Monday, December 5, 2011

Cajun or Creole Christmas - Take Your Pick

Months ago, when the gang kibitzed on setting up a date for our Dinner Club, everyone just happened to be available tonight - despite the December date. The concensus was, "wouldn't a Christmas Dinner be a nice thought" - even Boo and I felt all warm and fuzzy, despite the fact that we were going to be the ones hosting it.

Having just returned from our little Louisiana adventure, we figured it'd be neat to capture a little of the ample flavours that surround you in New Orleans and environs. During our visit, we asked around for tips on an authentic Louisiana Christmas dinner and all the answers were that "anything goes." If you like it - and so long as there's lots of it - it's authentic. But, if throwing a couple baby alligator heads in amongst the table decorations doesn't add a little Cajun authenticity, I don't know what possibly could.

If you've taken a look at some of the other posts that tell of our Dinner Club escapades, you'll know that I score all sorts of wines on The List after each of the dinners. Not so much this time - but it wasn't for a want of libations. Indeed, there was even wine left over at the end of the night and that's not a common occurrence.

It's possible, but I wonder if Boo's old family recipe for scratch eggnog had anything to do with it? That baby is pure rum, bourbon, cream, sugar and eggs and you know darned well that it packs a wallop. It's just so hard to stop sipping away! We started with the eggnog and that easily replaced our normal two or three bottles that accompany the hors d'oeuvres. Speaking of, I scoured some New Orleans catering sites and we decided on serving mini muffalettas, spiced pecans and crab-stuffed mushroom caps.

And then, it was on to dinner and a little wine.

N.V. Sumac Ridge Tribute Gold Brut (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Our first wine of the night isn't going to be a new addition to The List because it was already added back at #774. We wanted a little bubbly to start off the evening - not only because it suits the holidays season, but because there aren't many combinations that say extravagance more than bubbly and caviar.

A little caviar may not be the most common of Southern dishes but no one can tell me that this little delicacy hasn't graced more than a few plantation dining rooms on special occasions. Besides, I wanted to use the little ice bowl molds that we picked up. Dinner Club and shooters aren't probably the best of combinations; so, using them as serving dishes seemed like a grand use to me.

I'd put out some feelers for a bit of white wine as well, but none arrived. It was amusing that every single person brought along a Pinot Noir when lighter reds or bigger whites were requested.

1005. 2003 Hallcrest - Veranda Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains - California)

I'd rather envisioned serving a white with the gumbo but red Pinot works fine as well. I find that I generally don't get much of an opportunity to write about the wines during Dinner Club postings but there are a couple of interesting points I'd like to mention - at least for this wine. I'm not aware of Hallcrest (that old, whole "don't drink a lot of California thing" again) but the fact that this bottle was individually numbered prompted me to look a little further. After all, it's not too often that we open Bottle #1443 out of a total of 2340.

Hallcrest was established as a working vineyard and winery back in the 1940's; however, it's undergone a couple of changes in ownership since the Hall family got the ball rolling. As you might guess from the bottle numbering, the winery is noted for its small lot production. The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA (or American style appellation region) is one of the largest; however, it also offers a multitude of microclimates. Hallcrest takes advantage of that diversity - are Americans quick to use "terroir?" - as it works with seven different vineyards and produces single vineyard wines.

Seeing as how the winery only produces about 5000 cases a year, I'm not entirely sure how this bottle made its way up to Vancouver. It certainly didn't come across as a big Californian red - as some Cali Pinots still manage to do; so, it was a refreshing start to dinner, but I don't think it lived up to some of the others we opened tonight.

1006. 2009 Joseph Chromy Pinot Noir (Tasmania - Australia)

Having the Joseph Chromy to serve up was a surprise as well. Boo and I discovered the winery during last year's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. I actually picked up a couple of different bottles at that time but they're still sitting in our wine racks. Guess we got a bit of preview tonight.

We opened the Tassie wine and quickly found that we needed to open the next bottles as well. It is now decided that Pinot Noir matches up nicely with turkey leg confit. I knew that I wanted to try the confit - whether it was true to N'Awlins or not - and duck fat is certainly tasty in any language or cuisine style. The gang were completely in agreement with me on that point. The cornbread stuffing, yams and brussel sprouts were as southr'nly authentic as it gets though.

1007. 2001 Kettle Valley - Hayman Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley)

2001 Kettle Valley - Foxtrot Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley)

Tyrant brought along a matched pair of Kettle Valley Pinots for us to try as a parallel tasting, but I guess you can tell he's a regular drinking bud of Boo's and mine because the 2001 Foxtrot has made two appearances in this blog already - and it was supplied by Tyrant on each occasion. It was added to The List at #310 and it would have been added again at #488 if a bottle hadn't already graced our table.

We had a number of takers when it came to trying the two wines side-by-side. Problem was - if you can even call it a "problem" - was that no one could pick an immediate favourite. We were all going back and forth in naming a "winner." There were distinct differences between the two wines and one sip would have you picking the Foxtrot, the next sip made you think twice about the Hayman's. Kettle Valley is known for producing a large number of small batch wines; so, it says a bit when co-owner and co-winemaker, Bob Ferguson, is quoted as saying that the Hayman Pinot Noir is one of the three wines that he's most proud of. I don't think there was anyone at the table that would have turned down any of the Foxtrot either though.

As if there hadn't been enough food to force us all into pre-Christmas diets, Boo and I each served up a dessert since both of our signature dessert specialties are Southern - Boo impressed with one of his best pecan pies ever and I went for a pumpkin bread pudding. Indeed, if Cajun/Creole is what you're looking for, mine's been adapted from a recipe I picked up with Jeaux at the New Orleans School of Cooking almost 20 years ago - and I'm still cooking it as a Christmas tradition all these years later.

1008. 1999 Graham's - Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port (Portugal)

Special desserts call for a special treat - and I think it's fair to say that Vintage Port fits the bill nicely. The Quinta dos Malvedos vineyard is acknowledged as one of the finest properties in the Upper Douro region and its fruit forms the backbone of Graham's declared vintages. The 1999 wasn't an overall "declared" vintage by Graham's though; that designation is reserved for exceptional years and those wines see fruit blended from five different Graham's quintas. In the years that aren't declared a general vintage; however, the winery will take the best fruit from the Malvedos vineyard and release a single vineyard Malvedos vintage port. This is one of those bottles. it might not have been as structured and layered as one of Graham's bigger Ports but few, if any of us, would have known and this bottle was more than worthy of our dinner table.

So, only adding four bottles to The List after a Dinner Club extravaganza is a far cry from the ten that I added after Tyrant's dinner back in the summer, but I think we still did okay.

On the other hand, I don't know if we truly captured either a Cajun or a Creole sensibility with the food and menu but, really, who cares? It was darned tasty.

No comments:

Post a Comment