Dave is now an official member of the San Francisco Wine & Food Society, and our first event as members (actually only men can be members) was the dinner at Acquerello on Monday night, the 13th. We thought we had been to this restaurant before, but once we showed up, we realized that we had not. Acquerello consistently gets top 10 status in San Francisco. We were anxious to see what the excitement is about.
The event was black tie. That’s me in the picture above with a tux jacket and pants. Everyone looked fabulous. I just love black tie events and the way it sets off the ambience of the event. The restaurant decor was perfect for a formal event. Although this picture is pretty awful, you can see the rich dark tones of the dining room. We were pretty low key about taking other pictures as a flash was needed, and we didn’t want to upset our neighbors at the table. Turns out I sat next to the chairman of the event – pretty cool!!
The reception generally had a still and sparkling wine offering. This night, we were given the choice of NV Drusian Prosecco di Valdebbiadene and
2008 Vinos Pinol Nestra Portal Blanc. I found the Prosecco to be mild and slightly sweet, but much drier than Proseccos I’ve had in the past. The white wine was from Spain. We’re told that the WFS has minimal inventory or Spanish wines and that they’re looking for an expert. I’m kinda one, so I’ve been providing Dave with my study materials so that he can buff up on the subject. I wasn’t that pleased with the Spanish wine choice. I found it too light and without much flavor. The appetizers being served on trays were:
Olive oil poached salmon, fennel composta
Gallantine of rabbit with green tomato mostarda
Parmesan profiteroles with Parmaesan ricotta
Anchovy-stuffed olives with salsa rossa
Chilled shooter of orange honeydew with Sicilian olive oil
The appetizers were delicious, little bites of heaven with a marvelous Italian flare. The gallantine tasted as if there was foie gras. The olives were deep-fried, and the anchovies were mild.
We all sat down to dinner at our assigned tables. There was a myriad of spoons, forks and knives about our places. I always taught my kids – ‘when in doubt, eat from the out’, so it was easy to assume which utensil went with what. The first course was Carpaccio of coffee cured black cod, lightly smoked with citrus and chive blossoms. It was served with 2005 Alde Conterno Chardonnay Bussia d’Or. The pairing was perfect. I had no idea coffee could bring out such delicate flavors in the black cod. Black cod tastes like butter regardless of what you do, but this combination really brought out the smooth texture of the black cod. The Chardonnay reminded me of a classic California-style Chardonnay, not something one normally experiences in European wines.
The piece de resistance came next in a Ridged pasta with foie gras, scented with black truffles and Marsala. I’m told this is a standard menu item for Acquerello. What outstanding flavors. The pasta was cooked al dente, and the ridges only added to the deep, rich foie gras and black truffle flavor. The Wine Chairman went WAY out of a limb by serving NV Muscatella -Lingi Muscat Doux National. Muscat is normally served as a dessert wine, but what an amazing pairing with the deep, earthy flavors of the pasta. I could have eaten this all night.
After they tore the pasta plate from me, we were served Raviolo of veal with braised chanterelles and summer black truffles. Ah, more truffles, and they really shined. The veal was light and flavorful, and the chanterelles added their classic umami and a bit of texture. The wine pairing was a 2001 Pio Cesare Barbaresco Il Bricco. From my notes taken in the dark, I note that the Wine Chairman informed us that this 100% Nebbiolo was created by the great-grandson of the vineyard founder, and it rates a whopping 94 points. It was rich and dark but not too strong to overwhelm the delicate veal.
We are fortunate to have such a great chef at Acquerello who creates amazing food yet understands a human’s limits. (And, by the way, it’s Monday night and the restaurant is normally closed. All of the staff agreed to come in and cook and serve us – Thank you SO much for taking your own time to serve us this wonderful food.) All of the courses were small – just enough to taste the marvelous food and enjoy the food pairings. Our next course was sous vide ‘bavette’ of American Kobe beef with braised oxtail stuffed with squash and basil. If I had to capture a theme for this wonderful dinner, it would be ‘earth’. The beef was so tender and so rich with the stuffed squash adding even more earthy complexity. But then, the WFS totally blew us all away by serving a 1986 Chateau Beychevelle St.-Julien and a 1985 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien.
The first wine was musty and moldy (I mean this in the most respectful and wonderful way), light bodied with cigar tones and dry roasted fruit. If you have a cellar and the time to wait 24 years to open a bottle like this, you are in for the treat of a lifetime. I simply couldn’t get over its amazing depth and complexity. The second bottle was just as amazing but totally different, with an aroma of lead pencil and deep, black cranberries.
And still, we move on. A beautiful Blu di Valchiusella cheese, produced with cow and sheep milk in Piemonte was served with a 2001 Montellori Vin Santo. There was a tiny slice of honeycomb to offset the mild blue cheese flavor. As I recall (again bad notes in the dark), it is rare to find a blue cheese made of both cow and sheep milk – so smooth and delicious. A 2001 Montellori Vin Santo, a delicious pairing of a wine made from Trebiollo grapes.
We finished our meal with a light and lovely basil gelato with olive oil and homemade biscotti and coffee. I was happy to see nothing too heavy at the end – most Italians do not have heavy desserts. They understand that the body of the meal is the meal, and after it’s gone, one must rest and respect the food one has enjoyed.
I’m so happy Dave is a member of this wonderful club. I’m learning so much. I promise next time to take better notes and to report my findings with greater accuracy. Tutto bene!
- Amazing service
- Foie Gras