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Friday, May 22, 2015

Culinary School - Session 113: Wine and Restaurant Day Preparation

Culinary School: Session 113 (05.20.15)

Wine and Restaurant Day Preparation

Where have you been all my life?

Or at least where were you yesterday, during the Cheese Tasting class... because talk about logical pairings?

No secret! I'm no stranger to tasting wine. Although I'd never previously had the experience of truly tasting wines, being guided from glass to glass. After an intimidatingly dense presentation on the wine-making process, and after several glasses of choice Dessert Wines, I find myself dangerously attracted to the craft. 

I'd always rolled my eyes at "sommelier speak". 

"Why, yes! I can detect notes of slate and tar, and they are a surprisingly complex complement to the lemon-rind finish."

And yet, here I am... admitting that the practice may not be nearly as arbitrary and subjective as I had previously believed.

Glasses for Dessert Wine Tasting

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Ingredients used to date (05.20.15):
  • Flour: 26,080g
  • Eggs: 18,100g (362x)
  • Sugar: 38,715g
  • Butter: 18,575g
  • Milk/Cream: 19,870g
  • Chocolate: 9,335g (since 01.12.15)

- Wine Tasting -

Sip and spit...

Having someone to guide you through wine tasting is invaluable. It's like having a local tour guide in a foreign country. The experience is so much greater when you are with someone who speaks the language.

Before we took a single sip from four Dessert Wines, we were made to endure two hours on the fundamentals of wine, wine production and wine tasting. Perhaps that was a way to build anticipation. But the information enhanced the experience immeasurably.

Chateau Pajzos Puttonyos Dessert Wine Paired with a Tart Bourdaloue

Turning to page 42 of the presentation...

Most people are familiar with the idea of a wine vintage - it's the calendar year in which the wine was produced. Conventional wisdom says that older is better, but that's an extreme oversimplification. While characteristics and complexity can improve with age (to a point), vintage is better thought of as just another identifier.

In the U.S., we also identify our wines by grape variety, such as Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Throughout most of the rest of the world, wines are identified by region. As a consumer, you have to know which grape varieties are grown in which region.

When it comes to wine production, the craft involves more than just crushing grapes and letting the juice ferment. Grapes are actually pressed several times. The first pressing is sweeter. The last pressing, which is primarily of the grape skins, is more bitter and acidic. It is up to the wine producer to mix those different pressings to create the best final product.

Anyone can see the difference between a White Wine and a Red Wine, but few probably know how each is made. Surprisingly, White Wines come from the juice of either light or dark skinned grapes. The wine stays light in color because the juice does not include pressings from the skins of the grapes. Red Wines include juice from both the grape and the skin. A Rose is made when juice is allowed to come in contact only briefly with the skin. 

Aside from color, there are different types of wines including Sparkling Wines, Fortified Wines and Dessert Wines. Sparkling Wines are characteristically bubbly from CO2. Fortified Wines contain distilled spirits and are high in alcohol. Dessert Wines are very sweet with more than 5%+ residual sugar content.

(Almost) time to taste...

A proper tasting is a multi-sensorial practice involving sight, smell... and then taste.

The appearance of a wine can tell you a lot. Aside from the obvious red / white / rose distinction, you can get clues regarding age, sweetness and alcohol content. White Wines become darker as they age (oxidization) while Reds become lighter (separation of pigments). A wine that appears thick and viscous when swirled is going to be sweeter and/or higher in alcohol.

Since taste and smell are closely linked, a good sniff is critical in assessing a glass of wine.

When it's finally time to take a sip, keep in mind the acronym "FEW": Fruit, Earth and Wood. It is a helpful way to think through the flavors that you may be tasting. 

Fruit flavors may include citric, stone, tropical or orchard fruits. Earth flavors can be organic (e.g. mossy) or inorganic (e.g. metallic). The Wood category of flavors, which is dominant in barrel-fermented products, also includes flavors like oak, baking spices and even coffee & chocolate.

Finally... the tasting!

1. Chateau Pajzos Puttonyos Tokaji

Origin: Tokaji, Hungary
Vintage: 2010
Alcohol Content: 11.5%
Average Retail Price: $25
Sensory Analysis
  • Extremely light color suggests a younger age. 
  • Thin / non-viscous body indicates low sugar and/or alcohol content.
  • Smell is sweet and floral, like Honey.
  • Tastes is of Honey (confirms smell), Apricot and Chamomile Tea. Earth notes include Slate.

Chateau Pajzos Puttonyos Dessert Wine

Chateau Pajzos Puttonyos Dessert Wine

Tasting Sheet Notes for Chateau Pajzos Puttonyos Dessert Wine

2. Lustau Pedro Ximenez San Emilio

Origin: Andalucia, Spain
Vintage: NV
Alcohol Content: 17.0%
Average Retail Price: $28
Sensory Analysis:
  • Dark brown color.
  • Very thick and viscous, like a syrup.
  • Strong smell of Maple, Raisins and Coffee.
  • Taste is of Figs and Dates. The syrupy consistency coats the mouth. The higher alcohol content leaves a light burning sensation.

Lustau Pedro Ximenez San Emilio Dessert Wine

3. Broadbent 5-Year Reserve Madeira

Origin: Portugal
Vintage: NV
Alcohol Content: 19.0%
Average Retail Price: $25
Sensory Analysis:
  • Lighter brown color with greenish hues at the edge.
  • Thinner body which, given higher reported alcohol content, indicates lower amounts of residual sugar.
  • Wood flavors, including Cloves, dominate.

Broadbent 5-Year Reserve Madeira Dessert Wine

4. Dow's 10-Year Tawny Port

Origin: Portugal
Vintage: NV
Alcohol Content: 20.0%
Average Retail Price: $30
Sensory Analysis:
  • Reddish-brown color. 
  • Moderate viscosity. 
  • Flavors of Chocolate and Coffee, as well as a residual bitterness. High Tannin content leaves mouth feeling sticky and dry.

Dow's 10-Year Tawny Port Dessert Wine

    - Restaurant Day -

    That's seven Waffle Sundaes!

    Just one last session to prepare for "Restaurant Day", when the class will present 50 diners with a full menu of original, plated desserts. The final menu, which is inspired by "Americana Classics", is ready to go. No time to make major changes now! 
    Now, it's all about execution.

    Photos of all of the final plates will come next week!

    The Menu:

    Pre-Dessert: Raspberry Prosecco Sorbet

    Main Desserts:
    • Pate a Choux Waffle Sundae
    • Brown Butter Apple Pie Cheesecake
    • Chocolate Budino
    • Coconut Cream Pie
    • Frozen Lemon Meringue
    • Strawberry Rhubarb Rice Pudding

    Petits Fours:
    • Mini S'mores
    • Buttered Popcorn Macaron
    • Cherry Pie Tartletts

    Take Home: Rosemary Pine Nut CrackerJacks

    Cooling Fresh Strawberry Fruit Puree for the Pate a Choux Waffle Whipped Cream

    Strawberry Whipped Cream for the Pate a Choux Waffle Sundae

    Fresh Cut Bacon to be Candied

    Candying Bacon with Maple Syrup

    Vacherin Meringue Shell

    Fresh Squeeze Limes for Lime Sherbet

    Toasted Coconut for the Coconut Cream Pie Infusion

    Next - Session 114: Restaurant Day (Evaluation)

    Previous - Session 112: Cheese and Restaurant Day Preparation

    Take a look at the full syllabus

    Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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