Last night, Master Sommelier Rob Bigelow graced the Magic City with his presence at BLT Prime's inaugural wine dinner. At the restaurant located in the Trump National Doral, BLT Prime's chef de cuisine Dustin Ward cooked up a five-course dinner to match wines from the Chateau Ste. Michelle Portfolio.
Prior to joining Chateau Ste. Michelle, Bigelow tells us he "spent a 12-year jail sentence in Las Vegas. Just kidding." He actually headed the wine program at the Bellagio for four years, during which he acquired the title of master sommelier, before moving on to open the Aria's 4,000-room F&B program. He also has a cameo in the documentary Somm, in which four sommeliers attempts to pass the toughest test in the world with the lowest pass rates.
Only 219 sommeliers hold the master title and Bigelow is one of them -- not an easy feat to accomplish. To call him an oenophile would be an understatement. The man can trump any wine knowledge you think you may have in a matter of seconds and educate you in the course of a five-course, wine-pairing dinner.
Dustin Ward, who was the opening executive sous chef at the Bazaar, kicked off the evening with some passed hors d'oeuvres that included oysters with caviar, gazpacho shooters with crab meat, asiago risotto meatballs, and hanger steak with chimichurri.
At the table, Ward's mentor Gerardo Reyes, who was his boss at the Bazaar and worked under Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, showed support and posed happily with War and Bigelow for pictures.
Frisee with confit rabbit, roasted figs, sunflower seeds, quail egg, and white truffle vinaigrette was a great start to the meal. "This dish was an excuse for me to buy truffle," said Ward. It was in fact packed with truffles, which is never a problem. Paired with a 2012 Eroica Riesling that was less sweet and heavier on acidity, the figs brought out the sweet notes in the wine. Pro tip from Bigelow: acidity masks sweetness.
A halibut with charred tomato, fennel celery root puree, artichoke, and saffron broth was delicate and delicious. Ward used minimal saffron to so that notes crept up on the back of your palate. "It's not like OMG saffron. Saffron is definitely a spice that can kill and overpower your palate when used with a heavy hand, so you need to be careful with it."
A multi-dimensional meat course included short rib ravioli, New York strip with Okinawa sweet potato puree, balsamic chipolini onions and carrot chips, and KFC sweetbreads soaked in buttermilk and tossed in a special seasoned flour. "It's KFC done right," says Ward. He's right -- the sweetbreads were astounding. This course was paired with two Cabernets -- a 2010 Torres Mas La Plana from Spain and a 2011 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars from Napa Valley. Bigelow had us try and guess which was which based on taste and smell. Pro tip: Old Word (Europe) wines are herby, earthy and light-bodied while New World wines are more alcoholic, fruit-centric and full-bodied.
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For dessert, Ward stole a recipe from his wife, who is a pastry chef and the head cake decorator for all the Whole Foods in South Florida. A 3D crème brulee was truly three-dimensional. Baked in a mold and then put into the freezer just long enough, it is not to be confused with a flan. Ward coupled it with a braised star fruit and a ganache-coated cherry. While the dessert was flawless on its own, paired with a 2013 Prunotto Moscato D'Asti from Piedmont, it proved to be the best pairing of the night.
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