Big Fish cooking classes winding down for summer

April 29, 2013

Last Saturday, Barbara and I decided to check out the cooking class at Big Fish. Happy to report it was very enjoyable and time well spent. Sadly, they are winding down as summer approaches, and the classes will end early May. I’ll try to remember to send a tickler next fall. The format is a tour of the retail, wholesale and kitchen spaces followed by a cooking class and wine pairing. The cast of characters was extensive, very professional and informative. The audience was diverse and included a group of UD alumni and Cape Gazette’s very own Don Flood and his lovely wife Helen.

In addition to Big Fish managers, Paul Cullen was playing some acoustic guitar and David Zorb of Bin 66 fame was doing the wine pairing. The day started with longtime employee and GM Susan Sokowski welcoming us, then taking us in hand for a tour.

She is a remarkable woman who manages the managers. Susan handed us off to Fidel Escamilla for a quick course on filleting red snapper. Those who frequent Big Fish would recognize Fidel as the manager of the seafood store and carryout. Bob Moyer was up next. He is one of those folks in the back room most people may not meet. However, he is integral to the operation. Paul is the fish buyer and runs the commissary for Big Fish Group. Bob showed us the fish-cutting rooms and the other nuts and bolts needed to run a small chain of restaurants. Finally we wound up with Norman Sugrue and Chef Joe Lopez, both of whom provided us with the class and a lovely menu.

The menu included PEI mussels with chorizo, cream and ciabatta; fresh beet and asparagus salad with avocado vinaigrette; seared tuna tartare; shrimp and vegetable spring roll; fluke en papillotte; lobster risotto and fresh fruit crisp. Each item was carefully explained and hands-on inspection was encouraged. I must say the folks rolling the spring rolls did a great job.

We started with the tuna as an amuse-bouche. This was served with Wallace Brook Cellars Willamette Pinot Noir 2011. Lovely dark garnet opens to aromas of red fruit and vanilla. On the palate, raspberry and cherry ride a balanced oak and well-integrated tannin frame. Nice little wine, 88 points. You can find it under $20.

Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc 2012 was up to my usual expectations. Regulars know this is one name I frequently recommend. Always rated high 80s low 90s; the 2012 is 91 points, in my opinion.

Aromas of orange blossom, quince, lemon and mango open to pineapple, pear, guava and oak. Bright acidity from stainless steel fermentation and subtle oak from barrel aging add character and body to this food-friendly wine, $15.

Merryvale Starmont Chardonnay matched well with the spring rolls and lobster risotto, but it was not my cup of tea, a bit too oaky.

Golden straw-colored, it opened to a mixed bouquet of apple pie, pineapple, guava, honeysuckle and hazelnut. On attack, the fruit-sweet palate evolved toward citrus, cream, toast, caramel and vanilla. The finish was clean, mineral-driven and medium in length; 87 points, $18.

The last wine we sampled was BV Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. Quite a bit of wine for $20, this is a blend of Cab, Syrah and Cab Franc. I was pleased with black currant, bakers chocolate and vanilla-oak-mocha nose. On the palate, the black currant was right up front. The cool growing season provided a nice frame of bright acidity and fine tannin, with more chocolate and some very soft, oaky tannins. On the finish I found anise and bitter chocolate. The wine needs a couple years in the cellar but is drinking well and paired up nicely with the fruit crisp as an offset to the sweet dessert.

I had a chance to talk to Paul Cullen, and I am hoping to attend his wine, food and music class out at the Cordrey Center this Wednesday. Had I known sooner I would have informed you folks, but it looks like you will need to settle for another impression in a column soon to be written.

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