French theme dinner with wine Pairing-7/13/13

   Food & wine In the kitchen

Originally the plan was to have my friends over for a casual dinner but then Kevin suggested having Foie Gras on the menu.  Foie Gras on the menu?  That is not a casual dinner if Foie Gras is included in the menu.  Oh well there goes my plan for a casual dinner!

Foie gras is a French delicacy and served on special occasion and since I am including it in the menu I had to rework my menu accordingly and change it to a "special" Dinner instead.

Took me a while to figure out what I wanted on the menu but once I have it had it down I knew I had to enlist the help of Phuc our "sommelier extraordinaire" for wine pairing.

Wine is meant to elevate food and with Phuc's wine knowledge, we can all count on him to pair wine that will make the food actually tastes even better!


It was a very nice evening so we are sitting out in our backyard enjoying a few cocktails.

Hoa was Adamant about not serving any appetizers so that we have enough room to enjoy the 5 course dinner tonight.

After gin & tonic we moved to Champagne.

Champagne is chilled and ready to be served....

Starting the evening with a glass of Champagne or a Kir royal.  Loan and I we opted for a Kir Royal! I just like a bit of sweetness in my champagne.


Sitting Down for Dinner





None of our guests are aware of what they are going to eat tonight.  Phuc is the only person that know the menu because his task is to pair wine with all the food.

The menu is hand out once all the guests are sitting down and everyone is reading it to find out what they are going to eat tonight! 

It is actually fun that way to discover the menu at the last minute.


The gang sitting down for dinner.


Appetizers Trio

1- Bacon & eggs: Soft poached Quail eggs with crispy bacon (in the back ground)

2- Simple Salmon tartar raw salmon with poached quail egg and crispy bacon

Close look at the bacon & egg.

This recipe is from the French Laundry, made with poached quail eggs, brunoise (diced cut carrot, turnip, leek) served with beurre monté (melted butter that remains emulsified).

The simple Salmon tartar is made with raw salmon mixed with mayonnaise, diced avocado, poached quail egg, and crispy bacon



View of both appetizers the way it was served.

For the Bacon & egg I decided to double the portion because the quail egg is so small and 2 eggs fit perfectly on the serving spoon. 

The bacon & egg is definitely a big hit. 

Phuc paired the first 2 appetizers with the 2011 Jarvis Finch Hollow Chardonnay. 

Note from the wine maker: "This Finch Hollow Chardonnay is made up of grapes from a special vineyard called “Finch Hollow”. For a few years after their planting, all our vineyards were open to flocks of Finches and blackbirds. After all our vineyards were netted and completely harvested by ourselves we noticed a lot more grapes from this particular vineyard. It had obviously been favored by the birds! Our Winemaker Consultant, Dimitri Tchelistcheff, noted that it was a distinct terroir which contributed an intense tropical fruit character. In this unique setting the vines grow in shallow soil on a steep hillside. Year after year we are impressed with the Chardonnay from Finch Hollow. It is barrel fermented in new French oak, and sur-lie aged with weekly stirring. The result is a bright, sunshine yellow wine with aromas of coconut and caramel leading to ripe mouth-filling lemon and apple flavors - an elegant wine from a remarkable harvest sure to make those you share it with feel privileged."


3-Steak tartar with crispy lotus root chip

The steak tartar is brought out to the table with quail egg yolk, chopped parsley, chopped cornichon, chopped capers.

This recipe is from Anthony Bourdain and according to his recommendation Beef tartar is made with filet mignon and the key to a successful steak tartar is fresh beef, freshly hand-chopped at the very last minute and mixed tableside and this is exactly what I am doing.



All the ingredients are mixed together at the table for freshness and it also a nice to see how it is done.

The steak tartar is served with fried lotus root and crispy root vegetable chips


Wine pairing: Veuve Clicquot Champagne.

Veuve Clicquot Champagne is a classic and we can't go wrong with it.

Salad Duo:

Shrimp croquette with oven roasted tomatoes served with Summer salad with asparagus, corn, tomato drizzled with asparagus/basil vinaigrette.

The shrimp croquettes were a hit!  The inside of the croquette is oozy and delicious.


Platting the dish on my kitchen counter....

