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Along with showcasing exceptional wines, paired with equally spectacular food, the partnership of Martin Corso (Chef Marty) of The M Group, and Ken Barnes of Temecula Night Out, has fostered a sense of camaraderie and fellowship in the Temecula Valley Wine Country community in presenting “Good Times in the Vines.” The beautiful wine country home of Al and Jean Glaser on a lovely summer evening made for a perfect setting. The evocative musical ambience – a walk down memory lane with Neil Diamond songs and other tunes from the sixties - was created by singer/guitarist Jason Lohrke.
Cocktails Sur Lie, a cocktail fusion of wine and spirits from Middleridge Winery in Idyllwild, welcomed guests upon their arrival. These sparkling cocktails are produced in the méthode champenoise, a sophisticated process wherein the wine becomes effervescent through a secondary or final fermentation in the bottle. The Mule Sparkling Cocktail elevates the traditional Moscow Mule by infusing Muscat wine with ginger, and adding hops and vodka. The result is a subtle hoppy bubbly with hints of spice. Promiscuous Sparkling Cocktail is a seductive blend of Barbara grapes, pomegranate juice, and brandy. Fermenting the grapes and juice with bay leaves, Hibiscus flowers, and black peppercorns, adds the je ne sais quoi element.
Chef Marty’s first tapa offering was a delectable curried cauliflower soup with smoked Gouda (recipe follows). Excellently paired with Orange Coast Lodi Syrah, this beautiful, complex, full-bodied red wine from grapes grown in the Lodi sub-region of California’s Central Valley, complemented the buttery and creamy richness of the soup. The characteristics of the berry, toast, and spice from the wine were in ideal balance with similar elements of the smoked Gouda, curry, and ginger found in the soup.
An innovated take on the classic Italian insalata caprese, was the addition of pickled beets in the golden beet caprese tapa. Iacobelli 2009 Rodolfo Red, a Super Tuscan, was the selected partner for the dish. This earthy wine, from the newest winery in Fallbrook, matched well with the combined flavors of the beets, mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and basil, and enhanced the pleasant acidity of the Szechuan balsamic glaze.
Anticipation was palpable as the third tapa wine partnership was served. The 28-hour slow roasted pork belly with an agave maple glaze over roasted garlic Yukon Gold mashed potatoes tasted as amazing as it sounds. A lovely fruit forward Pinot Noir “Rembrandt Series’ from Casa Tiene Vista, an Old World-Style winery in Fallbrook, both balances the sweetness from the glaze and potatoes, and contrasts with the saltiness of the pork.
Guests were treated to another wine from Middleridge Winery, 2013 “Blues Creek” Pinot Grigio. This crisp, refreshing wine is a sensory counterbalance to the lusciousness of the butternut squash ravioli, the gaminess of the prosciutto, and the exotic flavors of the olives and sage.
A blue cheese-infused cheesecake pillar with smoked raspberry chipotle coulis was the evening’s dramatic denouement. The transformation of sweet dessert to savory dessert is inspired, as is the trifecta of dessert wine: an elegant, fruity Casa Tiene Vista “Dragonfruit” Port, a dark chocolate and cherry Messina Hof “Papa Paulo” Port (Texas), and a ripe berry Road Runner Ridge’s 100% Petite Sirah “Petite Sweetie” (San Diego County). The intensity of the blue cheese and the spiciness of the chipotle enhanced the sweetness of these marvelous ports.
The pleasant warmth of the evening, the gracious hospitality of the hosts, and the congenial dynamic of the guests contributed to the night’s perfect harmony. As the “oohs and aahs” echoed through wine country, new friendships were formed. To experience this gourmet wine-pairing nirvana, “Good Times in the Vines,” reserve your spot at The M Group’s website: http://www.themgroup.us. Remember, these much-sought-after events sellout quickly. In the meantime, the following cauliflower soup recipe will allow you make a Chef Marty creation at home:
Curried Cauliflower Soup by Chef Marty (“Good Times in the Vines” 10-11-14)
1 leek, including 2 inches of green, roots trimmed
1 medium onion, diced
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into florets
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (more if necessary)
1 cup half-and-half
½ pound Smoked Gouda, medium shred, skin left on the cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place shredded Smoked Gouda in refrigerator to keep chilled. Cut leek in half lengthwise. Wash to remove dirt. Pat dry and thinly slice crosswise.
Place a heavy pot over medium or medium high; add pancetta. Sauté until rendered, but not crispy. Reduce heat to low and add butter. When the butter has melted, sauté the leeks and onions until softened, approximately 8 - 10 minutes; add cauliflower and garlic during the last 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook approximately 5 more minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t worry if the mixture sticks to the bottom of the pan a little bit, we will scrape those flavor nuggets into the soup. Stir in the curry powder and crushed red pepper, and cook over low heat for approximately 5 minutes to complete the cooking of the roux mixture.
Gradually add the broth, one cup at a time, stirring or whisking it into the roux mixture. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the cauliflower is very tender, approximately 15 minutes. Cool slightly.
Purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add half-and-half and blend. Return to heavy pot on stove over low heat, whisk in shredded Smoked Gouda until completely melted. Add more broth if desired. Simmer and season with Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Serve with cheese crisp or shredded cheese garnish.