Restaurant Reviews

Fabby Wine and Food Pairings

On May 5 QSaltLake held its annual Fabby Awards at the Mountain Lands Kitchen and Bath Design Center downtown. Brad di Iorio and I had set up a small food and wine tasting with several of the restaurants that work with Q. The food and wine pairing part of the event was fantastic, considering it was the first time we had combined a wine tasting with the Fabbys. Many attendees said it was better than the wine festivals held in Park City. Let me tell you about it.

If you haven’t been into Mountain Lands Design, you need to go there. Those who are at all interested in having a beautiful kitchen someday, you won’t believe the great stoves, ovens, fridges and cabinetry offered there. I personally love the Thermador ranges with full, commercial-sized ovens that can hold bakery sheet pans. They also have innovative cobalt-coated ovens by Wolf. While we were there, one of our judges, Barlow Bradford is a closeted kitchen designer and he was hearing the angels sing.

The cooks prepared their fare at many staged kitchen areas throughout the center, and the food was gorgeous. We need to thank many wine brokers who donated wine to the event: Jeff Carter of Southern Wine (who provided wine for two stations), Joe Sargetakis of Parallel Winery, and Chris O’Hearn of Young’s Market who provided helpful promotional materials from Fetzer Winery. Other wines were provided by Patti Ellis, who provided Bottleneck Wines for Moxi Wine Bistro. Thanks also go to Tiffany of Mountain Lands who provided New Age white for Café Molise. QSaltLake provided the Pacific Rim Framboise dessert wine, a Young’s Market product, for Diva’s Cupcakes.

I thought the star of the night was Ian from Sage’s Cafe who used a chiffonade of red tulips to garnish his vegan bruschetta and served it with a Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon, ’07 ($50). This was a very generous gift from the owners of Parallel. The bruschetta was a beautifully made crouton spread with a vegan mushroom duxelles and topped with figs in a delicious wine reduction. Also, the tulip topping looked like silken, metallic ribbons. The whole shebang was fragrant and very tasty — I was blown away! Ian Brandt is the handsome, young chef/owner of Sage’s Café, which specializes in vegetarian and organic cuisine.

From my standpoint there were two runners-up in the fine cuisine presenters. The new Moxi Wine Bistro in Bountiful was serving a golden duck breast prepared by the enormously talented Chef Rick Bruno. In front of our guests he flamed caramelized onion and shallots in brandy. The sauce was laced with molasses and the flavor of this treatment on rare duckling was just orgasmic! I’ve had this dish served to me at Moxi, but I thought it was even better at our event. The duck was paired with a Bottleneck Wine — A to Z Night and Day which is an Oregon Table Wine blend and a true bargain at around $16.

Wild Grape, also, did not disappoint. Owner Troy Greenhawt showed up with a darling, blond server and they dished up squares of roasted pork bellies in a sweet and luscious wine-reduction. On the side, as garnish, the chef had prepared a colorful spring salad of peas and asparagus which made the dish look beautiful. The pork melted in your mouth and was pleasantly paired with the highly rated Rosenblum Rockpile Zinfandel ($42) — such a treat to taste at a free event. Wild Grape was awesome!

Café Molise and Sego Lilly Café rounded out our group with tasty hors d’oeuvres. They were serving a skewered date, stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon. These were á la nage in a nicely made wine-reduction, garnished with blue cheese and green onion, and paired with a Tarazas Malbec from Argentina ($13). Sego Lily made the beautiful seafood stuffed cucumber disks which were paired with New Age White, Argentine Sparkling cocktail wine — a Wild West Wines product brokered in Utah by Ron Shelby ($10).

Finally, we were treated to the most lovely, fresh raspberry-topped cupcakes! Diva’s Cupcakes, owned by Gordon Wilkins, outdid themselves by preparing mini-Devil’s Food Cuppies, piped with smooth and rich butter cream. These stunning desserts were paired with a dessert wine, made in Washington State by Pacific Rim — just called Framboise ($13). This pairing was perhaps the best, true food/wine combination of the night, a perfect match — but as one judge put it, “you need an insulin shot after eating two or three!”

Every participating restaurant did a great job and we were so happy that they would donate their time and expense to our event. Speaking for Michael Aaron and all at QSaltLake, we were honored.

All guests at the Fabby awards were given M&M candies to use as a colored-coded voting method at each station. The results of these votes placed Café Molise as number one. We also had a panel of professional wine judges who overwhelmingly voted for Moxi Wine Bar as the best food and wine pairing of the night with Diva’s Cupcakes as a close second. I was honored to have my old friend, John Engen as the head judge. John is one of the founding fathers of wine throughout the West. He was one of the first wine brokers in Utah and founded Vinelore, which he later sold. He also founded and represented the Wasatch Academy of Wine, now owned by Sheral Schowe. Dan Fondrich of QVinum, the local gay and lesbian wine tasting club, was there to help and to judge. My friends, who are the two hugest wine geeks I know, Michael Chipman and Barlow Bradford were on hand to give their votes, too. My thanks to all of them.

Ernest Hemmingway said, “Food and Wine, together, represent the most civilized things on earth.” If you’re not into food and wine or beer and food, you need to add it to you hobby list. It makes life more fun and interesting than you’ll ever know!

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