I recently picked up the book Cook & Cork and found it a fun, entertaining read. I was excited to see that Eat Seattle, a business that offers cooking and mixology classes, was offering a class with Harry Mills and Chris Horn. Geeky as ever, I showed up with book in hand ready to take notes.
Most of the classes Eat Seattle offers has a hands-on element with owner Liz McCune giving a short tour and history lesson of Pike Place Market (I learned it was the oldest continual farmer’s market in the USA). This class was not as much about cooking as it was about pairing wine with food. While Chef Harry “Coach” Mills went about demonstrating the food preparation, Chris Horn entertained us with stories from the Purple Cafe’ and gave us the history of each wine and why it paired so well with each dish.
We started out with oysters and champagne. This was not a new pairing for me and I was secretly hoping that we were going to have French chablis with the oysters as mentioned in their book. The oysters were Kumamotos fresh from the market and shucked as we watched. We were encouraged to pour a little champagne into the shell with the oyster and enjoy the flavors in one wonderful slurp. The dry crisp wine muddled with the juices of the oyster was better than any mignonette.
Our next pairing was of fino sherry with Marcona almonds, olives, and cured meats. I must confess to always having these three items on hand in case someone visits yet I have never considered pairing it with Fino sherry. Frankly, I always considered sherry something you add to a soup right before serving and not really good for drinking.
This pairing was used to discuss pairing like with like: buttery almonds to the buttery sherry, salty olives to the saltiness of the sherry, oxidized meats to the oxidized wine. The saltiness of the Fino sherry went wonderfully with the saltiness of the olives, making it my favorite pairing. It was interesting to see how the one wine could taste very different with each food.
For our main course, we were served a short rib with blue cheese polenta and rapini (broccoli rabe). Although we were given a wonderful red blend from Washington to sip during the preparation when it came time to serve the wine was switched over to a heavy, tannic driven red that really balanced out the heavy richness of the meat and the creaminess of the polenta. Chris explained that some wines are for social drinking and some wines are meant only to be drunk with the appropriate food.
We ended our evening with a wonderful sourdough bread pudding with blood oranges and a Moscato d’Asti (I forgot to take a picture of the dessert wine, perhaps because of all the previous wines). I have to admit, I normally don’t like bread pudding, but Chef Harry proved once again that it is all in the preparation for I fell in love with this sourdough bread pudding and am ready to trek downtown to Purple just for another bite. Because the bread pudding was not overly sweet it was able to stand up to the pairing with the Moscato. A perfect way to end the meal.
I would definitely recommend the book as a great entry point to understanding wine pairing. I would also recommend taking classes at Eat Seattle, as they offer some great programs. Finally, make a trip into Purple for some great food, wine, and if Chris is pouring, a little entertainment (don’t forget the bread pudding!).