“Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost; united and well matched they are as body and soul, living partners.”  ~Andre Simon (1877-1970)

Working menu for the evening
Finally, friends!!  I am able to tell you about the awesome dinner party that has been in the works for months!  Saturday night we hosted a spectacular tasting event called "Flight".  It was hatched after a fantastic dinner in Nashville this past summer where we had a salad course flight, a soup course flight, and wine flights.  I loved how small the bites and drinks were and that I was able to see what the chef was really offering and tell the subtle differences in wines when they were all side by side.  In July, I needed a little lift and an event usually provides that for me so the planning began.

I decided that this needed to be recreated in my home by combining forces with my favorite local sommelier, John Johnson, from the Wine Rack.   The six course menu was based around one food theme per course.  For example, Avocado was the common ingredient in salads, tuna in the fish course, and lamb in the meat course, etc.  I did the salad, fish, and meat courses three different ways and then the wines were three examples of specific grapes/wines.  Sparkling for the salad course, Pinot Noir for the fish course, and Syrah for the meat course.  The planning for this event was such a joy.  John was a true event partner and his selections were so affordable and I have a feeling his presence there that night was the beginning of a partnership for more of these events in the future.  Though each course of his was cold when he was finally able to eat because of all of the questions, I still think it was a good time for him.   The Pinot course card is below for your viewing pleasure.

Russian River, Sonoma, California
99% Pinot Noir, 1% Syrah
From one of the greatest regions on the planet for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, the Kenwood has bright raspberry & strawberry aromas and flavors, accented by the French oak aging.
100% Pinot Noir
Cloudline is the “Second Label” for Domaine Droughin (one of the pioneers of Pinots in Oregon).  Light but lively and expressive.  Beautiful cherry fruit notes and subtle spice in this harmonious Pinot Noir. 
Carneros, California
100% Pinot Noir
Encompassing part of Napa and Sonoma counties, Carneros is another key area for producing fine Burgundy varietals.  Complex spice and dried herbal highlights along with deep red and blue fruits.  A fuller bodied Pinot.

I had to employ everyone to work the event so that it wasn't a five hour dinner with me panicked in the kitchen or having to hire help.  Much of the menu was do ahead with only searing fish and meats between each course.  I had all of the guys clearing wine glasses each course and replacing with clean glasses (30 glasses per course adds up to a hell of a lot of glasses, friends) and new tasting cards.  The gals were in the kitchen helping me clear previous courses,  plate and sauce the next one.

Prep table in the kitchen for plating
The necessity of employing guests turned out to be a great energy boost throughout the evening.  It was nice to get up and stretch our legs after each course and everyone became much more relaxed and  invested with a job to do.

Cheese Course Menu Card
The fifth course of the evening was another collaboration with one of our local shops.  Will, the cheese monger at Lotsa Pasta, worked with me for "Blow your mind" good cheeses.  We had a goat's milk, a sheep's milk, and a cow's milk and they were all to die for.  I liked the idea of a cheese course instead of a traditional dessert.  We needed the freedom to get up and move and graze while pouring our favorite wine of the evening.

Table set outside for the end of the evening

Moving to a fresh table at the end of a meal is one of my very favorite things in the world to do.  The lift at the end of the evening and new energy is just right and keeps a little mystery there just when you need it most.

Chocolate descriptions.  Photo courtesy Jessica Kane
The final course of the evening was a chocolate tasting course.  Just a little bite of chocolate to finish with your bourbon was the taste I wanted to end the evening.  French Broad Chocolates in Asheville, NC is one of our favorite places in the country (they did our gorgeous wedding cake) and they are making their own chocolate bars that are to die for and so different.  There were five in the set and they can be found here.  They have their shipping down to a science, so order away, no matter where you live.  Every single thing they sell is divine.

Table detail of Seedum, Emily Post's "Etiquette" and wine journals.
This had to be one of my favorite events for many reasons.  The planning that went into this event far exceeded anything I have done since the wedding.  I went way down the design road this time, researching not only the very best menu options for the evening, but viewing thousands of tablescape photos about how I wanted the evening to feel and what I wanted the table to be for this event.  It couldn't be the formal flowers in the middle of the table formula of events passed.  It had to encourage people to be a part of the table and to use it throughout the evening.    

