Nage cooks up the perfect match
Last weekend was jam-packed with events, and it was all I could do to eat everything put in front of me (and then some…). We kicked off Friday night beside a crackling fire (can a gas fireplace crackle?) in the elegantly understated banquet room at Nage. Manager Mark Harrison, Chef Ted Deptula, Southern Wine & Spirits’ grape maven Sean Kane and a small army of sous chefs, servers and bartenders crafted a delightful California wine dinner for the lucky ticketholders who braved the surprise snowstorm. (Everybody showed up, albeit a bit late and slightly damp.)
It’s obvious that Ted’s advancement into Hari Cameron’s former head chef position at Nage was well-deserved. The courses not only paired perfectly with Sean’s wines, but each dish was a true delight on its own.
Nage kicked off the festivities with Mumm Napa DVX ’01. Though not officially a champagne, this sparkling wine was toasty rich with layers of flavor that faded into a lingering whisper of raspberry, apple and peaches. Deptula and his crew punctuated the golden bubbles with melon, honey and poppy seed, nestled up to a perfectly seared scallop and sweet prosciutto. At the risk of stepping on the knowledgeable feet of Cape Gazette wine columnist (and chef in his own right) John McDonald, I rendered my verdict: “Lip smackin’ good.” (I try not to get too technical here….)
Herb-stuffed quail decorated with thin-as-air root veggies and wild mushrooms was married to a delicious Flowers Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir ’09. The wine presented with hints of lilac and rose petals, finally relaxing into a finish of scrumptious pomegranate and cranberry. True to that varietal, it stood politely aside to let the roasted quail do the heavy lifting in the savory department. Interestingly, Joan and Walt Flowers, founders of that esteemed California winery, started their winemaking careers as nursery owners in Bucks County, Pa.
Wines from Napa’s Cakebread Cellars hold a special meaning for me, so I smiled for all sorts of reasons when Harrison and his phalanx of loyal minions circled the table with Cakebread’s 2010 Chardonnay. Just about every online mention of this wine invokes the word “vanilla,” so why not serve it alongside a lobster tail poached in a reduction of vanilla beans and champagne vinegar? Bits of celery root mixed with grapefruit were punctuated by the crunch of grapefruit-infused pine nuts.
As the evening progressed, a growing forest of empty wine bottles and spent corks added a celebratory note to Nage’s famous banquet table. The glow of the fireplace was rapidly being surpassed by the collective glow emanating from the table’s occupants as a filet-shaped round of winter-spiced duck breast made an entrance. A crunchy slaw of brussels sprout leaves added a cabbagey tang and texture to the dish. 2010’s Saldo Zinfandel from Orin Swift was the selected vintage. The dark cherry and cocoa entry of the wine softened to even more chocolate, more berry and a touch of vanilla. The Saldo’s jammy boldness held its own against the juicy duck.
An unscripted amuse-bouche of mango ice cream topped with lychee set the stage for the final act. At this point, nobody cared or even seemed to remember that it was snowing outside. And how could they, when faced with mascarpone cheesecake layered with graham cracker tuile (think crepe, but lighter) and crowned with sundried cherries? It was paired with one of the more dynamic vintages of the evening, the velvety Jordan ’03 Cabernet. Again, typical of that grape, it stood nose to nose with the creamy cheesecake. Chunky cherries complemented the similar tendencies in the wine.
All good things must end, however, and we all bundled up to venture out into what turned out to be a bust: The snow had stopped about 10 minutes after the party started. Oh well, like the merriment inside, it was nice while it lasted.