Announcing Vine and Dine! Featuring Horizons!

Liz and I were chatting about wine pairing dinners. She and her husband, Matthew, enjoy wine as much as Jim and I do. So we decided to cook the same dish for dinner and recruit the husbands to pair the dinner with a wine. This is the first in what we hope to make a series of wine pairing dinner ideas that we’re calling Vine and Dine. I know this is a long post, but with both Jim and I writing, it’s a two-fer.

Don’t miss Liz’s post over at Cooking the Vegan Books!

Horizons: New Vegan Cuisine (the second book)

Pasta with Ground Seitan and Porcini Mushroom Sauce, page 120

Random Thoughts and Results:
Even though I’m a huge fan of seitan, there was no way I thought the recipe needed a whole pound of it! So I used 8 ounces and added a cup or so of minced creminis. Having never liked ground beef in spaghetti sauce, I just chopped the seitan into little cubes about the same size as the creminis. The herbs were wonderful in this and the black pepper is quite pronounced. We love black pepper so that was a good thing for us. However, the recipe calls for broth in addition to the soaking water from the porcinis. I debated about adding it, but I did. This (along with the soaking water) made the sauce a little soupy for us so I added a few tablespoons of tomato paste to thicken it up. The porcinis and the soaking water gave this a wonderful, earthy sauce base that made me think ‘old world’.

We have hearty appetites and the recipe says it serves 2 to 3. Well, you’d have to have monstrous appetites for 3 people to finish this off. It has a pound of spaghetti besides a pound of seitan and it would easily serve 4 to 6 in my opinion. (Recipe note: the book calls for 1 pound of cooked pasta of your choice, but I misread that as 1 pound of pasta, cooked. This ratio worked for us but others might find it not saucy enough. Liz got it right, of course!)

This would be a perfect dish to serve omnis and the sauce could certainly be made ahead, making this dinner party friendly.

Jim before we even opened the bottle. Yes, he’s just this much fun!

Now for the wine, here’s Jim!

Hi everybody. We really like wine, we like the history of it, the sort of natural fit to being a human on the planet, the social aspect of it. I played many gypsy jazz gigs at local (although in Ohio, sometimes a contradiction in terms) wineries. Tami would hang out, we’d know tons of people, and I would get a chance to stretch out musically. That’s a lot of fun.

Now, like anything that should be left unscathed, agribiz has got its hold into wine and really screwed up production for some of the big production boys. UC Davis pumps out winemakers who are taught to “fix” wine, which basically means fuck it up so that it tastes ok. But this is America, the almighty dollar comes in first. Across the pond, some old-school winemakers fine through egg whites, there’s fish stuff going on, for a while some Germans were anti-freezing their rieslings.

That said, there are plenty of cool winemakers who fly under the radar, sometimes poking their heads above it. Like anything, there are good plumbers and bad plumbers, same goes for every vocation. So I don’t always run my choices through the vegan police, we do our best to be responsible. If I pick something that was not proper, it is my responsibility.

So disclaimer aside, one of the regions we really love is the Pacific Northwest. And one of our favorite winemakers is a guy named Charles Smith who used to manage bands in Scandianvia or some such craziness and moved to Walla Walla, Washington. Charles is insane, we had a chance to meet him at a tasting and he is nuts. But fun nuts. He hit the big time with House Wine (which he later sold to some mega-corp), but years before Tami was digging and found his K Vintners label and we’ve been a fan since his first year. K Syrahs and blends are part over the top opulent but really like Bordeaux-refined at the same time. He has a couple of smaller labels with bigger production (Magnificent Wine Co., Charles and Charles) and on his Charles Smith branding he has a $14.00 (Ohio pricing) merlot called “The Velvet Devil”.

Our right wing food/wine store initially had a problem carrying it because of the name, but then when it started selling (we would order cases at a shot) it became ok to have it on the shelf.

Now, I picked the Devil because it is inexpensive, most people should be able to get their hands on it, and I was shooting for a softer merlot profile to match the meal. Merlot is kind of a media whore, but it’s been unfairly Sideways’ed (real in-joke in that movie for the hero’s favorite, which was a merlot blend, a ’61 Cheval Blanc ). The Devil has more Pac NW syrah-like bottom going on, and for our tastes, that worked. It was a 2009; Charles doesn’t make this line to set aside for years. It has some dark fruit notes on top of some (lighter) coffee ones. It handled the dish’s black pepper. The acids are not overpowering, and it complemented Tami’s Horizons meal really well. Try one. Or two. Or if you’re with Charles, six or seven.

About Matthew’s wine pick, I think we were going for the same thing in different ways. The medium bodied wine, slightly spicy would complement the dish and not overpower it. We’re not really into Italian wines all that much, so I like his choice and it made me think about exploring that region more.

Now for the expert’s advice!

I emailed Kate Jacoby, Pastry Chef and General Manager of Horizons, to see what she’d suggest. Kate has worked to build an extensive vegan list for the restaurant and done all of us a service by educating her wine representatives about vegan wines. In turn, these reps go back to their companies, and word spreads. Labeling a wine as vegan shouldn’t offend the meat-eaters, but would be an incredible help to us.

Even with a crazy busy schedule, Kate got back to me.

“I would choose something that would compliment the chocolaty earthiness of the porcinis. I just tasted a fabulous pinotage that would go perfectly. Pinotage has deep rich coffee-like fruit, but is still soft and light enough to go with a pasta dish that uses tomatoes. (Cafe Culture Pinotage by KWV, Western Cape, South Africa)

We’re big fans of South African wines. I think we’ll have to revisit this dish. Plans are in the works for another trip to the restaurant, too.

Thanks to Kate, Liz and Matthew, and of course, Jim. Watch for more Vine and Dine posts. Next up: another dish from Horizons.

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  1. Posted February 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Ooooo! I like where you’re going with this series! And it also doesn’t hurt that my husband recently treated me to a fabulous V-Day dinner at Horizons. Their food is so fantastic. Looking forward to future posts!

  2. Posted February 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Jim talks funny!

  3. Posted February 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, he’s got that American accent going on. Crazy, I know.

    mirbrewer, lucky you!

  4. Posted February 21, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Love this idea. The husband and I are big fans of wine as well – although we have a fairly strict “only buy from the source (that is to say, the winery)” rule, which limits us a bit. However, we have found many fantastic local wines, and always plan our roadtrips to hit up wineries in the places we are visiting.

  5. Posted February 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Lizzie, I love that rule, but we’d have one heck of a time following it here in Ohio! Now if we lived in the Pac NW or France, it would be a completely different story.

    It’s amazing to see what you can find in travels, isn’t it? So much fun.

  6. Posted February 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Such a cool idea. I think I can get the ninja in on this one.

  7. Posted February 21, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Great post. I love the team work and awesome stories. I’d love to get in on this after school is done (if you’re looking for a threesome or rather a sixsome)

  8. Posted February 22, 2011 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Hurray for the ninja, Jenn!

    Kim, absolutely. When does school end?

  9. Posted February 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    March 22nd! But whose counting :)

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