “Don’t worry; you won’t fall in. I haven’t lost anyone yet and I don’t plan to start today.”
To really taste that pairing, Laurie told guests to try “wine sandwiches.”
“Try the wine first,” she said. “Then have a bite of food and then try the wine again.”
Each of the four courses was given a name, with the first course — a duo of seared pork belly and tuna sashimi served with a warm bean salad — called “Love at First Bite.”
Chef Michael explained each course before it was served, usually taking a playful ribbing from Laurie as he did it.
“You might think that having a chef for a husband means we eat good all the time. But that’s not always the case. His idea of breakfast is cereal,” she said at one point. “Cereal is one of the four food groups to him.”
The two wines served with the first course were a Riesling from Germany and an Austrian Grüner Veltliner, which Laurie pointed out is often called Gru-Vee in the wine industry.
“Who wouldn’t want a wine called groovy?” she asked.After guests had their wine sandwiches, Laurie went from table to table to ask which wines they thought paired best with the dish and to answer any questions about the wines.
“Opposites Attract” was the name of the second course that featured a ravioli-like pasta called ”agnolotti.” It was filled with a truffled mascarpone cheese and topped with a mushroom sauce. The dish was served with a California Chardonnay from Sonoma Valley and a Barbera d’Alba from Italy’s Piemonte region. Guests liked the dish pairing with Barbera better, which was unsurprising since the type of pasta originates from Piemonte as well.
Finishing up the savoury part of the meal was a course named “Yes Dear!”
“For you husbands here,” Laurie said, “’Yes, dear’ is the answer to every single question your wife might ask, except for, ‘Does my butt look big in these pants?’”
The course, which was beef short rib cooked sous vide style and served with a ratatouille muffin and crispy potato, was paired with a French Rhone Valley red blend and an “old vine” Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley. Though both wines paired well with the dish, the guests tended to like the pairing with the Rhone Valley blend a bit more.
Dessert, which was appropriately called, “Happily Ever After,” was chocolate mousse stuffed with vanilla mousse. The dish was served with Portuguese 10-year tawny Port and Brachetto, a semi-sweet, slightly sparkling wine from Piemonte, Italy.
By the time dessert was served, many of the guests were so happily sated they forget about their wine sandwiches and just enjoyed. Chef Michael, on speaking to guests at the end of the meal, showed he could dish out the same kind of playful teasing his wife served.
“Whichever wine people liked best with each dish, that was my pick,” he said.