Back in college, one of my elective options was a wine and spirits course. (Totally made up for the evil three semesters of required accounting.) Each week we met twice. On Tuesdays we would hear a lecture about that week’s topic (beer, clear liquor, red wine, etc.). On Thursdays, we would meet in the afternoon to sample five versions of the that week’s alcohol of choice. It goes without saying this was one of my favorite classes (and, at a value of three college credits, a very expensive bar tab), but just like my restaurant cooking class, all the skills learned have long left the recesses of my brain. I’m sure I would have kept that information had I continued to use it, but what 22-year-old samples fine scotch on a Friday night vs. drinks draft beer and Two Buck Chuck by the box?? (See: not this one!)
Fast forward to last week’s cooking class where Braise’s sommelier, Hung Huong, gave us a very quick tutorial on opening and tasting wines. Here are a few tips I picked up.
***Editor’s Note: Friends, I did try to take pictures to document the evening, but the lighting was too romantic and frankly, the food, wine and company was too good to concentrate. Sorry these aren’t better, but I mean… even this oyster mushroom dish was amazing. I had duck mousse, Humba, and lamb for the first time. All were fantastic. My mouth is watering just writing about it. Anyway…***
- When uncorking wine, cut the foil under the second ridge so there is less chance of foil getting in the wine.
- When it comes to pairing wine with food, go with what you like vs. what you think you are “supposed” to do. Ex. You like red wine, but are eating chicken. Don’t worry about it. No judging!
- Serve sparkling wine in a white wine glass to get more of the “nose” (smell) than what you’d get in a flute.
- Don’t swirl the wine before you look at it and give it a sniff. The movement of the swirl will cover up imperfections.
- You often hear the term “aroma” and “bouquet” used with wine. If you are like me, you thought they meant the same thing. Turns out, not so much! Aroma describes the flavor from the grapes themselves. The bouquet includes the aging and processing techniques.
Hung suggested starting a wine club, which sounds like a fun monthly get together. The host would specify a very specific type of wine (ex. Chardonnay from France) and each guest would bring a bottle. Taste the wines with different foods (cheese, crackers, chocolate, meat) and see how that affects the flavor.
During class, we tasted a pinot grigio that was much dryer than I’m used to for that type of wine. It was great by itself and with a spicy pork dish, but I did not care for it at all when paired with a cheese. It’s so interesting that separately the food and wine were delicious, but all together I kind of wanted to spit everything out.
Which brings us to the other part of this week’s class – menu planning. As we get close to the holiday season, there is a good chance a Fancy Homemade Dinner is on your horizon. Consider going from cold to hot, a la salad, soup, main course. Be sure to have a variety of textures (crunchy vs. creamy), cooking methods, and color. As we were planning our graduation dinner, we came up with a course that was all white foods. It sounded delicious, but it sure would not have been attractive! I’m sure it goes without saying, seeing as this class is taking place at a restaurant known for seasonal and local sourcing, but do try to use what’s in season whenever possible. Folks will enjoy a hearty root vegetable stew more than a tomato and basil salad at this time of year. The flavors will be much better.
(P.S. A cheese tray is always welcome if I’m the one coming over!)
As I mentioned, we did plan out our menu for the graduation dinner. Fueled by four glasses of wine, a belly full of delicious dishes off the regular menu, and a few too many opinions, it took us quite a while to get this out. You know the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen”? Well, that lead to this:
Doesn’t that look delicious? 🙂
Sure, it doesn’t read like much, but I can vouch, this is going to be amazing!! Four courses of the best food us novice chefs can produce. Of course my favorite dish is dessert – poached pears with peppercorn caramel sauce and a cranberry and walnut biscotti dipped in chocolate. Yes, dessert two ways! You’re going to have to stick around to see what else we are serving.
Or join us! The graduation dinner is this Sunday, November 16, starting with a reception at 5:30pm. Tickets to the event are $50, plus another $20 if you want the optional wine pairing matching each course. To order tickets, call Braise, ask for Molly and tell her I sent you. Tickets must be purchased by this Thursday. There are only a small number of tickets available.
This class has been so much fun. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself tomorrow night. Maybe I will bake bread and create handmade whipped butter just because I can.