For my first of three nights in NYC, I returned to James Beard House where the team from Meadowood Estates Events in Napa Valley had come east for a cold wintry Valentine's dinner. Headed by Chef Alejandro Ayala, who has been running the special events catering at this luxurious resort for two decades they did an amazing job as the house was packed more than I have ever seen. On arrival, I met Beverage Director Scott Beattie and I was amazed at the two drinks he had created for this event. One, a simple Manhattan made with superb bourbon & rye with a giant square ice cube in the round glass was heightened by three types of bitters:Angostura, Bitter Truth & Fee Brothers-Whiskey Barrel Aged. I fell in love with my first Manhattan in Manhattan. The other drink was an amazing creation of love made with Vodka, Meyer Lemon Juice, Kaffir Lime zest and candied peel, but the highlight of the drink was the Rangpur Lime (it looks like a Mandarin Orange) from India marinated in Chinese 5-Spice & Honey. It was so tasty and soft, you could eat the rind. I fell in love with this treat.
As always many hor's d'oevres were being passed around and I got to taste them all, Beets & Raspberries with Bergamot & Chive was nice, but won no prize unless you are a vegetarian. Better was the Squash with Pepitas & Crema on a crispy Squash Chip. The three winners were the superb Beef Tartare with Parmesan & Salsa Verde, the awesome Foie Gras Tortellini with Short Rib & Black Truffle Consomme and finally the divinely rich Lobster Arancini (fried rice balls) with Pimenton & Cilantro.
After a couple of glasses of Napa Krug Sparkling, we headed to our tables for the huge and elegant dinner.
First was the Meadowood Garden, which featured vegetables specially grown for this event in their Napa garden and starred Yellowfoot, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Burgundy Truffles, Celery Root Puree and Pickled Matsutaki. YUM.
Smoked Bodega Mussels were flown in as well and served in a Marble Potato Chowder with Celery Variations & Espellete (pepper). I loved the pickled celery in this dish and it was all served with a Napa Valley Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013 which had quite a high acidity; I would have preferred a smoother wine such as viognier.
The Day Boat Scallops, it turned out, came from Maine and were served with an awesome Creamed Kale, Black Truffle and Meyer Lemon. The truffle vinaigrette was gorgeous, the charred onion powder oh so different, and the mini-turnip so cute. Copian Brousseau 2012 Chardonnay made by Wells Guthrie & James Thompson of Chalone was a perfect pairing.
Ora King Salmon came form New Zealand and was carefully treated with Heirloom Lentils, Coriander Stages & Iberico Ham in a dried crunchy form that gave excellent flavor to the dish. The Hilt Vanguard Pinot Noir 2012 was a bit thin for me as I so prefer Oregon wines, and this made by the folks who own Screaming Eagle (oops).
Liberty Farms Duck was crunchy skinned to perfection with Parsnip, Huckleberry & Tiny Carrots and we had a delicious The Napa Valley Reserve 2004 Cabernet blend which really had aged beautifully.
Rib Eye "Cap & Eye" was an excellent steak dish with Garden Vegetables Cabernet and turnips and was served with two reds: The Napa Valley Reserve 2008 was quite nice, but I thought the Jonata El Alma, 2009 Cab Franc was way too tight; maybe it needs more time in the bottle, or maybe it's just not for me.
Lots of chocolates and macaroons arrived as there was no formal dessert, but we had all enjoyed a wonderful Valentine's Dinner, with no kitchen failures that so often occur in your dining establishment with blownup prices on this night!