Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some Light Stalking

On the Thursday before Valentines Day, I went to a wine dinner at Reel Club in Oakbrook with my parents.  They were having a wine dinner with Alpana Singh, the wine director of Lettuce Entertain You.  Despite Lettuce Entertain You being the dumbest word play in the history of word plays, I wanted to go and do a little light stalking of Alpana...and I did.  She is also the host of Check Please, which is apparently a TV show that I have never seen.  I wanted to do a little light stalking of her, and see how that went.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the shining star of the evening, my mom.  She looked, in a word, glorious, that night, as if a team of platinum, glistening steeds ferried her to the restaurant via chariot directly from the heavens.  At one  point, I think she was literally glowing with the aura of righteousness and maybe even briefly floated.  Her hair was the same color as the fire in the fiery pits of Gehenna shone like the brilliance of a thousand suns, and her black dress looked as if it were sewn from the finest silks by the best tailors.

After managing to snap out of the awe-inspiring vision that was my mom, I finally got around to looking at the menu, and more importantly, the accompanying wines.  As an initial note, I'm always pretty skeptical about special events for Valentines Day.  It seems to me otherwise good restaurants overbook themselves and can't keep up with the crush of people, so the food suffers.

The first course on the menu was grilled baby octopus with fingerling potatoes, chorizo, and pistacio pesto.  However, the first course our elf-looking waiter brought us was a shockingly similar course involving a seared scallop instead of octopus.  I would have more information for you, but he didn't explain it at all.  The scallop was pretty tasty, but it was not nearly seared enough.  The best part of a seared scallop is the crunchy crust, but that was missing here.  This dish could have been really solid if it was seared properly, and also if it wasn't so similar to the next course.  It was served with a La Marca, Prosecco.  I like sparkling wine with scallops as a general proposition, and this was no exception.

So, the second course which would have been the first course was the baby octopus.  I'm not the hugest fan of octopus, but usually I've had it fried, so I was looking forward to it being grilled.  Unfortunately it was covered with my least favorite herb - cilantro.  The smell of cilantro makes me want to throw up, so even putting the octopus in my mouth was pretty difficult.  However, I did enjoy the potatoes and the chorizo with this dish.  It was served with a Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay.  I don't usually like unoaked chardonnays, but this was pretty good.  It had some tropical notes and a hint of sweetness.  I could see myself drinking this again, so it wins the award as best unoaked chardonnay that I've had.

The next course was a salt-crusted NY Steak with creamed wild mushrooms and a watercress salad.  I really liked the sauce on this steak since it had a strong mushroom flavor; however, the restaurant made the terrible decision to put a biscuit of some sort under a medium-rare steak.  This made it look like there was a blood soaked sponge on the plate, which, and maybe I'm in the minority here, is not appealing to me.  I feel like this could have been a solid dish if there were fewer people that they needed to serve and they dropped the gross biscuit.  However, the saving grace again was the wine.  They served a Bouza Tannat from Uruguay, which was by far the best wine of the night (even though the others were solid).  They did give Uruguay the unfortunate spelling of "Urugay," but after some child-like giggling, we got past that.  The wine was like a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot.  It had huge berry flavors like a cabernet, but it was super smooth like a good merlot.  We drank lots and lots of glasses of tannat, and it was awesome.  I'll definitely have to look into finding that wine.

The next course barely warrants mentioning, but I will if only because my mom made time stand still with her glory at that point.  The dish is best described as "a giant brick of blue cheese with a bunch of other stuff."  It was about 1 lb of cheese for each person except for me (I mercifully got a normal sized slice).  The spiced walnuts were tasty, but I'll move on from there.  There was a brief discussion of giving me $300 if I would eat the whole chunk in one bite, but that never actually came about even though I could have done it.

The best dish on the menu was the chocolate souffle to end the night.  It was almost cloud-like in texture with a deep chocolate flavor.  The ice cream was good, but clearly playing second fiddle to the souffle.  I found it curious, and, quite frankly, disconcerting that they were serving moscato d'asti with such a big chocolate dish, but it was a bit more earthy than some of the other moscatos that I have had, so it worked nicely.

Finally toward the end, Alpana came over.  She seemed tired, and sort of like she wanted to go home.  She was nice though and autographed some menus and took some pictures.  I repeatedly asked her to go to Cuvee Cellars, and though she seemed interested, it wasn't going to happen that night.  It's too bad for her because I'm sure I had more fun than whatever she ended up doing.

Was it enough to make me rethink my aversion to Valentines Day dinners at restaurants?  Probably not.  However, I could see myself doing a Valentines Day wine tasting next year...

1 comment:

  1. Your mom sounds like a beautiful, wonderful, woman. You are so lucky!