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Great dinner last night

We had a slightly-belated Valentine's celebration at Aqua Blue Wednesday night. We attended a dinner featuring Northstar wines, and really enjoyed it. The menu:

  1. Hamachi with Jalapeno and Japanese Uzu
    Paired with: Domaine Ste Michelle Brut
    Tasting notes: This was an interesting pairing, but one that was a bit unpredictable. Each slice of hamachi sashimi was topped with a slice of jalapeno. When the jalapeno was on the mild side and sliced ultra thin, it worked. However, if the piece was a little thicker or if the pepper used was a little stronger, it overpowered the hamachi. It was a delicate balancing act. Frankly, I thought the dish would have worked better with slices of pepperoncini. I found that the wine muted the sharp acidic edge of the jalapeno, leaving just the pepper flavor. David thought it heightened the citrus note in the wine. I liked it, but compared to what came after, this was the weakest dish of the evening.

  2. Miso Glazed Sea Bass with Spicy Greens, Nori, and Ginger
    Paired with: 2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc
    Tasting notes: This delicious dish is a regular menu item at Aqua Blue. I loved the spicy greens with the tiny halved grape tomatoes that had been marinated in or sprinkled with some sort of pepper; the acidity of the tomatoes was very complementary. The dish had good textural contrast, and the fish was perfectly cooked. I wasn't so crazy about the pairing, however. The wine was so soft on the palate with the course that I felt like I was drinking an apple powder puff. You had to take a really big gulp to get any acidity at all. While I would consider this a reasonably understated dish, I think it needed a more assertively crisp wine than the one presented.

  3. Roast Lamb Loin with Truffled Potato Ravioli and Baby Swiss Chard in Rich Cherry Broth
    Paired with: 2004 Northstar Stella Maris
    Tasting notes: My very favorite dish of the evening. I also thought it was the best pairing. Mister David said it was plus good. :) This was a blend of 88% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Petit Verdot. I believe the sheet also mentioned a bit of Malbec and Syrah. I'm considering picking up a bottle or two ... perhaps one for us and one for my father, whose birthday we're celebrating this coming weekend.

    I seriously loved this. I babbled about how much I loved this to anyone who would listen, in this case, owner John Metz. Somehow, I got seated at a table full of introverts, one of whom didn't know much about wine, and when Chef Metz asked him what he thought, he laconically replied, "It's good," and left it at that. Well, I'm afraid I just jumped right in, nattering on about how the raspberry and cherry notes in the wine complemented the rich cherry sauce. He noticeably perked up at the praise, and gave me a friendly squeeze on the shoulder, thanking me. (Yay!) The winemaker came by, and I chatted him up about how the wine seemed tailor-made for Robert Parker, that it was very fruit forward and New World, and he got all happy, telling me about how the major wine reviewers like Wine Spectator and Parker had been very kind to them, that most of their wines typically received scores in the 90s, and so on. More yay. :) I really wasn't trying to show off (much); I just felt like these people were trying hard to give us a good time, and deserved some positive feedback for their efforts.

  4. Crispy Veal Chop with Spinach Mousseline, Wild Mushroom Ragout, and Talleggio Grit Cake
    Paired with: 2005 Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot
    Tasting notes: Mister David said that he liked this just as well as the previous course, and maybe a bit better. I was impressed with the continuity: I liked the way the earthiness of the mushroom ragout in this dish connected with the truffled potato ravioli in the previous one. Both this and the previous dish were serious umami bombs, and the salty bite of the Talleggio cheese grits gave the dish additional textural interest. While I'm not usually much for Merlot, this wine paired well with the veal. I tasted some dark plum and blackberry notes in this blend of 80% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Petit Verdot).

    Special treat: 2005 Northstar Walla Walla Valley Merlot
    Winemaker David Merfeld shared a special, limited production wine with us. It was unusually herbaceous for a red wine, I thought ... lots of dried herbs in the nose. Had I sampled this in a blind tasting, I doubt I would've guessed that it was a Merlot blend (80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot).

  5. Cranberry and Spiced Pistachio Upside-Down Cake
    Paired with: 2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling
    I really liked the dessert, which was almost savory with the tartness of the cranberries. I think the citrus was a good choice to cleanse the palate after all that rich meat. I know the critics love the Eroica Reisling, and I liked it, but ... well, I liked each on their own, but I didn't care for the two together at all. As a matter of fact, I wondered if this might not have been a better pairing with the hamachi at the start of the meal. Andrea Immer Robinson is always on about Riesling and Asian cuisine -- I think it might've been a hit.

Toward the end, Chef Kien Sam came out, and we all gave him a standing ovation. He spoke with each person at each table, inquiring as to what we thought of the meal. No, Chef Hopkins, I'm not cheating on you -- I'm still your fangirl -- Aqua Blue isn't in the same tier as Restaurant Eugene, but it was a very, very good meal and a terrific value. $70 a head for all that wine and food, and right around the corner? Fantastic!

No pictures, I'm afraid. We were seated at a group table, and I didn't want to disrupt our dining companions' experience. We were two of the youngest people attending by at least five years, I'd guess, not that it matters. We had a wonderful time, and Kristen and Richard seemed nice, if a mite quiet. Both were in the hospitality industry.

Aqua Blue is a delight. As I told Brian, the manager, as we were leaving: "I'm not just saying this because I've had five glasses of wine.* I really think Roswell is very lucky to have a restaurant like this." He remembered us from before, and made a point of walking us out to make sure that we'd had a good time, and welcomed us as new regulars. Such a pleasant fellow! Every single member of the staff I've encountered has been so nice, and genuinely interested in the food. Like I told my co-worker, Kurt, I feel like we may have found a neighborhood spot that's kind of equivalent to La Tavola for him.

It was an excellent celebration, and I look forward to future events (they host one once a month). While I don't think we'll make it there quite that often, I definitely hope to return.

* Okay, it was more than that, probably closer to eight or nine glasses -- they were very generous with the pours, especially with the sparkling since things were late getting started.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
My mouth is watering. Lamb loin? Yummmmmmmmm.
Feb. 22nd, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
If you're ever in Atlanta and need a restaurant recommendation, give me a holler. :) Nice choice of icon for your comment, by the way!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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