If you have a wine dinner planned this month, give up now. Hibiscus chef Graham Dodds already served a better one than you will.
Wreck fish paella
If you’re a chef or restaurateur and happen to be hosting a wine dinner this month, my condolences. You’d be hard pressed to create a better meal than the one chef Graham Dodds’ served at a recent Grassini Wines dinner at Hibiscus.
Winery rep Katie Grassini led an intimate tasting of her family’s estate wines, pointing out that chickens and peppers share the 35 acres of vineyards from which all Grassini grapes are sourced and harvested. “The longest the grapes are on the road are from one end of our driveway to the other,” Grassini told a group of about twenty wine lovers at a Hibiscus wine dinner at which I was an invited guest.
Grassini and her family produce Bordeaux grape varietals, bottling some individually (their wheelhouse is cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc) or blended to accentuate their collective harmonies.
I particularly loved Grassini’s reserve sauvignon blanc, aged 22 months in French oak and softened through a run of malolactic fermentation. Katie said the sauvignon blanc grapes are grown in a valley between two hills in Santa Barbara’s Happy Canyon AVA, and that the French oak “makes it a super food-friendly wine from a grape that people don’t normally think is good with food.”
I’d take issue with the last part — that sauvignon blanc doesn’t play well with food — and I’m pretty sure Graham Dodds would, too, since it seemed perfectly at home with both a bowl of wreck fish paella as well as a plate of baked gem squash, apples and bobwhite quail.
The star of the night, though, was Dodds’ heritage pork entree, a roasty celebration of piggy delights that included juicy pork shoulder coffin, crispy pork belly, orange-and-pine-nut-spiked mazzafugzi sausage — all from a single red wattle pig whose diet Dodds said consisted primarily of whey from a local creamery. To the side of the pork: Grassini cabernet-poached pears. Beneath the pork: creamy polenta and grain mustard. And for dessert: chocolate pecan pie studded with pecans soaked first in rum then tumbled in chocolate and sugar. Grassini wines are worth seeking out. Brian Brill, whose Monopole Wines distributes Grassini in Texas, says you can find them in Dallas at Pogo’s.
And if you’re wondering how in the world a Graham Dodds dinner could conclude without a single goat dish, you’re not alone. This time, Dodds, the patron saint of goat cuisine, took a break. And I didn’t miss it a bit.