Take a second and do this right now: go to your calendar, find October and jot down “Buy tickets for the 2015 SOBEWFF dinner at Bourbon Steak.” Then, find February 2015, and jot down “Send The Whet Palette a thank you note.”
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of both Bourbon Steak and Chef Michael Mina. After attending their South Beach Wine and Food Festival dinner last year, I was reminded of just why I love them both so much. (Click here to read about the 2013 experience). When tickets were released for this year’s dinner, I knew this would be the top event I just had to attend. Much like last year, this 2014 dinner was sponsored by Far Niente Wine and Dolce. The only difference would be Chef Michael Mina’s new partnership with Chef Marc Forgione: two Michelin star-rated chefs coming together to deliver an East Coast meets (or ‘meats’ as they playfully dubbed it) West Coast theme.
Cocktail hour started promptly at 7:00 p.m. with endless pours of the 2012 Far Niente Estate Bottled Chardonnay. Bourbon Steak’s courteous staff was on top of their game as usual. Light bites were served and guests were gracefully ushered to their assigned seats. I was fortunate enough to be seated in one of their lush booths, near the wine cellar, with a wonderful view of the entire restaurant. Before dinner officially began, Chef Mina welcomed everyone and briefly spoke about this year’s theme. He also introduced Chef Forgione and Gabriel Fenton (Executive Chef-Bourbon Steak Miami).
Without skipping a beat, dinner service began. One of my favorite things about this event is observing the non-stop staff at work. If there were a glitch anywhere, you would never know it. Bourbon Steak (unlike other restaurants) has this down to a science. Water glasses are always refilled, dirty plates are picked up promptly, wine glasses are always topped, and most importantly course after course is served in one long string from start to finish. Before you know it, dinner ends and you cannot pinpoint a single hiccup. All that remains is the memory of an incredible night. Isn’t that how all dinners should be?
The first course (our absolute favorite) was a single bite of Forgione’s take on a NYC lox and bagel. Instead, he added vegetable cream cheese and wagyu gravlax to a savory gougère. We all looked at each other (party of 6) after trying it and instantly tried to devise a plan to get a repeat order of course #1. We may or may not have snagged a second serving. My lips are sealed. The accompanying wine was still the Chardonnay offered during the reception. I am mostly a Cabernet Sauvignon gal, but Far Niente’s Chardonnay always captivates me with it’s crisp, lightly sweet, lingering taste.
A Tête de Cochon was the second course paired with a 2011 Far Niente Cave Collection Chardonnay. Wild American Caviar was added along with pickled red onions, and a slice of brioche. All of it was meticulously arranged on our plates. The caviar was served inside a container and opened for us table-side. The instructions were simple: just top the brioche with the caviar mix and add the red onions. With eyes closed and our taste buds exploding, we confirmed this was yet another favorite. Chef Forgione was not playing around. He came out swinging! We all actually spoke to him several times throughout dinner and are now excited to visit his NYC restaurant the next time we are in town. Both of his courses were spectacular and left a big impression on us.
Michael Mina’s courses were up next. A Columbia River sturgeon topped with Périgord black truffle, huckleberry, and a pinot noir reduction (of the very same Pinot served with this course- 2012 EnRoute, Russian River Valley, Les Pommiers) was served first. I am not a fan of Far Niente’s Pinot Noir, but the sturgeon was delightful with it in its reduction. Mina’s last course was a ribeye filet combined with crispy sweetbreads, Okinawan sweet potato purée, and Tuscan kale in a Szechuan pepper jus. Far Niente’s 2011 Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2005 Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon were both paired with this filet. Simply glorious.
Dessert (a California Citrus Curd-grapefruit, kumquat, dehydrated coconut meringue, and a cashew streusel) was served with Far Niente’s 2007 Dolce. Liquid Gold. It really is delightful. I sat there, looked around, and allowed my blissfulness to take over. What a beautiful night! Obviously, it was splendid to spend time with our good friends, but it was much more than that. There was something magical about having it all come together with the wonderful company we had: a great restaurant, staff, service, chefs, food, and wine too!
2015 cannot come soon enough. Did you mark it on your calendar yet?