Friday, February 15, 2013

Another Homerun at La Crème {Tasting Notes}

When I write that I will never pass up an opportunity to be wined and dined at La Crème, that is no exaggeration. There are two reasons why: Chef Jon Moser and Tamie Aceves.

An unforgettable dining experience is about the atmosphere, sure. And Tamie nails that every time. Last night was no different - ivory silks, scarlet napkins, voluptuous vases filled with fragrant red roses and delicate wax flowers adorned the cozy tables set for two. But hers is not the kind of decor that feels stuffy or pretentious. Votive candles in jam jars cast starry patterns on the table. You feel right at home, well, a more elegant version of your home.

It's certainly about the food and the wine. Chef Jon creates masterful, elegant combinations of flavors and mouthfeel. And while the selected wines stand on their own, when paired with Jon's creations, they sing. Opera-style, misty eyes-inducing amazing.

But when those two - what's on the table and what's around the table - are aligned, you are treated to a sublime, magical evening. That was last night for me when Jake and I went to La Crème for their Luscious, Romantic & Juicy Valentines Wine Pairing Dinner. Five courses. Five wines. All were outstanding though we disagreed on which were our favorites.


Shared Antipasto Platter: A culling of gourmet cheeses and charcuterie


We all but licked the plate. I may have licked the knife, but I don't think anyone except for Jake saw me! It's difficult to pick my personal favorite, but the Humboldt Fog - that creamy, luscious goat's milk cheese with a subtle tangy flavor - presented with a tiny dice of pears poached in white wine with saffron and thyme was outstanding. The grilled baguette slices were the perfect, neutral canvas for the bold flavor combinations of Fiscalini cheddar with housemade Aleppo pepper jam and coppa with pickled golden raisins and whole grain mustard. And it was all paired with Coppola Winery's Sofia Blanc de Blancs. Refreshing and elegant, this sparkling wine is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Muscat, and Riesling. Mellow flavors of pears with a whisper of honeysuckle, and just the right amount of bubbles, made this Jake's favorite wine of the night.


Blood Orange & Almond Salad 

A simple blend of lettuces from County Line Harvest lettuces, tart arancia rossa orange segments, and toasted almonds with a drizzle of aged Villa Manodori balsamic were paired with Mer Soleil's Silver Chardonnay. A friend introduced me to this wine at Christmas. [Thanks, Miles!] Though I'm not a big chardonnay fan - it's typically too buttery - there is one word on this ceramic-bottled libation that caught my eye: unoaked. Yep, that's right. This chard is aged in a combination of stainless steel and limestone-based ceramic tanks. And its minerality and fresh-cut hay notes, followed by grapefruit and lemon, perfectly complemented that blood orange in the salad.

Seared Day Boat Scallop 

Just when the thought "this is my favorite course" crosses your mind, Chef Jon's servers bring out something that surpasses your expectations and enthralls your tastebuds even more. But, in hindsight, this was actually my favorite course! A perfectly seared scallop sat atop a celery root carbonara with a confetti-like sprinkle of micro herb salad. The only other couple seated with us in the Cigar Room asked about celery root and I said, "It's a hideous looking root. Kind of like a clod of dirt." Whoops, was that my outside voice? When Tamie brought a celery root out to show them, she said the same thing, "It's ugly, right?" Only Chef Jon could envision turning it into a delicious 'pasta'. This was paired with Etude's "Lyric" Pinot Noir. Creamy berry notes are countered with subtle chocolate aromas to form this luscious pinot.

Filet of Angus Beef 

Now here's the perfect example of Chef Jon deftly combining textures to render your mouth in utter bliss. Fork tender beef leaned on a mound of potato ravioli and sautéed cavolo nero, topped with crisped carrots. When I ducked into the kitchen, Jon described it, modestly, as mashed potato ravioli. Yeah, if your mashed potatoes are made with housemade marscarpone, sage, and a dash of nutmeg. If I didn't have another course to eat, I probably would have polished this off. And this course's wine was - by far - my favorite of the evening. The beef was paired with Paraiso Vineyard's "Wedding Hill" Syrah.


"Wedding Hill" is a lush ruby red, a delightful marriage of blackberry, black pepper, with a little bit of tobacco on the nose. I loved that it was weighty and structured without being heavy. I will certainly have to track down a bottle of this next time I'm serving beef.

By this point, I was full. Happily stuffed and ready for an espresso. But our babysitter clock was running low, so we skipped a trip downstairs to Crema and enjoyed the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding. Artistically presented with a smear of dark chocolate, a spoonful of pinot noir reduction, a slab of pistachio croccante and a dotting of preserved tart cherries, this was paired with SLO Down Wines's Sexual Chocolate. Two thumbs up for the name, but it was a little too reminiscent of a chocolate-covered cherry for my tastes. Rich, almost raisin-y, it was not at the top of my list. Jake liked it though.

So, there you have it. Five fab courses by Chef Jon + a romantic vibe set up by Tamie = another homerun at La Crème! 

Oh, and thanks for the rose and a perfectly placed bench on the front step for some smooching. This was exactly the way I wanted to spend Valentines.

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