Table detail of Seedum in vintage silver wine cup, poetry books, & writing utensils.
The whole event wanted and needed to be an interactive and learning evening.  We had a wine master with us, after all, and now was the time for questions.  There were tasting cards that were set with each course describing the wine, grape, and region with a short description and pens and pencils on the table for note making.  The menu cards were on the table throughout the night for reference.   The energy was just right that night among our guests and there wasn't a drop of anything left to drink at the end of it all.  I'd say a good time was had by all.

The luxury of time that I was able to take in organizing every tiny detail helped the evening flow and keep us on track.  The menu is listed below.  It was like an old friend by the end of it all I had spent so much time with it.  The recipes came from several places, including Le Bernardin, Williams Sonoma, Martha Stewart, and me.  We locally sourced all ingredients with which we were able; to the point that the Kentucky lamb was butchered specifically for this event two days before and the quail eggs were from a new gardening friend up the street that has decided to raise quail this year.  If you would like any wine or recipe details, let me know and I will provide them. 

Salad courses ready to serve.  Photo courtesy Jessica Kane

A Tasting Menu

Avocado, Greens, Tomato, Radish, Feta, with a Dijon vinaigrette and finished with French Gray Sea Salt
Avocado, Grapefruit, Crab, Arugula with a Creamy Parsley Vinaigrette and finished with Celtic Sea Salt
Avocado, Poached Quail Egg, Arugula with a Champagne Vinaigrette and finished with Fleur de Sel

Pepper Seared Tuna on a bed of Lentils with Port Wine Reduction
Seared Tuna on Braised Greens with Lemon Parsley sauce
Lime Seared Tuna with Mango Salsa

Pomegranate Glazed Lamb “Pop”
Lamb Loin with Minted Citrus Compote
Lamb Loin with a Currant Rosemary Sauce on Wild Mushroom and Leek Risotto

Fish course plates in wait
I certainly hope this was the beginning of more of these events.  It was exciting and new and different and the collaboration with John was just good stuff.  I look forward to delving a little deeper into the wine education and tasting more regional wines side by side as well as the same vineyards with a different vintage and then being able to craft a menu worthy of great wines.  

Lovely place cards by Jan Hurst.  Because I look for an excuse to have her gorgeous calligraphy in my life.
The next weeks bring the end (pleasedearlordletitbetheend) of our 7 week bathroom renovation, the end of summer plantings, beginning of fall, and crafting with a BFF.  I grow melancholy thinking of the end of growing season, but eager for pumpkins, cooler weather, autumn food, and all of the fun festivities the season brings.  Until then, stop by before the plants and flowers on my porch are all gone.  We can sit out there and have a glass of wine (I happen to know some good ones now) and talk about what your Halloween decorations are going to look like.  It's creeping up fast.



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  1. Oh, Jennifer! What a wonderful night you had! Everything looks beautiful. What are the flowers in the last picture - so elegant! Thank you for having my calligraphy on your table, and for sharing this post with me. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
    Jan Hurst

  2. Thanks, Jan! They are mini orchids. They had the understated look I was after and worked beautifully.

    1. Dendrobium Orchids (If you want to be specific with your florist)! One of my father's favorite flowers.JB, that looks like a beautiful evening...When are you writing a book?

  3. Patrick thank GAWD you remembered the name! It's been making me crazy all afternoon! I will write a book just as soon as some publisher offers me a deal:). In the meantime, when are we throwing one of these together. Seriously we could be famous...or notorious. Either one works for me.

  4. Wow! What a fantastic idea, especially with the bounty of the gardens and chickens coming in. LOVED the chocolate site, now contemplating which chocolate I need right now! Butternut coconut bisque is on my menu tonight...... Roasted eggplant and feta salad last night, love this time of the year :). Off to the studio!

  5. Absolutely gorgeous. You are a goddess. And I concur with Patrick. I'll be the first to buy a copy.