Last Saturday, my wife and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. This may sound like a cliché, but we went to the happiest place on earth, Disneyland. We are season pass holders and truly enjoy what Walt Disney has established, California Adventure, Disneyland Park and Downtown Disney. There are a couple of favorite restaurants that we like to go to when we are there, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen and Catal. For this special occasion I chose Catal which is a member of the Patina Restaurant Group. I called ahead and got a table on the balcony overlooking downtown Disney which is an ideal location for viewing the evening firework display presented by Disneyland. Catal Restaurant was given the 2009 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award. So not only do they have great gourmet food, but also a fantastic wine list to pick from.
Our Server for the evening was Priscilla Parise. The one thing that I enjoy about Catal is that they don’t rush your orders. After reviewing the food menu for our selection of appetizers and main course, I searched through their wine list for an appropriate wine. Below are the food selections that we decided on.
· Slow roasted pork belly with roasted grapes, pine nut “risotto” and sweet wine emulsion
· Grilled octopus with pickled vegetables escabeche, grilled potato, micro parsley and coriander yogurt sauce
· Roasted duck breast with grilled plums, almond polenta, mizuna greens, smoked bacon and roasted plum jus
· Colorado lamb mix grill – rack, sirloin and bacon with Harissa, toasted grains, sweet corn and gem lettuce
What is the proper wine choice for these entrees? We both tend to enjoy red wines more than whites. The old rule of thumb is you serve white wines with fish and poultry and red wines with red meats. My wife does a lot of food preparations for the Valencia Wine Company’s (VWC) food and wine pairing class. She and Jeff Prange of VWC carefully select different wines and foods to serve for the class. Selecting proper wines for foods can be viewed two ways. Either you select it to compliment or to contrast with it. Daniel Evans (former manager of VWC) did a tasting where they served one course and two different styles of wine. This allowed the participants to get two different perspectives from different wine styles on the same food. By complimenting each other, the food and wine become one and blend together. When a wine is chosen to contrast, it brings together food and wine that have contrasting characteristics such as a crisp, acidic Sauvignon Blanc and fish with a creamy, lemon sauce. The crisp, acidity of the wine serves as a contrast cutting through the creaminess of the sauce giving a different, refreshing sensation for the palate as oppose to a complementary pairing, such as a creamy, buttery Chardonnay would bring.
Forget the old belief that white wines with fish and red wines with red meats. Drink what you enjoy. One caveat is that sauces change the playing field. Chicken by itself (no sauces) does taste better with a fine chardonnay, but if you add a barbecue sauce to the chicken, a fine red wine such as a Cabernet Sauvignon would go great. I am not saying that there are wrong selections, but there are classic wine and food pairings that cannot be ignored.
At Catal’s, Tracy and I were leaning toward a Pinot Noir to go with our selection. White wine may be the old standard for two of the food selections, but we both enjoy the reds. Sabrizio, the restaurant wine sommelier, came over to help us narrow down our Pinot Noir choices that would complement our food selections and provide enjoyment. Our decision was a 2007 William Seylem Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. This Pinot is not your typical cherry flavored fruit forward wine. It has cranberry and red raspberry with a little spice and a slightly dry finish on the palate. He agreed that this would be a perfect match for our special evening.
Here are a couple of rules to follow. Rule One: Drink red wine with meat, and white wine with fish and poultry. Rule Two: Forget about Rule One and pair any food with any wine you desire; when it comes to personal preferences, there is no right or wrong.
Our evening and choices of food and wine was fantastic. I want to thank Catal for providing such an excellent staff. Priscilla Parise, our server, and Sabrizio, the wine sommelier ,were phenomenal. Sabrizio is extremely knowledgeable about wines and how they interact with food. He grew up in the Monterey area where his family produces wines. I would highly recommend a visit to this restaurant if you have never been there.