Monday, August 2, 2010
A couple of weeks ago, Domaine Chandon celebrated their restaurant, étoile’s, brand new cookbook release. The book is gorgeous, accompanied by the beautiful photography of France Ruffenach, a James Beard award winning photographer based in San Francisco. She’s also done Tartine’s cookbook which is my absolute favorite cookbook. I’ve been learning so much about Domaine Chandon and étoile and their chefs from reading this cookbook. The book is not yet available in bookstores but you can pre-order Jeff Morgan’s signed copies from Domaine Chandon’s website.
Domaine Chandon is one of the most popular wineries in Napa Valley, best known for their sparking wines. It’s located in beautiful Yountville near high-end restaurants and famous wineries.
While I have only heard about étoile before, this was my first time trying out their food (though technically it was their cookbook food). It received a Michelin star this year and is the only fine dining restaurant located in a winery in Napa Valley. Just like their sparkling wine, the food was elegant and stylish: the best of both classic and modern were combined beautifully. And of course, incredibly tasty.
They had over a dozen samples from the book, nicely varying from bite-sized appetizers, to soup, salad, meat, seafood, desserts, and several different wines including some still wines. Unintentionally but naturally we went around in the right order of contents except for one. We started with a glass of freshly poured Brut Classic (my favorite!), followed by a bite of gougère. Gougère is a savory cheese puff and usually hollow inside, but they stuffed it with truffle cream. The second appetizer we encountered was Deviled Quail Eggs with Caviar; your grandma’s Sunday’s special deviled eggs just became a whole lot more elegant, even cooler. This is definitely an entertaining bite for a party especially if you are looking for something no-to-difficult way to impress your friends.
Next, there were shots of Green Vegetable Gazpacho with Tiger Shrimp and Pickled Red Onions, which were topped with pretty flowers. It was the most colorful and beautiful dish but because of how it was served, I ended up eating just the flowers and shrimp and drinking the soup separately. I will have to try making it at home to make a full assessment on this.
After trying the soup and salad, I had Chandon Rosé and had sips of Pinot Noir from my escort for the evening, Rachel. Though Harold McGee says that scientifically, people can’t detect the minerals in wines, I still would like to expand my flavor imagination when tasting wines. This full-bodied Pinot Noir had hint of cherry and chocolate. It was great with Lamb Loin with Tabouli, Tomatoes, and Cannelini Beans which was Rachel’s favorite. I caught her sneaking seconds.
Another favorite (I’ve lost track of how many favorites I had) was Braised Beef Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta. It was so tender that when I picked it up with a fork, it fell apart. No wonder the recipe calls for a whole bottle of red wine! This was the most popular dish I saw that night. So much so that I had hard time catching them in the booth to take pictures. People were waiting right in front of it and snatching them as they were being made.
When we stepped outside, there were oysters! I really liked how they displayed oysters on the half-shell on a mound of ice. Isn’t it brilliant? It was served with tarragon mignonette and a lemon wedge. There is no need to tell you how it was, please just use your imagination.
These were enough to make us feel satisfied, so we took a break from eating. Chef Perry Hoffman who created many of the dishes in the cookbook was there, greeting guests and signing books. He was certainly the “étoile” of the night. We too were excited to meet him and get our cookbooks signed.
On the other side, author Jeff Morgan was there signing books. He is a well established wine writer and co-owner/winemaker of Covenant Wines in Napa Valley. There are good amount of wine talking in this book from basics to wine paring and cooking with wine. He included wine paring suggestions for almost every single recipe. So if you love wines, this is an excellent book for you. Even if you don’t drink wine, these savory and sweet recipes alone are worth the buy. I’m definitely making Braised Short Ribs and Bitter Orange Crème Brûlée.