Eric Larkee is the Wine Director at The Genuine Hospitality Group. He pens the Uncorked column here from time to time, we wish more often than occurs. But hey, he’s busy doing the job we all wish we had, drinking and buying wine creatively and thoughtfully for our restaurants, always with a hearty portion of special projects work on the side (echem, Design Miami/ pop cafe, anyone?) When you can’t find his wine wisdom flowing here, follow him on Twitter @ericlarkee.
Last Friday a dreadful 11:30 am meeting was scheduled. It was time to sit down with Hedy and figure out the best pairings for her four new desserts on the menu. Like our savory menu, desserts change all the time, but when this many go on at once it’s signaling something greater, like a change of seasons. See today’s weather if you need proof. We are creatures of change more than habit, so this transition is fun for us. So, back to that meeting…
First up was the Daily Bread Pudding, which was vanilla. Since the flavors will change each day, we are approaching this thinking more about the sweetness level, texture and density of the dessert. I had assembled a menagerie of our Ports, Sherries, sticky wines and grappas for this. The moment I tasted the fluffy pudding I realized I had forgotten the Moscato d’Asti. La Spinetta’s Bricco Quaglia is my favorite in the category, the aromatics are intense, the bubbles are wonderful and the crisp apple acidity was perfect with the dish, far from any cloying sweetness you may associate with this wine. I wanted to pick a second option on this but then again, not really, drink the Moscato.
The next dessert to hit the table was the Lemon Creamsicle Pot de Crème with buttermilk doughnuts, basil syrup and housemade ricotta. This dish transported me to dinners in Brooklyn with my wife splitting a fresh lemon cannoli with our own glasses of Chamomile Grappa. Well, we just happen to carry Montanaro’s Liquore di Camomilla which fully completed the transportation. Once again, the aromatics instantly worked with the dish and the Liquore has just enough sweetness that it isn’t jet fuel like some Grappa can be. In fact, I would go so far as to call it balanced. Second place was a Welschriesling Beerenauslese from Heidi Schröck, while it was good, balanced and tasty, it wasn’t special with the dessert, it didn’t bring out additional flavors like the Liquore di Camomilla did.
Third dessert was the Home Brew Sundae, with ice cream flavored by our Michael’s Genuine Home Brew topped with pretzels, malted caramel and marshmallows. Having an actual Home Brew could be fun. I do like beer with ice cream, the carbonation with a beer can be nice at the end of a meal by calming the stomach and cutting the fattiness that can sometimes coat the palate with heavy ice creams. But wow, The Central Late Harvest Chardonnay was amazing. The dried currant notes add a touch of fruit to the dessert, the wine has beautiful acidity and plays with caramel in a wonderfully refreshing way. The finish just lingers and lingers and as the flavors build up on the palate the pairing because progressively more interesting and delicious. And the ice cream is perfect. Not too rich, and malty, creamy delicious.
Last dessert was the Turkish Coffee + Maple Flan. There are so many flavors in this dish is tastes like fall, with cardamom and nutmeg present but not dominating. One option was Blandy’s 20 yr Verdelho Madeira. While this did add some nice acid to the dish, it wasn’t complex enough, the Bual 1968 (also from Blandy’s) has the complexity but is also $44/glass… We knew there had to be another option. One of the ninja wines on the dessert list is the Pineau de Charentes. The wine is a ninja because it hides but when it strikes it does some serious damage. Listed as Merlot, Paul-Marie & Fils, Pineau de Charentes, Cognac, France NV it can first turn people off by being Merlot based. The fact that it’s made from Merlot is probably the least important attribute. The wine is made similar to a Port where partially fermented must is arrested by the addition of spirit — here it’s Cognac. This wine is then aged in barrel on the lees for 30 years. The result is a wine that has dried fruits and nuts on both the nose and the palate, almost in a Christmas-cake like way. The depth of flavor and complexity are absolutely necessary to pair with this dessert.
Now, it’s up to you to decide. Choose your dessert and try it with one of the pairings I like, and then the fun begins. Experiment with your own from the new menu. Cheers to a sweet season.