“Hello Summer” White Wine Dinner a happy seasonal kickoff

The Tenant returns, with word about the “Hello Summer” Wine Dinner. One word: fabulous. Well, I can and will say more, but that’s a start. This dinner combined breezy-feeling summer dishes with some of the most appealing white wines you could ask for.

Any Bistro dinner that starts out with seared scallops is bound to be a triumph, and this one was no exception. Again, the scallop in the first course, seated on a bed of risotto with peas and asparagus and drizzled with truffle oil, was cooked to perfection. My friend Mary was sitting with her party near me, and as you may recall from last week, she enjoyed her taste of my vegan risotto enormously. I told her if she liked that, she was sure to be happy with the risotto at this dinner, and I was right; it, too, was beautifully creamily textured and studded with deliciously fresh vegetables. Our wine for this course was a 2008 Henri Bourgeoise Les Baronnes Blanc, and although our information sheets told us it has “sauvignon’s typical fresh-cut glass, flint and apple character,” the first thing I thought when savoring its bouquet was “buttery.” Really, it seemed more buttery than fruity, flinty or grassy, but maybe that’s just me. In any case, I certainly enjoyed it.

The second course was as refreshing a salad as you could want this time of year, one whose flavors seemed to joyfully shout “summer”: mixed field greens, strawberries, blueberries, almonds and sunflower seeds, dressed in a strawberry-and-white-wine vinaigrette. Not exactly the same salad as last week’s vegan dinner salad, but a close relative, and it hit just the right note. The vinaigrette was perfect for the combination of greens, fruit, seeds and nuts. To accompany it we had Brandborg Pinot Gris ’09, which struck me as a wine with a sharper taste than the first, kind of biting and peppery for a fruity white, but I really liked the way it complemented the salad.

Course number three was deceptively simple-looking for the powerhouse of flavor it packed. The Crispy Duck with Star-Anise Rhubarb Sauce arrived looking rather unassuming, sitting unadorned in its crunchy golden-brown skin atop a pool of reddish sauce. And then I cut off a piece and tasted it. Oh, my. Who would have thought the simple combination of sweet rhubarb and the slight licorice tang of anise could have created such a perfect sauce for duck? It was unbelievably good, skin, meat and all. If you ever see this one as part of a specials menu, order it! Rhubarb-star anise sauce is just as delightful as raspberry chipotle glaze anytime. For wine with this course, we were poured ’09 Clayhouse Adobe White, a little smoother and creamier than the previous white. I loved how it tasted with the duck. I admit to not having the education to detect all the nuances and notes in a glass of wine, but I know what feels right with a dish, and this one felt right.

The same could be said of the Buried Cane Dry Riesling that accompanied the final savory course, House-Made Artichoke & Ricotta Ravioli with Rooftop Garden Herb Cream Sauce. These were, quite simply, pasta pillows from heaven! The ravioli came stuffed to the gills with julienned vegetables and creamy cheese, and the sauce that topped them couldn’t have been better — nor could the herbs that flavored it been more fresh and local, coming from the deck out back! (And the rooftop garden has barely begun producing everything it’s about to put out this summer. Keep that in mind in the months to come!)

Last to be served was a dessert that seemed to fit perfectly with what had gone before: we’d just eaten magnificent ricotta, and now we were finishing with sweet, tender mascarpone cheese in a phyllo-dough cup, topped with fresh berries, sauce and a touch of rooftop mint. What a charming ending to an incredible summer feast! Tiny glasses of golden Andrieux & Fils Muscat Beaumes de Venice finished off the wine selection, tasting honeyed and refreshing.

All taken together, I though this dinner was a completely enjoyable way to welcome back that brief season of warmth that’s so precious to us. Next month will continue the summer celebrations, but in a different vein: the Bistro is planning to show off the best in barbecue, not only traditional but even in vegan style. If you enjoyed “Hello Summer,” you’ll know this, too, is an opportunity you should not miss.

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