Wine Pairing: 2009 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Chardonnay -95 Points from The Wine Advocate

Winemaker's notes:
"This complex Chardonnay hits you with layers of fresh mandarin orange zest, white peach, melon and candied lemon. Spicy nutmeg, vanilla pot de crème and toasty notes are balanced by bright acidity and an intense, mouthwatering, long finish." - Erin Green, Winemaker

Critical acclaim:
"Consistently one of the top Chardonnays in California, Pahlmeyer’s 2009 exhibits an impressive, thick-looking, light gold color with green hues. Loads of peach,
crème brûlée, honeysuckle, and subtle oak are present in this full-bodied, well-endowed, pedal-to-the-metal style of Chardonnay that will appeal to those who like white Burgundy, but with additional richness. Given its track record, expect this wine to age nicely for 5-6 years. "

Let's compare both chardonnay next to each other:

The Jarvis has a beautiful a beautiful warm and bright yellow color, an amazing bouquet that was so aromatic but somehow the finish note was lacking taste.

The color of the Pahlmeyer next to the Jarvis is not comparable, the Jarvis has a really nice, rich and buttery colors than the Pahlmeyer can't compete with. However the Pahlmeyer has an exciting mix of flavors built around roasted marshmallow, honeysuckle, citrus and melon, ending with a rich, spicy aftertaste. The taste is intense, focused, complex, and simply the best.  Our preference by a long shot is the Pahlmeyer.


Foie Gras

Before cooking the Foie gras I brought out the prepared Foie gras tray for our friends to take a look.

The Foie gras is pan seared and served with a balsamic reduction sauce and sautéed fresh blueberries.

The last time we had Foie Gras was awhile ago and let me tell you we all enjoyed this dish.  The blueberries was sautéed in a bit of brown sugar and butter and so the blueberries came out with a nice balance between sweetness and acidity.  The blueberries popped in your mouth and the Foie gras is simply to die for.



Wine Pairing: Château Guiraud 1990, Sauternes 1er Cru
 Deep golden/amber color, sweet wine with luscious and unusual lifted nose of nuts honey and new oak.  On palate, powerful and rich with plenty of botrytis and with a toasty, nutty edge. Concentrated and intense and simply amazing.

We managed to finished the bottle among 10 people.  This Sauternes went down very easily and was so smooth and delicious.  This is a really amazing bottle.


Trout Meunière with haricots Verts and sliced almonds.

This dish is a traditional French dish and to my surprise it was a hit.  Everyone enjoyed the crispy skin and the trout was perfectly cooked.

The haricots verts and sliced almond complimented the trout so well.  If anything I did not make enough haricots verts.


Pan seared duck breast with balsamic sauce served with caramelized onion & sautéed potatoes


Another classic dish that is elegant and eye pleasant.  The duck breasts are pan seared then served with a nice balsamic sauce reduction.


Wine Pairing: 2006 Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere grand cru -Spectator Rating: 93

Stephan von Neipperg's splendid 50-acre vineyard on clay and limestone soils has once again produced a beautifully ripe, concentrated, textured, sensual wine of both power and elegance. The 2006, an un-fined, unfiltered blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, reveals sweet aromas of fruitcake, cassis, black cherries, roasted herbs, cedar, and spice box. This pure, textured, forward beauty should drink well for 12-15+ years.--Robert Parker
Bright medium ruby. Highly aromatic nose combines blackberry, violet, tobacco leaf, licorice and cedar. Dense, lush, sweet and fine-grained, with a wonderfully pliant, silky texture devoid of rough edges. Utterly seamless, savory wine but with no shortage of vinosity or energy. Finishes suave and very long.--Stephen Tanzer
Shows black truffle, blackberry and tea leaf on the nose. Full-bodied, with extremely well-integrated tannins and a racy, velvety-textured finish. A beauty for the vintage.--Wine Spectator.


  During the whole evening we managed to drink for 10 people a total of 7 bottles including: 2 bottles of champagne, 2 bottles of white wine, 2 bottles of red wine, and one of the best Sauternes to date.

By the time were done with dinner we were feeling so relax and very happy that we did not even bother to take a pictures of the desserts!

I usually clean up after the guests are gone, well not this time.  This is the first time that once the party is over, I told Hoa that I am so tipsy so I am going straight to bed and I did not worry about tidying the house.  Cleaning can wait until the next morning!

We all think that the Sauternes is the one that gave us quite a buzz.  There are only 10 of us and we finished the whole bottle, meaning we had a least 3 or more small glasses per person.. It was good with the Foie Gras and it went down so easily that we forgot that Sauternes is meant to be sipped, not guzzled.  Our sommelier extraordinaire is too generous.  We could easily drink half of the bottle and save the other half for another meal but Phuc love to indulge us and who are we to say "NO" to one of the best Sauternes.


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