Last night marked the second in the monthly series of innovative wine dinners at The Restaurant at the Setai. To kick off the series in style, we were invited to watch them pop some bubbly with an evening of Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
To prepare for these four-course dinners, executive chef Mathias Gervais and sommelier Dwayne Savoie pair up. The process normally begins with the chef tasting the chosen wines and starts out the week long process of menu planning taking into consideration what is local and seasonal, what they can surprise local diners with veering from traditional dinner menu -- "That would be too easy," Gervais says -- and what works best for highlighting each glass.
The meal last night began with a vintage (2004) Veuve Clicquot Brut and an open watermelon ravioli with Maine lobster, grown Homestead grapefruit, spring herbs and citrus hiding beneath the compressed gelée veil infused with basil and cilantro. The dish was refreshing and highlighted this often forgotten mid-range vintage champagne in between the standard non-vintage Gold Label and the Dom Pérignons of the world.
The Veuve Clicquot Rosé (2004) was popular for all those who love pink and sparkly. It paired beautifully with a favorite dish of the night, dover sole.
The poached fish in a scallop mousse was highlighted with peas, asparagus and pops of Alverta President caviar. Although, it was the lemon thyme that French-born Gervais said was reminiscent of his backyard in Provence that brought this dish to the next level.
From La Grande Dame label, the brut (2004) was served in a wine glass for a richer effect that matched the veal dish with crawfish, morels and tarragon.
Decanting champagne may seem a bit odd, but with the sweet Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec the delicate bubbles had an even smoother finish to top off the meal.
The milk chocolate dome is the only item also served on the regular menu and the Valrhona chocolate mousse paired with passion fruit in the center and a passion fruit sorbet on the side is a real keeper.
As many wine dinners can be stale, we learned a lot of fun facts at this one with the help of a brand representative at the table who taught us that it is not Veuve like Le Louvre, but rather pronounced Veuve like "love." Mind blown. In case your high school French is rusty, the word means widow. After her husband's death, when she was just 27, Madame Clicquot took over the wine business. She had it focus primarily on Champagne and was savvy on the best vineyards before the regions were classified and established the technique called riddling that helped champagne shine bright like a diamond without the cloudy sediment that was there before. This early feminist and strong business woman who lived from 1777-1866 gave us something to cheers to and whole new meaning to "La Grande Dame."
The series that began last month with Duckhorn is currently scheduled until the end of the year. It falls on the last Thursday of the month (with some exceptions during the holiday season). The next wine dinner will take place on June 26 at 7:30 for $115 per person (tax and gratuity included) with a reception and canapés overlooking those zen-like pools outside before entering for dinner inside at 8 p.m. The winery chosen is Bodegas Muga from the Rioja region of Spain. The menu includes poached and crispy organic eggs, asparagus and hollandaise, braised octopus, suckling pig and Valrhona Chocolate "Chaud-Froid."
Gervais was particularly excited about the suckling pig from a Florida farm that will go on the restaurant's rotisserie to be served with caramelized shallots, pork jus and a beet reduction.
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The chef also seems to love gold leaf, so for a sweet time and killer wine...
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