Wednesday, November 11, 2015

back in DC, CENTROLINA states a great case for some of the coolest cuisine around (11-10-15)

We are thrilled that our new friends from Oregon's Willamette Valley, Denise and Scott Flora, are in town this week for a big wine dinner tonight that we helped to organize.
We decided to start the celebration with them early, by heading to CENTROLINA ( at the hip new CityCenterDC where Chef Amy Brandwien reigns supreme.
I had only been to Centrolina once before back in June, and now I think it's even better as they are about to celebrate their 1/2 year anniversary and are going as strong as ever.
Scott brought some of his superb, rare and novel wines from his winery NATIVE FLORA, and we started with an amazing sparkling wine dubbed "Cuvee Lussier" 2011 Dundee Hills, Oregon, which is their first vintage of the delicate yet yummy wine made from 90+% Pinot Noir and the balance Pinot Blanc, innovative yet delicious.
Our server Shannon explained the menu and we perused the choices for quite a while and then tasted the Burrata which here is served with caramelized onions and greens over slices of Purple Sweet Potatoes as well as Olive Oil. I loved this new take on the cheese everyone adores and might even venture to try it at home.
Next up was one of the first reasons we fell in love with the Floras a year ago when at their home for a wine dinner. Native Flora Rose "Jolly Rancher" 2014 is the newer vintage of this superb dry rose made from Blanc de Noir & Malbec and it is simply superb. Chef Amy, Manager/ Sommeliere (I always thought it was sommelieuse!) Kristin seemed to be quite thrilled with these wines which incidentally are only available by direct sale from Native Flora and sold at no wine or liquor stores due to the very small production quantities, making this an even more desirable wine for your cellar or table (there is also a wine club
We ordered our first white wine, and I managed to intrigue Scott into a Virginia Vermentino Reserve 2013 from Barboursville, which we all agreed had amazing taste at first, but Scott noted that the finish virtually  disappeared within seconds. Kristin opened another Vermentino from Corse made by US winemaker Oren Swift, but from Corsica (hence the name). The label was so poorly created it was nary impossible to read, but we all agreed that for less money, it was far superior with a creamy finish that was so well suited to the milder dishes. The Barboursville, however, did go very well with my spicy Tunnina, or seared tuna belly with bottargo aioli (the spicy element) and broccoli raab that was a tasty treat indeed. The other starters were Carolo or basically a Savoy Cabbage Slaw with Parmesan & EVOO that was refreshing and tasty; the signature POLPO which is octopus soffocato with potato confit, cotechinata and celery salad, which we know will always be on the menu. The Grilled Mortadella was a novel dish with red onion, frisee and pistachio that reminded me of a sophisticated spam (please forgive me for using that word).

Next we tasted Native Flora's 2012 Next Time Pinot Noir which is one of four that they make. We had not yet tasted this present release which has a huge vanilla aroma up front and some of the best body and flavor you will find anywhere in a Pinot Noir! 
We ordered several pastas to share and this is always a treat from Chef Amy:
Raviolini celebrated the autumn and were filled with Roasted Pumpkin & Ricotta Cheese in a Butter & Sage Sauce with Amaretti Cookie crumble.
Quadrucci were filled with Crab, Cod & Potato and served in a simple yet elegant Lemon Butter Sauce.
Neri is Squid Ink Pasta, which had been exhausted on my previous visit since all the pasta is made fresh in house and is often gone by later in the evening! Here is has Sushi-grade Yellowfin Tuna and Nonnaral di Pesce or a spicy fish sauce (think halfway between spicy Thai fish sauce and Puttanesca) on the side of the dish that you can take as much of as you like; I loved it.

The main courses arrived and we decided on two orders of the Grilled Swordfish with Tuscan Kale and two of the Anatra or Cured Duck Breast with Tuscan kale, Pancetta-wrapped potatoes with a tasty Persimmon Marmellata (foto on my FB page). Most of the duck was cooked perfectly rare and tender, but a slice here and there on each plate was a bit chewy, but not beyond edibility. Will enjoyed a glass of Ruche Crivelli 2013 Ruche di Castignane from Monferrato while I loved my Produttori del Barbaresco 2011. By this time, no more wine was an option!

Desserts here are excellent and we decided to share two:
Apple Crostata with Hazelnuts, Lemon Meringue (which comes in the form of cute little balls) and Prosecco Gelato. The dish had a super perfumey smell that announced the apples and spices and we all agreed the pastry was superb. Chocoholics will adore the Cioccolato which is a Chocolate Semifreddo with tasty autumn-influenced Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Chocolate Crouton and Maple Candied Ganache.

Candied Hazelnuts covered with Chocolate Powder sent us home quite full and happy to starve ourselves today before the exciting Native Flora Wine Dinner tonight at The Partisan!