Friday, March 4, 2011

Lamb and Cauliflower Purée Paired with 2006 Ghost Block Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Lamb and Cauliflower Puree

As promised in the preview, I am back to share all the tasty details of this pairing.  First, I want to note that I deviated a bit from the original recipe out of necessity.  The full title of the recipe from the Decanting Napa Valley cookbook is “Spiced New Zealand Lamb Loin Fennel Frawns, White Pepper Foam, Cauliflower Purée.”  My decision to prepare this dish was a bit last minute based on a welcome surprise visit by Photo Buddy John (John A Downey II Photography) who also served as the guest photographer for this pairing.

Due to the last minute decision, the lead role of New Zealand Lamb Loin was adeptly played by a gorgeous Lamb Shank.  The supporting role of White Pepper Foam was omitted due to the lack of lecithin and a failed attempt to use unflavored gelatin in place of the lecithin.  Otherwise, the recipe was played according to script.

The Food

This was a wonderfully balanced dish.  The unique gamey flavors of the lamb were balanced by the fennel and in particular the lemon vinaigrette dressed fennel frawns perched atop the medium cooked lamb.  Prior to going into the oven, the lamb was coated in a spice mixture of fennel seeds, bay leaf, coriander and salt.  After a quick searing, the lamb headed for the oven and was brought to an internal temperature of 140 then left to rest for about 20 minutes as the cauliflower purée was finished.

Lamb and Cauliflower Puree-1

The tasting team (Chef Sue, Golf Buddy Steve, Photographer Buddy John, and Formerly of Austin Dawn) all had high praises for the dish.  Across the board, we agreed that the most pleasing bite included a small bit of everything; lamb, fennel, fennel frawns, and cauliflower purée.  It is clearly a recipe designed to have everything play harmoniously in a single mouthwatering bite.  Chef Sue was particularly enamored with the cauliflower exclaiming “I could make a meal out of this alone.”  Formerly of Austin Dawn  was the big surprise of the night.  Dawn is not a fan of lamb although she has tried it in many forms.  In this case, she was literally dancing in her seat.  Follow this link to hear about it in her own words.

Cauliflower Puree

Normally when discussing the dish, I pick out the key flavors that are the headliners and those that are playing a supporting role – important when it comes time to discuss the pairing.  In this case I am at a loss – this was a symphony of glorious harmonies.  The lamb was balanced by the fennel and vinaigrette, which was complemented perfectly by the creamy sweetness of the cauliflower purée.  In addition to the harmony of flavors, the contrasting textures made each bite a true pleasure.

The Wine

The recipe was paired with a 2006 Ghost Block Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  In a word it was spectacular!  Of course I have more words, but first lets see what the winemaker says about this wine.

“The 2006 vintage has elegant aromas of cherry, blackberry, spice and roses. The palate confirms the nose with flavors of ripe blackberry, chocolate-covered cherries and coffee.  The finish is long and lingering, with notes of toffee and cherries. This wine is both  complex and balanced.”

My only issue with this description is that it should include a bunch of expletives pronouncing the spiritual experience you will have upon the first sip.  Yes, choirs of angels, euphoria, and a sense that all is right in the world accompanies each drop.  As we were nearing the end of the bottle, each of us were taking smaller, and smaller sips in the desperate hope we could make it last just a few minutes longer.

2006 Ghost Block Cabernet Sauvignon

In addition to the wonderful flavors (and choirs of angels), the wine makes an unforgettable first impression with the combination of complexity and smoothness as the winemaker promises.  In other words, all the flavors mentioned in the tasting notes are there, but they are all subtle and perfectly in balance.  This wine makes you think; the flavors do not assault you but rather tease you to find them as they play hide-and-seek.

Just a bit ago, when I wrote about “Butternut Squash and Chorizo Empanadas with Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay” I expressed my opinion that while an excellent wine, the Cakebread Chardonnay was over priced at $44.  As evidence that I was not just being cheap, we all concluded that the Ghost Block Cabernet Sauvignon is worth every penny of the $65.

The Pairing

Like the perfectly balanced recipe and the exquisitely balanced wine, the dominant impression of the pairing was also one of perfect symmetry.  None of the flavors from the food nor wine were screaming for attention but rather melded in a wondrous sense of tranquility.  It was akin to old friends meeting in a familiar embrace after a long absence.

Lamb and Ghost Block Cabernet

I would be very pleased to go on at length about how one aspect of the lamb or cauliflower complemented or contrasted with some aspect of the wine – but I can’t.  This was one of the most congruous and synchronically composed pairings I have ever experienced.  The stunned silence around the table as we began to indulge was clear evidence this is a winner (along with the ooohs, aaahs, and other moans of enchantment).

Final Words

If you have not been to church, temple, ashram, hanging out with Himalayan Monks, mosque, or otherwise have not had a significant spiritual experience in last few weeks, I highly recommend this pairing.  Here are a couple of options; 1) buy the wine and do your best to mimic the description I provided, 2) visit the good folks at Decanting Wine Country, buy the book and skip the recipe guessing (I am not supported or sponsored…just a dedicated foodie), or 3) buy a couple bottles of the wine and a loin of lamb, come to my place and I will gladly do the cooking.

Thanks again to Photo Buddy John for playing guest photographer and thus allowing me to focus on the food and wine.  I encourage you to visit and check out his remarkable photography.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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