Wine Enthusiast Partners with Dinner Lab for a Dynamic Pairing Series
On Thursday, June 26, Wine Enthusiast launched its partnership with Dinner Lab—the members-only traveling supper club that taps chefs to create dishes and wine experts to curate matching pours.
The nationwide series kicked off its three-part New York City stint at Brooklyn’s Sky Gallery space with host Susan Kostrzewa, Wine Enthusiast’s Executive Editor.
“Dinner Lab's philosophy and focus is completely in line with Wine Enthusiast's and we love the idea of delivering quality wine and food in a casual environment. The goal of these events is to celebrate the joy of wine and food, and entertain while educating,” said Kostrzewa.
Fifty-plus guests indulged in Chef Jacob Cureton’s Creole-inflected bites paired with wines from Merryvale Vineyards and Starmont Winery and Vineyards, compiled by William Rhodes, Northeast regional representative of the wineries. The team talked to attendees about each course and pour, plus presented tips on why the pairing worked so well.
Cureton’s first dish—a bay scallop with crunchy cornbread, charred tomatoes and coriander prepared two ways—was served with Starmont’s Carneros Chardonnay. “The hint of toast and body on this Chardonnay match the textures of the bread and scallops,” said Rhodes.
Cureton’s second dish, butter-poached rock shrimp with basil, citrus and avocado, featured pickled and candied pecans—his favorite childhood treat. He told attendees about how he and his friends lived near a pecan farm and picked them off the ground until their pockets were stuffed.
“I like my food to tell stories,” said Cureton, who hails from Alabama but now calls New Orleans home. Rhodes paired the dish with Starmont’s 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir, which boasts red cherry and spice notes, with bright acidity on the finish.
Cureton served two other dishes that he labeled “fancy gas station food”: a grapefruit-pickled quail egg with bacon, corn and blueberry; and pork jowl cracklins with lemon crème fraîche. Rhodes paired the first with Merryvale’s 2009 Merlot and the second with 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The deliciously creative matches and overall experience was well worth the $50-ticket price, according to guests.
“We’re adventurous eaters but wine-amateurs,” said Dinner Lab member Katie McGee, who attended with her friend Stacy Kaplan. “It’s exciting learning more about wine-and-food pairings with new chefs.”
“Chef Cureton's cuisine is personal and modern, and focuses on high end artistry with a whimsical edge. This is exactly the kind of experience our reader wants. It's authentic and completely unique," said Kostrzewa.
Gastronomes have only experienced the tip of the iceberg: the next two Wine Enthusiast-hosted Dinner Lab New York City events are on the horizon and will showcase New York and South African wines. After that, the Lab heads west to San Francisco. Stay tuned!
To learn more about Dinner Lab or to become a member, click here. The next NYC events are July 17 and July 24, 2014.
Wine Enthusiast and traveling supper club series Dinner Lab continued their wine-and-food pairing series on Thursday, July 17 with a focus on Finger Lakes wines and a creative young chef.
At 24-years-old, Bronx-native Chef Kwame Onwuachi is chef de partie at world-renowned restaurant Eleven Madison Park, and he brought that talent to Dinner Lab. Crafting four snack-sized bites inspired by his Nigerian heritage and New York upbringing, Onwuachi—alongside Nancy Irelan, owner and winemaker of the Finger Lakes region’s Red Tail Ridge Winery—introduced the 70-plus well-heeled guests to creative wine-driven food pairings.
The evening's first pairing was a berry-cured hamachi paired with Red Tail Ridge's sparkling Teroldego, a red grape which hails from Italy's Alto Adige region. Not unlike Lambrusco "with berry notes, it was also acid-forward and earthy," says Onwuachi. "I chose to pair it with the hamachi, which was scented with lavender to complement those earthy notes as well as yuzu gel to bring out the acidity."
Other dishes included a crispy fried chicken and cinnamon waffle, topped with maple jus and Tabasco, playing off the bright acidity of Red Tail Ridge’s 2013 Dry Riesling. A crowd favorite was the braised short-rib slider on brioche with a sauce vierge and radishes, paired with the almost-Burgundian earthiness in the Red Tail Ridge 2012 Pinot Noir. The evening's final dish, spiced eggplant roti with mango curry and cilantro, was a perfect match to the spice and weight of Red Tail Ridge’s Block 907 2012 Riesling.
"The partnership between Wine Enthusiast and Dinner Lab is a perfect example of 'thinking outside the box,'" says Irelan, who walked the attendees through her process and philosophy as a winemaker and how that translates in her wines. "It was an innovative approach to provide an intimate and casual setting that exposed engaged diners to newly emerging, talented young chefs.
"Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s expertise, and culinary prowess were clearly demonstrated in the pairings," says Irelan. "I thoroughly enjoyed myself."
Dinner Lab and Wine Enthusiast continued their nationwide wine-and-food pairing series Friday, July 18, in San Francisco, California, where Chef Paras Shah—previously of La Fonda del Sol, Momofuku Noodle Bar and Per Se, all in New York—prepared passed appetizers complimented by St. Francis Winery’s Sonoma County wines.
The event was held at The Producer’s Loft in the city’s Mission District, a working video and photography studio with a full-size kitchen that owner Vic Ferrer was happy to put to use for the 50 attendees. Dinner Lab partnered with PeerSpace, an app and marketplace for booking creative spaces, to secure the venue.
With bossa nova music in the background and a full-size screen on one wall showing scenes from Planet Earth, Chef Shah took the stage to welcome everyone and introduce his style of food—accessible Filipino, a nod to his background.
“What I bring with this menu is a nice way for the public to be introduced, seduced and discover what I’ve always felt was a world-class cuisine,” he said. “It’s nuanced, fresh, flavorful and downright yummy.”
St. Francis winemakers Katie Madigan and Chris Louton introduced the wine pairings and explained why they worked so well.
The first pour, a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc made by Louton, went well with the chef’s spoon-cradled scallop with yuzu kosho, calamansi foam, pickled lychee and furikake. The dish’s acidity paired perfectly with the wine’s creaminess.
The second dish—a tocino slider with cucumbers and banana ketchup—was matched with St. Francis’s 2011 Old Vines Zinfandel. The spiciness of the wine complemented the inventive banana ketchup, which also had a kick.
St. Francis’s 2012 Terra Rossa Zinfandel was poured alongside a pepper-rubbed bistek and smoked eggplant purée, and the longaniza (a type of Filipino sausage), lentils and sofrito dish was paired with the winery’s 2011 Sonoma Cuvée.
Photos by Daniel Watson, PeerSpace
- 1Chef Jacob Cureton and Merryvale Vineyards
- 2Chef Kwame Onwuachi and Red Tail Ridge Winery
- 3Chef Paras Shah + St. Francis Winery
- 4Chef Chris Bailey + Mulderbosch