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4 Wines to Pair with Vegetables: Collab Dinner for Genesis Growers at Elizabeth

It’s the holidays, so you may have champagne on the brain or at the very least bubbles of some sort. If you make that New Year’s resolution to eat lighter, to add more vegetables to your diet, you still have to include wine!! Below are a few ideas for wines to pair with vegetables based on a recent collaborative farm benefit dinner I attended at Elizabeth Restaurant

Chef Iliana Regan held the dinner last Thursday for a beloved local farmer, Vicki Westerhoff of Genesis Growers, St. Anne, Illinois. It’s been a tough growing year for local farmers in the Chicago area. Rob Montalbano of Montalbano Farmscalled it quits after trying to make a go of it for many years, “This season was the last year for growing vegetables at Montalbano Farms. We simply cannot hold on any longer.” Genesis is completely family run, with Vicki posting pictures on facebook of her granddaughter amusing herself in the mud while the other generations work the farm. Vicki distributes her certified organic produce to local chefs and sells at the Green City Market. It has been a difficult 2 years for Vicki on the farm, hence the benefit dinner.

The dinner brought together Chefs Abra Behrens of Stock Cafe at Local Foods, Chef Rob Levitt of the Butcher and Larder at Local Foods, Chefs Ethan Pikas and Tony Bezsylko of Cellar Door Provisions, Chef Jason Vincent of Giant and Chefs Regan and Behlke of Elizabeth. A little fish and meat were included in the plates of the four course (really 5 because the snacks to start were a meal in themselves) menu. However, the stars of the evening were the vegetables from Vicki’s farm.

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All the chefs above have been sourcing from Genesis for years. During this busy time of year it was awesome to see them taking time out to help out Vicki.

Wine pairing for vegetable-based dishes can be tricky because you don’t want the wine to overpower the plates. Big bold tannic wines that are perfect for steak houses are not so great with bok choy. Heavy bodied wines will overwhelm the flavor and texture of the small, delicate dishes. I always am interested in what the sommeliers choose in these situations. It is such a big wine world, and since we are lucky to have such varied distribution in Chicago, what grape do you go to, what region do you go to. Here is a “brief” rundown of the wines and plates as paired by Sommelier Chris Crispino and for future ideas for your next wine pairing with a vegetable centric meal. The courses were all “group” courses, so 3-4 small plates per course. These wines had to be versatile, which they were.

Domaine André et Mireille Tissot, Cremant du Jura Rosé Extra Brut, NV

Lots of bright fruit, crisp, red berries, biodynamic, traditional method, did not overpower but complemented the snacks. Bubbles are always a great way to start a meal.

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Paired with the snacks: wild rice porridge bread, cultured butter, B & L charcuterie, kenery bean escabeche, carrot with pickled melon, mint and chili oil, beet walnut spread with pickled eggs kohl-slaw, roasted sweet potatoes (Part of the “snacks” below)

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Domaine de la Pépière, ‘Clisson’ , Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, 2013 

The classic pairing with muscadet are oysters. The first course did include some salt, seaweed, crab. Muscadets are a versatile wine, the lemon, the minerality, the acidity worked with the beet, and the greens as well. The grapes are grown on a particular plot of granite and the winemaker, Marc Ollivier farms organically which was quite appropriate for this dinner. This was a delicious wine full of nuance.

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Paired with the First course: garlic greens, miso, white beans, turmeric sweet potato bread, seaweed butter, buttermilk smoked beets, elderflower and crab with a gnocchi.

Do Ferreiro, Albariño, Galicia, Spain 2014

Albariños are bright, fresh, wines with the hint of the ocean and underlying spice. The subtle spice notes are probably what paired best with the chili and jalapeno accents in the dishes of the second course. Indigenous yeasts and farmed organically.

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The Second Course: Marinated bok chop, fried beans, jalapeño smoked white bean soup, chicharron, chili oil wild, rice porridge, bekana (chinese cabbage), egg yolk

Domaine Yohan Lardy, ‘Le Vivier’, Fleurie, 2014

Having visited the region of the Beaujolais Cru, I learned first hand how versatile and how many forms gamay can take in the wines. When in doubt with what wine to choose and it involves a little meat, vegetables, a beaujolais cru wine will fit the bill and this Fleurie did. Yohan Lardy,the winemaker quoted on the Terroir Originals site, “Every day in my vineyards, I work with and in respect of nature in order to express my terroir the most naturally and purely possible”. I would say that Vicki has the same respect for the land in terms of growing vegetables.

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Paired with the Third Course: Long cooked cabbage, pork, sweet potato cured trout, celtuce, mustard green aguachile and charred onion oil, grilled carrots, black garlic, kale and fermented mushroom. (not pictured the cabbage and pork)

Domaine Labet, Macvin du Jura, 2006

(From the Charles Neal website) Whereas Cognac has Pineau des Charentes, Armagnac has Floc de Gascogne and Calvados has Pommeau de Normandie, the Jurasic version is called Macvin du Jura. Here, producers use a blend of 2/3 unfermented juice which is muted with a third Marc (the distilled lees and the French equivalent to grappa), which prevents the fermentation of the sugars and stabilizes the alcohol at 18%. It is aged in well-seasoned 228-liter casks and is most commonly drunk as an apéritif.

I welcomed this Macvin because as you may have picked up, there was a lot of great food and I needed something to kind of cut through it all yet make room for dessert. I ended up taking home a full bag of “leftovers”. Macvin is slightly sweet, bright, fresh with slight bitter notes.

The Fourth Course Sweets: Carrot Cake, egg yolk frosting, whiskey glazed doughnuts, tapioca pudding, fruit, almond, cookie. If Chef Abra Berens serves the tapioca dessert at Stock Cafe at Local Foods, order it immediately, it was so good. The rest of the items were packaged up.

All these wines worked really well and I enjoyed them immensely. The Jura, Muscadet, Rias Baixas and Beaujolais are all wine regions to know better and keep in mind when a farm dinner is on the schedule, your vegetarian friends visit or you have started that “eat lighter” regime. From the picture above, I was not exactly eating lighter but that is where the Macvin fit in!

For me, there is a sense of harmony with the meal when the food and wines are in sync with each other from a growing perspective as well as a tasting one. The chefs, farmer Vicki and the makers of the wines all had a tremendous respect for nature. I think that environmental stewardship comes out in the flavor of the wines and the vegetables.  We just have to hope that nature is kinder to Vicki and her farm in the coming year!!

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