MCI Wine Dinner– Chef Alan Neace, Sr.

January marks the second month of the Midwest Culinary Institute’s series of wine dinners. This month featured a menu created by Chef Alan Neace, Sr., who is on staff as an instructor at MCI, with wines paired by Laura Myers-Landoll from Vintage Wine Distributors.

Here’s the menu, with my comments.

Smoke-Roasted Corn Chowder with petite blue crab and shrimp filled morel
2005 Joseph Drouhin Saint-Veran, white burgundy

Wow! What a fantastic chowder. I’m not a real corn chowder person, but this was creamy and almost bisque-like, with just a few bits of corn and potato floating— not chunky at all. The morels stuffed with crab and shrimp were a great compliment. The white burgundy was nice, and enhanced the creaminess. I really need to do more wine pairings, and take notes– my wine notes won’t be great.

Cobenerro Crusted Sea Bass with quark spaetzle and cucumber-orange compote

2006 Domaine Sigalas Santorini, Assyrtiko

So far, Chef is batting 1000. This sea bass was amazing (though I couldn’t help but think about the environmental implications– I’ve been reading too much Michael Pollan). It was very well seasoned (a complaint all of us had from last time– things were too conservatively seasoned), a little spicy, and perfectly cooked. The cucumber-orange compote was a very nice, cooling compliment to the spicy fish. I could have easily eaten this as my entree and been a very happy lady. The Assyrtiko– which I hadn’t tried before– held up nicely to the spice in a way that most whites couldn’t.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salpicon with oven-dried cherry vinaigrette and elfin greens
2006 Chateau de Campuget Rose Rhone, Syrah/Grenache

My dining group, which included Drew, Drew’s wife Wendy, Laura Landoll, and my friend Ted are quite the sarcastic bunch. This dish came out and it was gorgeous– the salpicon was wrapped up in long slices of cucumber, surrounded with the vinagrette, and topped with the elfin greens (we joked that Chef had made that up, and that perhaps hobbits would serve the dish to us) and a chip of some sort, shaped in a half moon, that Drew (who is a professionally trained chef) deemed a Pringle. A fancy, tasty pringle at that– I love fancy little salads; I admit I am quite the green salad and cucumber girl, so I think I liked this dish more than the others did. I wasn’t terribly fond of the Rose– perhaps I’m still jaded by the whole “white zin” thing– but Roses just don’t do it for me.

Sumac Rubbed Roast Pork Tenderloin Roulade with ratatouille, haricot verts, aromatic infused pear, chive fragranced polenta cake and sauce diable
2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir or 2005 Consentino Winery Sangiovese

I love pork. I love pork in all incarnations. It is not hard to sell me on pork. My friend, Ted, isn’t a huge pork fan. We both loved this– the whole table loved it. The ratatouille didn’t quite seem to go with everything else on the plate (but was good), and the haricot verts were just a touch undercooked, but again, good, and a nice, green contrast to the earthiness of the rest of the plate. The Pinot Noir paired very nicely with the meal, but the Sangiovese was a better wine independent of it– so I’ll probably buy the Sangiovese. Plus, it was a steal– $16! The Pinot Noir isn’t organic– as Laura pointed out, who would want to work for a year for free if you couldn’t use pesticides once in a while– but is salmon safe! Considering how much I’ve been reading about sustainable fish (it’s all over the blogosphere), it was tremendously interesting that the run-off from these vineyards don’t harm the water. Look for a post about sustainable eating sometime soon.

Delicate Pistachio and Cranberry Cake with terrine of cream medly, Tellicherry red wine sauce and chocolate decor
2003 Les Clos de Paulilles Banyuls

Let me first go on about the wine. Oh, this wine. It was grape-y and berry-y and a little thick on the tongue. It was the best dessert wine I’d ever had. Laura said “this is the classic wine to pair with chocolate”. Dessert comes out? No chocolate! Well, there was a little bit of chocolate swirly decor, but otherwise? Not really. Now, mind you, the pistachio cake (which was slightly green and tasted mostly of almonds and filled with cranberry) was very good and most and flavorful, and the terrine of cream reminded me of Neopolitan ice cream– so I can’t complain about either, but I thought a different wine might have complimented it better than the Banyuls. Meanwhile, Drew sent one of the waitstaff back to get some of the rejected chocolate decors so we could have a little more chocolate to pair with this delicious wine– another bottle I’m going to have to pick up.

Afterwards, Drew took me on a tour of the facilities, which are stellar. The old culinary arts department at Cincinnati State was one small kitchen with just a few ranges. The new Culinary Institute is a world-class facility with twelve (!) kitchens, huge stations for each student, two sub-freezing rooms for butchering meat and fish separately, a pastry department that smells so good I could stand outside it all day, with an area for decor plus a room for baking. There, I met Chef Myatt who was teaching a pastry class. I sampled one of the student’s secret recipes (sorry, can’t divulge that secret!) which was delicious– these are some talented students. MCI is also sending a team to the Culinary Olympics in October: this is a hub for some exciting stuff, and we should be proud to have such a facility in Cincinnati.

I am very excited for next month’s dinner– I’m not sure who the chef is or who the wine rep is, but I’m sure it will be delicious.