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Rate and Review
Lunch and Learn Review
Food & Wine Festival
Lunch and Learn Series
Mark Franz and Emily Luchetti
Farallon, San Francisco, California
Charles Krug Wineries
Sunday, October 19, 2003
Wine: Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee
Anchovy Tartlet with Fennel, Olives and Orange Salad
Wine: Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family 2002 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Tuna with Foie Gras, Leek Puree and Black Truffle Madeira Syrup
Wines: Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family 2002 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc;
Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family 2000 Generations Napa Valley Meritage
Whole Roasted Striped Bass with New England Lobster Mousse, Lentils and
Wines: Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family 2000 Generations Napa Valley Meritage;
Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family 1999 Vintage Select Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine: Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family Reserve Zinfandel Port
Editor-in-Chief, ALL EARS®
when tickets for the special dining events of Epcot's International Food
and Wine Festival go on sale, they sell out within 48 hours. This is usually
before many of the particulars of the events (winery, chefs, etc.) are
even announced. It's a dilemma, since you're never quite sure what you're
in for until you get there.
So it was with some trepidation that I booked seats at the very first Lunch and Learn experience, a new series of dining events that Disney inaugurated this year on Sunday, October 19. All I knew when I made the reservations was that the event would feature acclaimed chefs preparing and explaining lunch and wine pairings over the course of 2.5 hours at a Walt Disney World signature restaurant -- in this case, Spoodles on Disney's BoardWalk. All I could do was hope for the best.
We arrived 15 minutes before the appointed time of 11:30 a.m., and waited along with our dining partners in the reception area of the restaurant. We thought it a bit odd that no one came out to greet us, but we could clearly sense the buzz of activity in the dining room. Shortly before noon, a Cast Member came out carrying a few bottles of Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee, from Sonoma, California. Soon, all 20 of us milling about were sipping the bubbly. I felt the sparking wine was perfect as an aperitif, not too dry nor sweet, though others in my party felt it was without distinction.
Soon, we were escorted into the main dining room, which had been transformed into a cooking demonstration area. The tables were arranged in a large horseshoe with the kitchen demo table at the head, just in front of Spoodles' open kitchen. The rustic wooden tables were nicely set, and the entire ambiance was relaxed and welcoming. A glance at the menu, though, and my heart sank -- all three courses listed were fish, and I don't much care for seafood. My only consolation was that many of the wines listed were good vintage reds, which promised to more than make up for my lack of interest in the food.
Our guest hosts for the afternoon were Mark Franz and Emily Luchetti (pictured above) from Farallon restaurant in San Francisco, and Peter Mondavi, Jr. (left) from Charles Krug Wineries. After some introductory remarks by Mark and Emily, Peter told us the history of the Mondavi family's involvement in the wine industry. The rest of the lunch experience continued in this way -- Mark and Emily showed us how the course was prepared, then Peter explained the rationale behind the wine pairing for each course.
Lunch began with the preparation of a Spanish Anchovy Tartlet with Fennel, Olives, and Orange Salad (right). Mark convinced us, or tried to, that Spanish anchovies are very different from those we're used to seeing scattered on pizzas, and do not share their cousins' intense fishy, salty flavor because of how they are preserved. The tartlet was a creation of a simple butter pastry by Chef Emily, which she explained could be used for a wide variety of courses, including dessert. It was so flaky it practically melted in your mouth. In addition to explaining the some of the science behind the preparation method (cutting the butter with the flour into small peas allows pockets of air to form when the butter melts during the baking process, making for a flakier crust), Emily also instructed us on how to make and freeze the tartlets for use later in the week. I only took the tiniest of taste of the anchovy and agreed that it did not taste like the anchovies I have known, but... it was still anchovy and I couldn't eat any more of it! The fennel and orange salad, on the other hand, was fresh, light and delightful! The Charles Krug 2002 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (100%) that accompanied this course was crisp and clean, with a hint of citrus, complimenting the anchovy and fennel nicely. I was surprised to learn that this wine retails for just $16.
