Now THIS is what I call a meeting

March 1, 2007 on 8:30 am | By | In Recipes, Work Musings | 4 Comments

Back in my PR days I was compelled to attend the monthly luncheon meetings of the Public Relations Society of America under the guise it was best way to “keep my finger on the pulse” of the industry. In reality I just wanted to bag off work for a few hours, even though I had to endure rubbery chicken while listening to someone blather on about “connecting to their publics” (yes, that’s really the term many used). I’d listen with feigned enthusiasm, hoping the PR muckety-muck at my table would be impressed with my dedication and offer me a job (I was ALWAYS looking for a new job).

Thank God I gave that up.

While I still view membership in a professional organization a terrific way to stay involved (I’m a member of the U.S. Personal Chef Association), I no longer have to put up with insipid meetings. Take our recent chapter function: eight personal chefs trying to out-yummy one another with our resident wine connoisseur, George Marinovich, on hand to pair our treats with an appropriate wine. I love my job!

Our wine & food pairing meetings (this was our third) are always a favorite. It’s so much fun to see what other chefs whip up — not only the food but also the presentation (I’ve stolen many ideas). George has an incredible knack for choosing the most complementary wine for our dishes, despite the fact we’re a flighty lot who changes our respective minds at the last minute about what we’re to prepare.

We started with Jennifer’s lime drizzled shrimp with a 2005 Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc (sorry, I have neither photos nor pictures of any of the dishes other than my own). I think Sauv Blanc is under-appreciated; I love it for cooking (much more so than Chardonnay) and it pairs wonderfully with food. Many Sauv Blancs have a grassy character (that’s not a bad thing), but this one was almost buttery while still crisp. It was the perfect complement to the shrimp.

Next up was Susie‘s salad of tomatoes, hearts of palm, asparagus, feta and roasted tomato vinaigrette. Salad is typically tough to pair with wine, especially when it includes asparagus, but the Lone Canary Sauvignon Blanc from Spokane delivered. This had the crisp, grassy quality I expect from a Sauv Blanc, but it worked very well with the salad.

Our third dish was Jodi‘s brie with roasted grapes, served with Columbia Winery’s Cellarmaster’s Riesling. The grapes, tossed with fresh rosemary and a bit of port, were just mildly sweet. The riesling brought out the sweetness without being cloying.

The red wine came out for my dish, asian goat cheese with black sesame rice crackers (recipe follows). The cheese is relatively bold, but George thought Joseph Drouhin’s 2005 Beaujolais — which is a very subtle wine — would be a great pairing. He was spot on. My darling and I tend to favor big, bold reds, but it’s nice to be reminded the wine doesn’t have to be the main focus. The Beaujolais allowed the cheese to take the stage.

However, a bolder wine was in order for Erica‘s pâté and Humbolt Fog goat cheese served with fig and walnut bread, and Jeff‘s mushroom & gorgonzola tartletts. Both dishes were rich and decadent and cried out for the fruitiness of a Syrah (Terra Blanca’s Killer Red Syrah for the pâté, Stonecap Syrah for the tartletts).

For Karen‘s pork with chipotle-raspberry sauce, George took us in a somewhat different direction: Barnard Griffin’s Sangiovese Rosé. Rosé still has a somewhat terrible reputation (white Zinfandel anyone?), but there are many fabulous dry Rosés (Barnard Griffin being one of them).

Last up was Wendy‘s whole wheat date and pecan bread with ricotta and cara cara oranges. This was the one that threw George for a loop; he wasn’t happy with his choice of Cote du Rhone. It certainly wasn’t bad; it just didn’t enhance the dish as the others had. He had expected the bread to be on the sweeter side, but the whole wheat made for a much more assertive taste. However, when we tried the Cellarmaster’s Riesling with it, it was pure harmony.

Our chocolate torte finale was a no-show, so we nibbled on pieces of chocolate with a Porto Rocha ruby port. Have I mentioned how much I love my job?
Asian Goat Cheese
Asian Goat Cheese
Serves 10-12

This is a recipe sent to me from another personal chef (I don’t know the origin).

12 ounces goat cheese
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns (I used black and pink)
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1/3 cup slivered Thai basil
1 teaspoon orange zest
Rice crackers, for serving

The best way to slice the goat cheese is to use unflavored dental floss (or you could look in your medicine cabinet, see you only have mint-flavored floss, and hope the other flavors will mask the mint. Not that I did that). The cheese may crumble; if you want perfect slices you could try freezing the cheese for about 15 minutes.

The original recipe calls for keeping the peppercorns and allspice berries whole, but I thought it would be better to briefly grind them in a spice grinder. Combine the berries and peppercorns with the extra virgin olive oil in a small skillet and cook over medium-low heat until the peppercorns start to pop. Remove from heat and add the garlic and ginger, stirring to incorporate. Pour the oil over the cheese slices and let marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

To serve, I scraped off as much of the berry/garlic/ginger mixture as I could and laid the cheese pieces on a platter. I then strained the oil over the pieces (I was concerned the mixture would be too crunchy) and sprinkled the Thai basil and orange zest on top. However, later in the evening my darling and I finished up the left-overs and we found the mixture to be quite palatable. There was still a bit of crunch, but heating the berries and the peppercorns in the oil softens them and mellows out the flavor.


  1. Hi Betsy,

    Most excellent! Out of deference to the winemaker, it’s Barnard Griffin, not Barnyard. I don’t know how he would react to that.



    Comment by George Marinovich — March 1, 2007 #

  2. D’oh! You DO realize that that wine was one of the latter ones 🙂

    Comment by ovens2betsy — March 1, 2007 #

  3. Nice job Betsy
    Sounds like I missed a great party. I will be there next year.
    In the mnean time I am going to try some of the listed wines and your Asian Goat Cheese

    Comment by Julie Brown — March 1, 2007 #

  4. I am truly sorry to have missed this event! Last year’s was a highlight for me. Hopefully, you all got word that I would not be there ahead of time (family emergency) and did not pout over the no-show chocolate! I will make it up to you…….

    Comment by Sara — March 1, 2007 #

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