Thursday, May 13, 2010

welcome honored guests!


My absolute favorite catering job of the year is always the Rainforest Alliance's private dinner welcoming the guests who will be honored at their annual Gala held the next evening. The gala honors the companies of the year who are being recognized as Leaders in Sustainability. The pre-gala dinner allows the honorees, who come from all over the world, to relax and get to know one another before the big formal event the next night AND it allows me the chance to showcase some of our local produce. I really look forward to this event every year and continue, myself, to be honored as the chosen chef of these evenings!

This year's dinner began with a chilled pea soup that gets pureed at the last minute with a handful of fresh mint. I garnished the soup with dollops of sour cream and sprigs of pea shoots. This recipe takes advantage of the freshest ingredients at the farmers market and is quick and easy to prepare. It was a perfect light and tasty starter course for our buffet supper of grilled entrees.

Chive blossoms and mint leaves also make a pretty garnish.

One of the honorees at the dinner, the Williamette Valley Vineyards out of Oregon, was being recognized for their sustainable corks(!) I have heard a lot of talk in wine circles about the demise of the cork as we know it. They cause too much wine spoilage (cork taint) and traditional cork harvesting methods can be environmentally damaging. This company is the first vineyard to use certified sustainable cork and have added that to their solid list of sustainable business practises. Congratulations to all the honorees this year!

Chilled Pea Soup with Mint
1 tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
salt & white pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 head of romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 potato peeled and quartered
2 cups of fresh peas (frozen is fine)
1 quart stock or water
1/2 teaspoon cayanne pepper
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh pea shoots or small whole mint leaves

Heat olive oil in a soup pot and add the onion and salt and pepper. Sweat the onion slowly at medium heat until in begins to soften and turns translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook another two minutes. Add the romaine, the potato and the stock or water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then add the peas and the cayenne pepper. Cook for another five minutes. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool before blending. Puree soup in batches in a blender, adding in the mint leaves to each batch as you puree. Put soup in a serving bowl and stir in the heavy cream. Taste soup and adjust seasonings. Chill for at least one hour before serving. Ladle chilled soup in to bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and the pea shoots or mint leaves.

serves four

Sounds like a great event! I would love to hear about what else you served! One word about the sustainable corks - a lot of wineries all over the world are now switching to screwcaps, high-end wineries included. I have customers who come into the shop but refuse to buy anything with a screwcap. Please - do not let this be a factor when purchasing wine! A screwcap is no longer a measure of quality!! Some of the greatest, highest rated wines now offer this easy-open method. I, for one, love screwcaps. If I don't finish off a bottle  in one night, I can put the closure back on, and it will remain fresher than if re-corked. No air can get in with a screwcap. Whites will stay fresh longer in the fridge. And, there will be no "cork taint". Many peoples' palates cannot discern a "corked" bottle from one that is fine. Trust me - a lot of wine is "corked". Statistically, 10% of all bottles are corked - that's 1 out of every 10. So, if you were to buy a case (12 bottles), chances are one of them is corked. Many a bottle that I open are "off". Screwcaps greatly reduce the chances of getting a bottle that is "off".

Deb's soup looks, and sounds delicious. I love the simple elegance of this dish. Easy to prepare, yet very impressive. This soup instantly makes me think of sunshine, warm-weather, and brightly colored flowers. I want a wine that evokes the same images. The first wine I think of is Austria's Gruner Veltliner. Typically this varietal will offer lovely aromatics, and peppery, herbal flavors combined with fresh fruit and lively acidity. The mint in the soup will complement the herbal characteristics in the wine, and the acidity of the wine will serve to contrast the soup's creaminess, making a scrumptious combination of textures and flavors.  Generally Gruner is light and crisp, but certainly richer styles are available. I love this versatile, warm-weather white!

Gruner Veltliner can be found in a wide range of prices, for as little as $8 and as high as $40. When experimenting with this varietal, there is no reason to spend a lot of money. I recommend staying in the $10-$15 range. Look for wines made by Forstreiter or Fritsch. One of my favorite Gruners is the Fritsch Steinberg Gruner Veltliner, available for $14.99.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. Spammers have forced me to now review every comment before publishing. So please bear with me as I read through your comment. Thank you for visiting the blog!