Inhale for a minute. Now do it again, but this time imagine that you have traveled to Chile and an expert chef has made you a 5-course meal with no less than shrimp empanadas, corn and coconut soup, basil-scented mashed corn tamale, sea bass, pheasant breast stuffed with Porcini mushrooms, chorizo laced risotto in a Pinot Noir reduction, marinated steak in Chilean salsa, potato and onion timbale…but wait, we have to go back…I forgot to mention that this chef has also paired regional wines for each dish.
There is no possible way that you can inhale all that the first of quarterly wine pairing dinners of 2009, hosted by Salt Creek Grille and catered by the new off-the-menu catering stylist, Tamra Levine, has to offer.
Fresh from serving up tiramisu parfaits to pesto bread for our City Council, Vine 2 Wine, COC Culinary School or the early risers in the VIP tent of the Amgen tour, Tamra has been busy concocting much more than anything found on your typical catering menu and Salt Creek Grille Catering.
When I came to her Heritage Lane home I was greeted by the aromas of her fresh spices growing outside of her front door and, once inside, by indescribable commingling scents that warmed my nose and made my mind wander.
“This is something I’m working on, although you can’t have it with the wine my husband is pouring right now,” Tamra began while Jeff Levine, (of T.G.I.C. importers that provide the best portfolio of South American wines) attempted to withhold the Santa Ema Catalina Cabernet Sauvignon 2005.
“This is a warm garlic flan better paired with just water.” The small glass bowl with my sample was quickly dispatched, down my hatch, while the flavors of buttery roasted garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme and cream lingered in my mouth.
I had to remind myself this singular spoonful was a teaser…I was not eating the meal I came to hear about.
“Chilean food is really unique. We don’t have a restaurant that I know of serving their dishes in Santa Clarita, so we have an opportunity to really educate our palates. I had to write to South America, just to get their spices, as they are that different – even for a chef.”
“The wines are wonderful there too, from Argentine Malbec to Bordeaux. In this dinner alone we will have a Santa Ema Chardonnay, Montes Alfa Pinot Noir, the Santa Ema Catalina we have now and a Montes late harvest Gewurztraminer.”
Asking what else we might find at the restaurant, Tamra lead me through a few more tasty tidbits.
New at Salt Creek Grille
“Owner Greg Amsler has a new catering menu that asks clients to use their imagination. We like to say that ‘Our boundaries are your dreams and wishes’. He is also debuting a new dining menu and, besides the regular wine list, there is ‘Greg’s List’”.
Greg’s list, that you may have to ask for from the wait staff, features only 10 wines. But each one is outstandingly rated.
Where in the past you may have been limited by a strict menu, venue or budget this isn’t the case for the new catering department at Salt Creek Grille. Having a classically trained culinary arts chef at the helm of their new catering department gives you choices heretofore not available from a neighborhood caterer.
Chef Tamra Levine
Still the only caterer in town that can expertly pair wine and food, Tamra Levine, can arrange all the rentals from floral, to tents, to service.
Her additional wine education isn’t for cellar management or to be utilized as a restaurant sommelier, instead Tamra uses her expertise to teach and train others. She not only works with the culinary arts students at College of the Canyons, but helps consult for the Salt Creek Grille’s wine list.
And, best of all, Tamra takes suggestions. What cuisine sounds interesting to you she has already mastered or is anxious to learn.
Chile is only the first country to visit in the plans for a robust, festive and spicy 2009.