Q Chef, can you tell us about your club’s Winemaker Dinners, and the planning stages that go into executing them?
A Our Winemaker Dinners are some of the most successful events at PG&CC, due to a fantastic team effort between the membership’s wine committee, our executive staff, and the kitchen personnel. Each event begins with the wine committee researching potential wineries that could participate in the event. After a winery is selected, I receive a list of the particular wines the members want to try during the four-course meal.
I then plan the four courses, each of which will be accompanied by one wine. To help with this planning, I utilize information found on the winery’s website, as well as books on the subject, to make sure the ingredients of each course pair well with each wine.
These dinners are a great opportunity for my staff and me, because we are able to showcase our creativity and employ products not normally available on our regular menus. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to have world-class California wines accompanying the meal!
Editor’s Note: A recipe from one of Chef Benedetti’s Winemaker Dinners that presented , is titled “Grilled Masami Top Sirloin & Mono De Leon Scallope” along with pairing tips from Clive Smith, Clubhouse Manager, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa., and Master Sommelier Randa Warren.
Clive Smith, Clubhouse Manager, Merion Golf Club: Because this dish combines sirloin and scallops, I would pair it with a medium-bodied wine that would be supple in texture and lively, with nice fruit aromas and a hint of spice. For guests who might prefer a more full-bodied pinot, I would offer a wine that has dark, concentrated fruit, with a mineral taste, spice, and good complexity. And for members who might choose to have the dish served without the scallops, I would suggest a nice glass of cabernet, to enhance the flavors of both the steak and the mushroom.
Randa Warren, Master Sommelier: With so many components in the dish, you need a wine with ripeness of fruit, earthiness and mushroom notes, at least medium acidity, and one that is not too heavy, for fear of overpowering the flavor of the scallops. However, the wine does need at least medium weight to it, to partner well with the cabernet sauce—a component in the dish you absolutely cannot forget about. I would recommend a red burgundy or a pinot that has some overtones of mushrooms. The ripe red fruit in the wine should draw out a hint of sweetness in the sirloin, as well as with the scallops. The ripeness of the fruit in the wine should also tame some of the spiciness in the braised cabbage. Additionally, the cheddar cheese in the potatoes would neutralize the pinot, creating harmony and balance in the dish. Finally, there should be enough acidity in the pinot to work reasonably well with the asparagus, which is a difficult component; it often helps to eat asparagus after sipping red wine, and not before.