Saturday, October 24, 2009

Frog's Leap Wine Dinner at Zin

What do you get when you combine one of the best chefs in the desert with one of the best restaurants in the desert with one of the best organic wine companies?

Clearly, an excuse to fork out $70 bucks and find a friend to dine with pronto! Which is exactly what my friend Kaleo and I did this past week when we heard that Chef Aaron Kiefer (East Meets West Catering) was crafting a special parings menu for Frog's Leap Vineyards wine at one of our favorite restaurants in town Zin.

Mindy Reed, owner of Zin American Bistro in Palm Springs is offering wine dinners monthly with guest chefs and this was my intro to the inner sanctum of foodie delights. We ate family style at a table that happened to be filled synchronistically with old friends: a local radio personality, a local PR guy, a renowned and fun food writer and his wife and an old female mentor of mine who owns a grieving children's non-profit. Wine, good conversation, dimmed golden lights that lent a surreal and tasty haze to each bite and laughter ringing throughout the night!

The Menu:
Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, 2008
Spiced Pumpkin Bisque with Chive Spaetzel,
Manchego Cheese
"One person at our table upon taking a bite of this soup exclaimed It Tastes Like Fall!"
The toasted almonds and chewy spaetzel fragments created a mouth textural explosion in this soup that wasn't too sweet like some pumpkins.

Merlot, Napa, 2006
Potato Wrapped Veal Sweetbreads, Melted Leeks, Fingerling Potatoes, House Cured Maple-Spiced Bacon
Pairing this spicy dry merlot with the sweetbreads was brilliant as the red wine tempered the poignancy of the sweetbreads and the perfect portioned strips of potato around the musky meats lent the perfect crispy package before the sweetbreads burst in the mouth.

Zinfandel Napa, 2007
24 Hour Braised Beef Short Ribs, Fig and Arugula Risotto,
Pistachio Pesto, White Asparagus “a la Plancha”, Zin Jus
The fig and arugula risotto was so subtle and a perfect example of Chef Aaron's ability to infuse his progressive dishes with just hints of aromas and tastes that other chefs might go overboard on. The short ribs fell from the bone just by looking at them, and the very slight smokiness of the seared exteriors was the only flavor accentuating the exquisitely cooked beef just like it should be.

FRĂ–GENBEERENAUSLESE, Late Harvest Riesling, 2007
Rum-Ricotta Cake, Vanilla Croutons, Meyer Lemon Crema,
Aged Balsamic and Blueberries
The tang of the Meyer lemon creme in this desert put an exclamation point on the evening!

I will be making a permanent reservation at these dinners. If anyone wants to join me, visit for the schedule. Would love to fill a big table for the November evening!

Fig and Arugula Risotto
For the Vegetable Stock:
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 celery stick, coarsely chopped

For the Risotto:
1 and 1/2 oz (40 grams) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
12 oz (350 grams) risotto rice
5 tablespoons dry white wine
1 and 1/2 tablespoons Parmigiano cheese, freshly grated plus extra to serve
6 fl oz (175 ml) single cream
Small bunch of Arugula, chopped
½ Cup Dried Figs

Salt and pepper
Prepare the Vegetable Stock:
Place all the vegetables in a large saucepan, pour in 1.5 liters (2 and 1/2 pints) water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.
Lower the heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly, then strain into a bowl pressing down well on the vegetables with a spoon.

Prepare the Risotto:
Bring the stock to the boil.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan, add the onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, until grains are coated in butter.
Add in the wine and cook until it has evaporated.
Add a ladleful of the hot stock and cook, stirring until it has been absorbed.
Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, and stirring until each addition has been absorbed. This will take 18-20 minutes.
Just before the rice is tender, stir in the Parmigiano cheese and cream, sprinkle with the arugula and season with and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a warm serving dish and serve with extra Parmigiano cheese. Serves 4.

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