Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Winefest Was a Great Success

It's taken me a couple of days to wind down after spending a few very focused weeks prepping for this years Winefest Renaissance, held for the benefit of the Boys & Girls Club of Aberdeen. The Winefest event was held on April 9th at the Ward Hotel downtown, and had a huge turnout. My part of the event was to pair four appetizer foods with four wines, to match food flavors as perfectly as possible with the flavors in the wine. 
Flank Steak Rolls with Romano & Cherry Onion Relish
Flank Steak Rolls with Romano & Cherry Onion Relish, paired with Planeta, Cerasuolo di Vittoria

When tasting a wine, there may be mixed reactions. Some wines are friendly all on their own. While they may pair excellently with food, they can also be enjoyed solo. Other wines are truly meant to pair with a food in order to bring out the wine's best flavors and attributes. For this reason, when I create a new food combination to pair with a wine, I endeavor to take into consideration all the flavors the winemaker has worked to create. If a wine is supposed to have notes of cherry or strawberry, then I try to work in those flavors, even if only in a marginal way. If it is best paired with particular aged cheeses, then I might select one of those cheeses to use in the food.

What makes it challenging for me is that most of the wines that are listed as possible selections, are also not ones that are sold here in town. I must rely exclusively on what I can glean from online sites. I read critic's commentary, winemaker's notes, expert ratings where available, and anything at all I can find, to prepare myself to make a food that will pair most appropriately - all for a wine I cannot taste-test while working on the food prep. Still, this has not hampered my efforts to date, as in all these 4 years of Winefest events, all the foods have been absolutely wonderful pairings with the wines I selected. 

Planeta, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, DOCGWhile planning for the foods, the final wine I was planning for was Planeta, Cerasuolo di Vittoria (shown at right), an Sicilian wine, with the only D.O.C.G. wine designation in Sicily. I wrote about this wine and a proposed appetizer on March 26th (read that blog here). Ultimately, I made a change rather late in the game and switched to making flank steak rolls once again. I have made differently flavored and filled flank steak rolls for each of the four Winefest Renaissances to date, and always to great acclaim. I had wanted to diverge from that rut this year, but in the end I caved and made them again. Again, to great acclaim. And, they paired most excellently with the wine. What was written about the wine were things such as "fruity, reminiscent of red berries, strawberries, cherries" . . . "lively and pretty" . . . "brooding dark fruit and herb flavors" . . . "pairs well with medium aged cheeses, lamb . . .".

Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs PasteWith these descriptors to take into consideration, I created strawberry & jalapeno marinade for the flank steak and used the Cherry & Onion Relish I had created originally. I chose Romano cheese, grated it and mixed it with a bit of Chevre goat cheese to bind it enough to roll into little logs. I kept the cheese flavors savory, as the wine, while evoking bright fruit flavors, is a dry red wine. The Cherry & Onion Relish had some sweetness, so I used only a small amount per roll - just enough to give the bright flavor. The herb flavors were accented with the use of a little dab of "Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs" paste. The mixture made a most flavorful mix, and paired well with the wine. 

While the marinade flavor was not extremely noticeable in the broiled steak, it also did not fight with the wine. The use of jalapenos gave a little zip without there being any overwhelming heat. Here is the marinade I created:

Strawberry Jalapeno Marinade for Steak

enough for 2 - 3 pounds of steak

1/2 pound fresh, hulled strawberries
3 fresh jalapenos
4 cloves fresh garlic
1 cup fresh blackberries
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh minced sage
1 teaspoon fresh, minced oregano
1 teaspoon fresh minced basil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 medium onion

Place the strawberries into a blender container. Remove stems and cut the jalapenos into 3 - 4 chunks, with seeds, then add to blender along with all the remaining ingredients and blend to a puree. It is of no importance to be perfectly pureed, but only to make a liquid mixture for the marinade. Place your meat of choice (I used flank steak) into a gallon zip-top baggie or other marinating container and pour in the marinade. Toss well and refrigerate overnight. When ready to use, remove the steak from the marinade and scrape off excess. Broil or grill the meat to your desired doneness.

For flank steak, I broil the meat about 4-inches from the broiler element in my oven for 6 minutes per side for perfectly pink centers. Allow the steak to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes or more before slicing very thinly across the grain of the meat.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies