Monday, January 16, 2012

Wine Vault and Bisto - 10-Course Dinner

New Eddie’s Eve – Meat the Parent

My mom, Edna (aka Eddie), knew all about the Wine Vault and Bistro from my endless commentary on their multiple-course meals priced lower than Barry White’s baritone, so when she visited San Diego, Eddie insisted we invade the Vault. And as luck would have it, on her last night in town (Dec. 30) they were holding a 10-course tasting menu, paired with five wines for $39.50.

This evening’s menu was a bit different from their norm, since they didn’t end with the usual dessert, but instead built the meal around the Vault’s five, top-selling red wines of 2011...and that meant meat mania was about to ensue.

Courses came in pairs of two, served together on one plate and accompanied by a 3oz pour of wine, making it easy to gauge if we wanted another glass of this or that. The Vault played like a game of Twister, matching wine and food instead of colors and body parts, but it always provided just as many giggles, gasps and unexpected turns.

1. Marinated Calamari | Smoked Paprika Aïoli | Coriander | Crispy Potato: Before the plates came to the table, Eddie said, “You can have my calamari. I'm not a fan.” I tut-tutted her and said she might want to wait, since several times Bubba and I’d experienced edible epiphanies here. And just as quickly she saw the light – there was only one bite of the calamari and she treated these rings more preciously than if she were a J.R.R. Tolkien character. Feelings flowed just as strongly for the smoked paprika aioli that was worthy of a plate licking.

2. Eggplant 2-Ways: Fried + Mousse | Marinated Shallot | Chive: I usually prefer my eggplant skinless because of the coat’s bitter nature, but this miniature round convinced me, “skin was in”. The fashionable, purple belt cinched the eggplant's meaty belly and posed itself atop a creamy mousse that held like hummus hairspray.
2009 Borsao "Tres Picos" Garnacha

3. Duck Confit | Roast Apples | Red Onion | Parsley: Who needs a down comforter, when you can be wrapped in a blanket of duck confit? I never got tired of this shredded delight and tonight was another reason to celebrate how fruit and fowl could make life a bowl of cherries.

4. Nueske Slab Bacon | Date Purée | Blue Cheese Espuma | Arugula: This read like a deconstructed, bacon-wrapped date stuffed with blue cheese and I couldn't put it down. The thick, slab of bacon acted as the main protein, almost like a steak and I was in awe of their ability to dissolve the majority of the fat off this little piggy to deliver one luscious hunk of hog.
2008 Bokisch Tempranillo

5. Pulled Wild Boar Ribs | Crushed Potatoes | Charred Romaine: The Vault was on their game when it came to…game. They’d tamed these wild boar chops into domestic bliss under the guise of pulled pork, but retained enough of its growl and foreign, flavor profile to make it anything but boring.

6. Hoisin Glazed Duck Breast | Bok Choy | Shitake Mushrooms: This duck’s steak-y splendor made me want to quack nonstop about its meticulous, medium-rare temperature. Sticky hoisin glaze acted like savory caramel and shitake puree kept this duck grounded with an earthy subtleness with a mild crunch from the bok choy.
2009 Sextant "Wheelhouse" Zinfandel

7. Roasted Lamb Loin | Sunchoke | Bing Cherry Jus | Rosemary: The seasoning couldn’t have been more perfect than if it was April in Paris. Sunchokes = bright and refreshing; cherry jus = tart and fruity; rosemary = fragrant and herbal. It had a certain, “je ne sais quoi” = my favorite of the night.

8. Pressed Lamb Shoulder | Smoked Yogurt | Celeriac | Beets: I went from the sun on my face to turning a cold shoulder. This lamb had been shredded and then pressed back together into a formed, dry brick. It reminded me of some type of fall-out-shelter, canned meat product with the hunk of beet adding a dirt-like quality and the smoked yogurt delivering the final burn (though Bubba happily ate my ration).
2008 Happy Canyon Vineyards "Piocho" Bordeaux Blend

9. Prime Hanger Steak | Smoked Potatoes | Slow Cooked Grapes | Broccoli: We'd hung in for the hanger steak, especially since this had been one of Bubba's Vault-side epiphanies. Bubba's main beef with hanger steak had always been the cut's stringy nature, but through slight of hand (and an immersion circulator) they pulled off a magic act that had the hubby applauding loudly about its similarity to filet mignon.

10. Prime Short Ribs | Parsnips 2-Ways: Purée + Crispy | Gremolata: The long good-bye ended with short ribs. But instead of feeling turned out, it was like a warm hug of a finish with the comfort of fork tender beef and a pairing of parsnips that took opposite routes to drive this root vegetable home.
2009 Stolpman "Originals" Syrah