As the food preparation continued, I noticed that the bass being served as a main course would be stuffed with a lobster mousse. I called a server over to explain that I had an allergy to shellfish, and he returned a few minutes later to tell me the chef would prepare a piece of salmon for me instead. I appreciated this attentive service and accommodation, and felt that was more than sufficient (as did another diner who also had the salmon).
Our second course was Seared Tuna with Foie Gras, Leek Puree, and Black Truffle Madeira Syrup (left) accompanied by a Charles Krug 2000 Reserve Generations Napa Valley Meritage. Both chefs as well as Peter were interested to see if we preferred the traditional white (the Sauvignon Blanc) or the unorthodox red (the Meritage) with this course. I removed the Foie Gras (to the appreciation of the beneficiary on my right) and began to slice the tuna. The seared tuna was just that -- seared on the top and bottom and not even warm in the middle. I would have liked it a bit more well-done, but managed to eat most of it combined with the yummy Leek Puree. The Meritage, a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot, was full-bodied with a strong finish. I preferred it over the white with this dish, and was happy to learn that Peter agreed. This wine, by the way, retails for about $38 a bottle, they told us.
Third course was a Stuffed Whole Roasted Striped Bass with New England Lobster Mousse, Lentils and Ravigote Sauce (right) accompanied again by both the Meritage and the Sauvignon Blanc. It was fascinating to watch as Mark Franz prepared the bass, boning it almost effortlessly, then stitching it up after it was stuffed. They brought out another chef from their restaurant who discussed the preparation of the lobster mousse, from cooking the lobster (boil in salted water to recreate the flavor of the ocean), to how he was forced to substitute additional prawns instead of scallops, due to availability issues. The ravigote sauce, which I did not sample, was a blend of Italian parsley, garlic, chives, chervil, anchovies, fish stock and seasoning. My salmon arrived with the same accompaniments as the bass, and I enjoyed the French Puy lentils seasoned with a sweet onion and bay leaf. My dining companions raved about the bass with the lobster mousse, calling it "a meaty white fish filled with the delicate flavors of lobster and cream." They called the sauce "fresh, lightly oniony, and a perfect compliment to the bass -- not fishy at all," adding that it was a recipe that they would certainly make at home. I felt that the Meritage worked well with the salmon, and my companions agreed it was their preference with the bass. Peter again agreed, citing the richness of the lentils as calling for the deeper vintage.
Halfway through the third course, we were treated to a very special additional red, which Peter called his family's "signature wine" -- Charles Krug 1999 Vintage Select Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is not sold yet in stores, but is brought out by the winery at special dinners and events, such as this Lunch and Learn. This was a full-bodied complex wine with lots of aromas and flavors -- SO good and perfect with the rich chocolate dessert that was subsequently served. I could also see it being a great companion for that Chateaubriand dinner I have been dreaming about.
Dessert was a Coffee Chocolate Tower: a white chocolate coffee mousse served on a round of chocolate cake, with a chocolate glaze, vanilla creme Anglaise and candied macadamia nuts. I was ever so glad to have a second glass of the red wine to go with my dessert -- it truly was wonderful! The macadamia nuts really added to the tastes and textures. I am not much of a port drinker, but did feel that the Family Reserve Zinfandel Port that was served as the "official" pairing was quite good. What a great way to end a wonderful lunch experience!
Each dish was served simply yet elegantly, as you can see in the accompanying photos. As we finished dessert, Mark, Emily, and Peter worked their way around the table, talking to each person and answering questions. They were excellent demonstration chefs who were full of great "at home" tips as they prepared each course of the meal. Peter Mondavi did an excellent job of explaining each wine and discussing how it went with the meal as we went along.
All in all, this was a wonderfully informative and enjoyable afternoon. Both chefs and the winemaker allowed ample opportunity for questions from the diners throughout their presentations, which enhanced the overall experience greatly (although each of the speakers would have benefited greatly from a cordless microphone). The relaxed setting and the interaction with the participants provided for a unique dining experience, well worth the $75 price tag. (And the wines more than made up for my lack of interest in the menu!) If you're looking for a new way to learn more about food and wine, I heartily recommend you give the Lunch and Learn series a try!