élevage wine dinner
it’s an unmarked warehouse looking space a few blocks from safeco field. a little sign with an arrow directs you around the corner, to the entrance. as you step inside, however, and let your coat be taken, the pouring rain and cold night (in late august), wet concrete and seahawks crowds stay behind.
what greets you is called the vineyard table, an event space compete with a kitchen, a modest loft area perfect for a band, expansive brick walls and a sense of simple elegance. the event was the first ever wine dinner of élevage, sommeliers chris tanghe and james lechner’s recently established wine consulting business.
that chris (formerly the wine director at crush) and james’ (currently the wine director at café campagne) wine pairings were spot-on, interesting, and affordable, wasn’t surprising. what was unexpected was just how impressive the food would be. i’d known that chris had gone to the culinary institute of america, but had never before eaten anything he’d cooked.
after a short mingling session, enhanced by an argentinean sparkling wine, wrapped up, we sat at two long tables covered with surprisingly successful black tablecloths.
first course was a lusciously creamy and fabulously sweet corn soup, with a fried squash blossom floating a top. the dish acted as the ideal appetizer, something about the sweet and salty with a touch of fat truly inciting the appetite. the accompanying austrian reisling from hirsh heilligenstein reflected and enhanced the soup flawlessly – each had a suggestion of sweetness without being obvious.
the light introduction behind us, pan roasted sweetbreads arrived next. crispy without needing heavy breading, firm rather than gelatinous, they were perfectly cooked. the buttery chanterelle mushrooms matched the glands in earthiness and the inverted tomato tart added both acid and color. with the sweetbreads was a lafarge volnay, rich enough to keep up with the meat without surpassing it, and a beautiful wine in every way.
silvery whole sardines glittered from the plate, next to braised treviso bitter enough to cut through their delicious oily-ness. a delicate herb salad – largely of tarragon – gave crunch and depth. though their hair-like bones were a bit much for me, the flavor of the fish made the effort worth it.
with this course, we returned to white wine, a complex and spirited white from friuli. this rather unusual order (returning to white after drinking red) made me quite happy – it gets more and more difficult for me to distinguish between different wines of the same color when i have more in a row. alternating reds and whites in this way made each wine stand out.
and finally, the rabbit, with a potato gratin, olives, italian parsley, and fennel. the meat was tender to the extreme, the gratin simple and starchy, the olives a brilliant addition of acid and salt. and the fennel, roasted until it was nearly a mash, was caramely and interesting enough to be a dish of its own. only an exciting win could have distracted me from what i was eating, but the aldo rainoldi vatellina sassella did a decent job of it.
dessert wasn’t a letdown in the least. the crust of the peach galette was delicate and flaky, the ricotta alongside just slightly sweet. and the ice cream – pine nut honey – had been paco jetted. with whole pine nuts included in the making, the resulting texture was super creamy with just a touch of texture from the nuts – giving it the exact same mouth feel as the ricotta. delicious as the accompanying francois chidaine loire valley dessert wine was, i was too distracted by the dessert to give it much appreciation.
chris and james plan to do a wine dinner about every month. if i could, i’d go to all of them.