Last night I skipped down to Alexandria where we had an awesome meal at BRABO (www.braborestaurant.com) about a year ago. I am so glad I got the email about their Virginia wine dinner as this was indeed a special event and I was thrilled I signed up. On arrival we were ushered into the intimate lobby of the Lorien Hotel (where Brabo is located) as they had set us up for about 35 people or so in a private dining area there.
We were served THIBAUT-JANISSON "Xtra Brut" Blanc de Chardonnay which I had tasted before, but forgot how impressed I was with this awesome sparkling wine which is probably the best in the entire state. Winemaker & Co-Owner Claude Thibaut was circling around the room and we had the chance to chat with him about this terrific wine.
Soon we were ushered into the dining room and I was seated next to Jason Tesauro who is the Chief Sommelier & National Brand Director for one of my favorite wineries, Barboursville. Jason was a replacement at the last minute for the venerable Luca Paschina, who has been making spectacular wines for decades in Virginia, and in Italy prior to that. We've know Luca for a long time, and while I was sorry he was not there, I found Jason to be so lively and ebullient that I was thrilled to meet and sit with him. We drank more of the Xtra Brut as the amuse bouche of SMOKED TROUT PANNA COTTA, Verjus Mirroire & Trout Roe arrived. While this treasure was indeed amuse size, I could have eaten a dozen; I just wanted more, but I knew many courses were to follow and satiate....so I restrained. The creamy panna cotta had many folks thinking this was going to be sweet, but I was not fooled, and the flavor burst from the cream and roe was divine.
The first course was a RABBIT BALLONTINE, Roasted KURI SQUASH, Asian PEAR & Pepitas which wowed everyone. The encased rabbit fillet was tender and delicate and the wine was so restrained it was an ideal pairing. Jason introduced the Barboursville Vineyard "Reserve" Vermentino 2013 and joked that the room was denser with sommeliers then a Vegas dining spot. Indeed, since Brabo is owned by Chef Robert Wiedmaier, his chief sommelier, Ramon, from Marcel's in DC was heading up the staff who meticulously cared for all our wine needs. The bright white wine was dry yet full of tropical flavors in the first pour, which did get lost in the colder temperature refill (but I warmed it up quickly with my hands and was very happy again).
The second course was a Stuffed VIRGINIA QUAIL Breast, CHANTERELLE Mushrooms, Grilled PEARL ONIONS & BACON JUS. Simply said, I chewed every bit of meat off the tiny leg and left not a dribble of sauce on my plate. We joked about asking for bread to insure there was no sauce left, but then remembered more was coming and wanted to avoid those filling carbs! Rachel Martin of Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg introduced her "TOPIARY" 2011 as a blend of 68% Cab Franc and 32% Merlot which was a ready to drink now red that I could enjoy with our without food. She explained that the blending percentages vary by year and that while Boxwood is known for reds, they will be unveiling their first white very soon. I was not familiar with Boxwood, other than by name, and am so happy we have another fantastic winery to visit so close to DC.
Third was a FOIE GRAS GATEAUX with Sauce Bordelaise which was Hudson Valley Foie gras enrobed in Chicken Mousseline. Need I say more? The wine was RdV "Rendevous" 2009 which was the only winery without representation. I had RdV's extremely high priced wines at a dinner over a year ago (also in Alexandria at Eve) and while I gave in and purchased 3 bottles of this same wine at $100 each(!!!), I reminded myself that it really needs a while in the bottle as it is a huge Bordeaux style blend of Merlot, Cab Franc & Petite Verdot. I felt this was a bit too overpowering for the foie gras, but many folks felt it was a great pairing; wine is so personal!
Next was a Juniper Dusted VENISON LOIN accompanied by Smoked CHESTNUT PUREE, Swiss CHARD, Glazed BABY BEETS & Red Wine Jus. I knew winter had arrived and anything with venison or chestnuts wins me over in two seconds flat. This dish was no different. The meat was perfectly seared just past rare and oh so tender; the puree enveloping and the veggies divine. The Barboursville Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2012 is my first time with this particular vintage and it has always been my favorite Cab Franc on this side of the earth, perhaps indeed anywhere. This vintage is great and I'll have to make sure we get some in the future, when there is space in the cellar :-)).
Dessert from pastry chef Erin Reed showed her prowess with a Caramelized BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE CUSTARD, Jivara LEMON CREAM, HAZELNUT BRITTLE & Frangelico Pearls that was not only delicious, but gorgeous to look at. THIBAUT-JANISSON Blanc de Chardonnay was served, and while I do like champagne, I would have loved a nice sweet dessert wine.
As we finished up Chef Harper McClure who is the chef de cuisine at Brabo emerged along with DC uber-chef Robert Weidmaier to massive bravos, applause and cheers. They deserved much praise for the fine work, dedication and attention they gave to this truly special dinner and event. BRAVOS to BRABO!