Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Perfect Pop-Up Pairing

       Happening onto Happy Girl Kitchens at 173 Central Avenue in Pacific Grove last week was a happy find.  This unique business offers workshops on food preservation, products from their kitchen, a nice cafe with great coffee and baked goods, and special events.
        We discovered that one such event, a special pop-up food-wine pairing dinner, was to occur on Friday night.  It would be a totally organic extravaganza created by Jacob Pilarski, long time chef at Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, with vegetables and fruits from local organic Serendipity Farms, and wines from Heller Estate Organic Vineyards of Carmel Valley. Say no more-- the Carmel Valley-by-the- Glass bloggers and friend SW were in!  
         The entire event was a hoot.  It began with a duo playing blue grass music as we tasted beers from the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company (Devout Stout stood out) and nibbled on appetizers of pickled green peppers, beets and carrots from the Happy Girl Kitchens. 
        After the opening event, the room was prepared for dinner.  Large round tables were rolled in, covered with table clothes, flowers, dishes, silverware and pickling jars--how appropriate--for the wine.  Instant makeover.  This was our kind of event.
        The dining crowd, numbering about 50, was an eclectic group, with some attendees of the EcoFarm Conference at Asilomar.  The energy and decibel levels were high and contagious. 
        Everything was served family style, with very generous portions and a different Heller wine for each of the five courses.  Some of our favorite pairings were:
        The 2009 Chardonnay paired well with the onions stuffed with hominy, nettle and plum jam (quite a combo) and the brussels sprouts and romanesco with apple and meyer lemon sauce.
        The 2010 Merlot Rose ($19) was a crisp accompaniment to the smoky flavor of the goat’s eye beans with preserved tomato, pea tendrils and onions. 
        The 2009 Cachagua Cabernet ($28) was a hearty and balanced choice for the main course of chanterelles, apple, leek, walnuts and rye.  We’d definitely buy this wine,
        The dessert was a tasty two pronged affair: aged goat cheese made by Charlie Cascio from Big Sur with walnuts and membrillo (quince paste) paired with Heller’s 2006 Merlot Port ($39) which we loved, followed by a jamalade tart.  It doesn't get much better.
        The entire evening definitely lived up to the Happy Girl Kitchen’s themes of “There’s a party in my pantry” and “local, organic, yum!”
        Keep an eye out for more food-wine events and classes at this slice of communal heaven.  (www.happygirlkitchen.com)  And visit Heller Wine Tasting Room (www.hellerestate.com) at 69 W. Carmel Valley Road for some fine organic wines.  Who knows what surprising new food-wine pairings might “pop-up” for you. 

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