Date Night Dinner & Wine #2: Great Meal, Good Wine, Bad Pairing


Wine pairing with a date night dinner.

Great food, but a poor wine pairing. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Verbeem.

This week I tried something different. I had my favourite recipe guinea pig over, picked her favourite wine, then tried out a recipe I’d been kicking around my head over the course of my last three or four showers. The results were mixed: a big yes on the wine, a satisfied belch on the food, and an uneasy silence on the marriage of the two.

As the Ottawa days get shorter and ever colder, I’ve found myself in a bit of a slump. I’m sleeping later, drinking more, and thinking less. It was these winter blues that brought about the conception of this dish, an attempt to simultaneously warm and refresh myself and my date. I tried a salad of Belgian endives, shredded radicchio, seared beef tenderloin, strawberries, and mint-garlic goat cheese – topped with a couple drops of raspberry vinaigrette. For the wine pairing I had a bottle of Apothic Red by E. & J. Gallo Winery ($16.15) in California.

I think the conflict in pairing here happened because of my lack of familiarity with the dish. On paper they should have paired well; medium bodied red wine with notes of dark fruit complimenting the rare beef and contrasting the bitter endives and herbaceous, savoury goat cheese. I added the raspberry vinaigrette to blend the bitter leaves with the sweeter strawberries and ease the transition from food to wine but this wine had me stumped. In hindsight, I think the longer finish caused the vanilla flavour at the end of the wine to continue far too long in to a new bite of salad and seemed to butt heads with the savoury hits of goat cheese and beef in a new bite.

Next time I try this dish out I’m going to take the wine in a totally different direction. Instead of trying to marry the entire dish I’m going to look to bring out the beef and let the other components prop it up instead of it getting lost. I have a distinct soft spot for Italian wines but I’d suggest trying this out with a Ruffino Chianti from Tuscany. The notes of cherry on the nose will carry through to a spicy, pepper flavour that brings the beef to the forefront of the dish. And at $15 a bottle it’s all too easy to double up for a date night dinner and wine pairing.

There’s not a ton of cooking involved in this dish and you’ll want to start it off with an appetizer if you’ve got a hunger more suited to a fifth or sixth date. I’d try a mixed charcuterie board – no real preference in meats or cheeses, just whatever you like to munch on. And pancetta, always pancetta.

The LettuceĀ Recipe

Ingredients

2 Belgian Endives – As a note here you’ll want to look for pale leaves. The more green-yellow colour on the leaves, the more bitter the flavour. Nice pale leaves have a better balance between sweet and bitter.
0.5 Head of Radicchio

Method

Chop the bottom inch off the endives and pick the leaves. You’ll build the salad with these first on the plate, scattered around really rustic. Next take the core out of the radicchio and very thinly slice it. I’m talking as thin as you can. If you have a food processor with a slicing attachment, go ahead and feed it in there. It’s a super bitter chicory so if you get a huge chunk it will ruin your bite. Once you’ve got it sliced up, scatter it over your endive leaves on the plate.

Beef Tenderloin Recipe

Ingredients

10-12 Ounces of Beef Tenderloin – This stuff is expensive. You can also buy it as “beef fillet” but the most important thing here is that it’s cleaned properly. You don’t want any silverskin or excess fat on the meat. Any good butcher will take care of this for you but if you buy it from the grocery store make sure you do a quick Google and make sure you have it cleaned properly.
Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil

Method

Take your beef out a little bit before you start cooking so you can let it come to room temperature. Cut the tenderloin in to two equal sized steaks. Get a pan screaming hot, almost smoking. Season your beef with the salt and pepper on both sides then throw a splash of oil in your hot pan. Lay the beef in the pan and sear for 2-4 minutes on either side depending on how thick your steak is. If you’re feeling fancy after your first flip you can lower the heat and throw a tablespoon of butter in to the pan. Use the melted butter and juices to baste your meat as it cooks. Once you’re fully seared, set the meat aside on a plate to rest. Let it rest for 6-7 minutes then slice as thin as you can and drape the slices over your lettuces.

Goat Cheese
Ingredients
100 grams Unripened Goat Cheese
1 Tablespoon Dried Mint
1 Clove of Garlic, minced

Method

Mix all the ingredients together and toss it in the fridge to chill again. Chilled goat cheese is much easier to crumble than warm. Crumble this over your beef as you’re building the salad.

To Finish

Slice up strawberries as thin as you can and spread them over your salad. If you’re feeling super posh you can chiffonade some fresh mint leaves and sprinkle over everything to garnish. I did and it looks fantastic.

Apothic red made for a poor pairing.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Verbeem.

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