Endless Pairings: Emeril’s Chophouse
While it’s clear we that love craft beer here at ES, we do not play favorites. Which is why we took advantage of an opportunity to attend a four-course wine pairing dinner at Emeril’s Chophouse at Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA. The event was based on South American Wines (from Chile) and some fall-themed foods. My expectations for this event were pretty simple – learn more about wine (how it’s made, how to choose a wine for particular meals, what’s so special about Chilean wine?), have some great food that I couldn’t have otherwise, and taste wine that truly complements the food I’m eating with the wine. Rather than boring you with my oh-so-important and attention-worthy opinions of every course, I’ll give you the cliff notes version.
First, let’s talk about my educational expectations. Whenever I go to these kinds of events, I want to leave knowing more than I did when I first arrived. The woman in charge of the “educational” aspect of the event was a very well-versed representative from Southern Wine. She did a great job of explaining why she chose Chilean Wines for this event (it is under-represented and often under-rated) and giving a good run-down of the people that made the wine. Something that I appreciated was learning about what the winemakers intended for the wine, what kind of grapes they picked, and why they picked a particular region. For instance, when drinking my favorite wine of the night (Ritual Pinot Noir) I learned that the grapes are pressed with the berries still in a bunch. When this occurs, more pronounced tanin flavors come through in the wine (which is something that I look for in a dry red). The one thing that was missing from the education aspect of the event was that she really did not discuss why she chose the particular wine for each course. Like I said – she gave great information about the wines, but not as much about why the wine was chosen for the courses.
Second – the food. With a fancy four-course dinner, I’m looking for a nice light starter and then for each subsequent meal to get better than the last. While I have a sweet tooth, I’ve also learned to expect the dessert to just be “okay.” The dinner started off with baby octopus and bay scallop ceviche. It was very good, but what really made the appetizer was the basil-infused yogurt and avocado mousse. The second course was my favorite – Berkshire Pork Belly on top of a chive shortbread and a red compote. The savory, buttery, cut with a fork tenderness of the pork belly was awesome. But the best part was having it on top of a crunchy piece of chive shortbread and dipped into the red compote. I wasn’t expecting it, but I got the sweet and savory flavors of Thanksgiving. While I could have finished with the pork belly, the third course continued with a NY Strip on top of butternut squash puree. Finally, the event finished with a sweet dessert – white chocolate dried apricot tart with goat cheese and ginger gelato and cashew brittle. While I enjoy my sweets, this was the least balanced meal – too much sweetness for me…which isn’t saying I didn’t eat all of it. I just could have done with a little more salt on the cashew brittle, and more goat cheese.
Finally – the pairings. The first course was paired with a Sauvignon Blanc. In my humble opinion, white wine really doesn’t belong anywhere but in the pan to cook with. BUT, there are people that enjoy white wine. And it did finish the first course off well – the crisp fruity flavors of the wine complemented the ceviche very well. My favorite pairing was the Pinot Noir with the pork belly. The Pinot was a smooth red that had a pronounced flavor of tanins with a buttery mouthfeel. Steak always goes with a good red, so I wasn’t surprised with the next pairing (Canto Apalta 2011). The red was made by the same person that makes Grand Marnier, which sparked my interest. The wine was a mix of Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir. The mix held to the dry profile, but I would have preferred a drier red with my steak. Finally, like the dessert course, the dessert wine was a little too sweet for me. It was close to a blush champagne – too much going on for a sweet dessert. However, that could just be my own preference.
Overall – a great event with opportunities to taste some different food and see how various wines pair with seafood, pork, and beef. My favorite part was learning about each wine and how the region of chile really impacted the flavors of the wine. With events like this, there are always going to be certain parts of the dinner that you like more than others. The only thing that really didn’t hold up to my expectations was more of an explanation of how the wines were chosen for each individual course. However, I’ve also found that many of these kind of pairings really depend on what wines you like best! In all reality, every pairing is made up of the preferences of the sommelier. Open your mind to some new flavors, but in the end – pick according to what you like best and not what is supposed to go with your dinner.
Special thanks to Sands Bethlehem for for providing gift cards to help facilitate this review of the South American Dinner at Emeril’s Chop House on Tuesday October 14th.