Friday, September 4, 2015

Carmel Belle's Autumn Pop-Up {Tasting Notes}

Earlier this week Jake and I headed to a local museum, Monterey Museum of Art - La Mirada, to attend their Autumn Pop-Up Dinner. Chef Kyle of Carmel Belle created a delicious, seasonal dinner. And before we were invited in to the community table, we tasted Figge Wines on the patio. Peter Figge, then, paired his wines with each of Kyle's courses.

First: Tomato Gazpacho
This dish was as artistic as it was delicious. I had sneaked into the room to say hello to Kyle and saw him plating - do you still call it that, if it's a bowl?!? - these. A dollop of crème fraîche topped with fresh tomatoes, torn basil leaves, and a Jackson Pollock-esque splatter of balsamic vinegar.

Once we were all seated, servers, including Carmel Belle owner Jay Dolata, came around and poured a pool of ruddy gazpacho over the crème fraîche. Jay even did the slow-motion pour for me to take a photo.

It was so fresh, if I were at home, I would have grabbed a second bowl. But I knew, from looking at the menu, that I needed to save space for the remaining courses. 

Figge paired this course with his Pelio Chardonnay. While it had a distinct lushness, it boasted a perfect balance of citrus and crisp apple with a softer toasted grain.  

SecondGrilled Summer Beans
This dish had such a range of textures and flavors. From the still-crisp beans that were lightly charred to the luscious, creamy burrata and the agrodolce bite of the balsamic reduction to the crisped shallots scattered over the top,  I think that it was my favorite course of the evening. Maybe. It was definitely one of my favorites if not the favorite.

Figge hit another homerun on this pairing as well. The beans were accompanied by Figge's Pelio Pinot Noir. A note of smoke complemented the char on the beans, the deep berry aromas highlighted the sweetness of the shallots, and the healthy level of spice on the tongue played well against the tang of the balsamic reduction.

ThirdBraised Lamb
Lamb plus caponata. Tender hunks of lamb in a tomato-eggplant-olive blanket. Need I say more? 

Figge poured his Syrah from Arroyo Seco for this course. Like the dish, the wine was big, slightly fruity, but with an underlying acidity that felt simultaneously rich and fresh.

FourthStrawberry Shortcake
For the final course, my gluten-free date excused himself from the table and went to check messages. Not having much of a sweet tooth, I didn't think I'd be tempted to eat his portion. But I barely refrained from reaching my fork over to his plate. Barely.

The Carmel Belle's Autumn Pop-Up was a parade of utter deliciousness from Chef Kyle whose dishes were expertly paired with wines from Figge Cellars. The marriage of food, wine, and art always make for a wonderful date night. I can't wait till their next pop-up dinner.

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