It seems to be easier to articulate everyday experiences with food than it is to write an actual review of a particular restaurant or meal. That being said, if I find something to be difficult it’s usually interpreted as a sign I need to do more of it.
So here is a stuttering keyboard review of a Pecchenino wine pairing dinner at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado. And I picked the perfect night to forget my camera; at least the iPhone captured some semblance of the night’s eats and drinks. Tomorrow I’ll post the social and ‘fun’ parts of the evening. But today, review it is.
If you’re not into reading food reviews- and potentially even if you are- feel free to ignore the commentary and just enjoy the dimly lit food pictures instead. Nutshell: food, wine and overall experience exceeded expectations. So there you have it. You won’t miss a thing. The rest is my practice…
Before the actual four planned courses and wines from Pecchenino, I opted to start with a small bowl of plump, green olives and a glass of white from Friuli. The wine had crisp and clean notes of tart apples and served its purpose to rouse my palate from its deep slumber, according to my waiter.
I’d argue my palate was already wide awake. As was my stomach. Not eating much before dinner- my feeble attempt to conserve calories- wasn’t the most brilliant decision ever. But the decision to start with olives was. Their actual name didn’t make it into my little grey book, but they were only mildly tart and less pungent than most olives I’d met before; and they’d been marinading in olive oil with garlic, shallots and thyme.
Antipasto “Vellutata” was a light, puréed soup of early season Aspen Moon Farm Nantes carrots, kept company by sweet onions and butter, and finished with the subtle anise flavor of fresh tarragon. I’d actually made puréed carrot soup that morning for my practical midterm exam. I was happy with my 93%… but in a “Battle Carrot Soup” I would not have left Kitchen Stadium as the winner.
Paired with the antipasto was Pecchenino’s 2010 San Luigi Dogliani– a Dolcetto grape crushed in skins for ten days and finished in stainless steel. No oak here. I will not claim to be an expert in wines. I know what I like and what I don’t. This red was light, easily drinkable, definitely lacking wood undertones, and didn’t overpower the sweet carrots and tarragon. If you really want to know about this wine specifically, ask The Blissful Adventurer who tasted it the following evening at another wine pairing dinner. He’s logged many years in the wine industry and in Italia leading cycling tours. Absolutely no jealousy. None.
Primo of “Gnocchi di Patate” served with 2009 siri d’Jermu Dogliani Superiore may have earned the title of best-textured gnocchi I’ve ever eaten. Yukon potatoes were crafted into buttery pillows only feigning resistance as I bit into them. Almost immediately they vanished, leaving brown butter and parmigiano-reggiano lingering in their place. And these Dolcetto grapes spent fifteen days in skins and twelve months in oak casks definitely lending a richer complexity and more tannins than their steel-stored counterpart above.
Secondi “Agnello” was a duo of lamb- briefly seared rare tenderloin and house ground sausage- served over cannellini beans and sweet heirloom broccoli di Ciccio. Despite my love-hate relationship with cows– with lambs falling in the same category as cows for all intensive purposes- this dish was the most well-executed of the evening. The tenderloin balanced the distinct earthiness that makes a lamb a lamb without crossing the line into wild flavor merely for the sake of wildness.
But the sausage was the star setting this duo apart: the crust caramelized deep golden brown and crisp; the center moist from the addition of pork fat without greasiness. The flavor profile? Straight from Provence. Lavender and orange zest played beautifully with both the lamb and the sweet broccoli beneath in perfect balance.
The prize Pecchenino poured to complement the lamb was a 2005 Le Coste Barolo made entirely from Nebbiolo grapes, macerated in skins for 38 days and aged in oak for 36 months. It was slightly more tannic than I expected and definitely required a bold dish to keep it in check, but all that in place- it was deep, complex, and smooth. I know that Joanie is a fan of, and quite the expert on Nebbiolo grapes- feel free to pay her a visit if my wine review has left you… well, thirsty for more.
And finally, the Dolce part of the evening: a graham cracker “Torta” with blood orange supremes and cream cheese gelato. A lovely exercise in restraint. And not just my restraint from licking the plate at the end. Sweet acidity of the orange slices enhanced the surprising restraint of sweetness in the cake itself. And the flavor intensity of the cream cheese gelato was similarly subdued but the texture still smooth and creamy. Every flavor I wanted was present, but in a reserved manner leaving me wishing for one tiny bite more.
Or maybe that’s just my relationship with Dolce?