As I mentioned at the end of 2009, one of my goals for 2010 is to attend a food or wine course each month of 2010. I started the year out well by attending the Boston Center for Adult Education Celebrity Chef Series on January 30.
Chef Poulain was charming and funny, his French accent a delight to listen to as he went through each course.
The first course on the menu was a mushroom and cheese crepe. Chef Poulain talked a lot about sourcing local, small farm ingredients. When it came down to the event, he was unable to get Vermont Dandy cheese, so he used Vermont Ayr cheese from Crawford Family Farm instead. The mushrooms were from Giorgio Farm in Reading, PA. You can’t even imagine the delicious smells emanating throughout the room as Chef Poulain demonstrated how to make the crepes. He used fresh herbs in the batter and drizzled the final product with syrupy, reduced port.
It was cheesy, savory, and had the perfect hit of sweetness from the port. The wine chosen was a Frei Brothers Pinot Noir. A delicious wine from the Russian River Valley, this Pinot Noir was light and fruit forward, a perfect pairing with the richness of the crepe. Richard from Commonwealth Wines told us that Frei Brothers is a 100% sustainable winery, something that I always like to keep in mind. We did not visit them on our last trip to the Russian River Valley, but I definitely will the next time.
The second course was a potato and herb crusted lamb with an orange demi glace and fava bean salad.
While cooking this course, Chef Poulain talked a lot about herb purees and how easy, healthy, and versatile different herb purees can be. This one was absolutely delicious and really made the fava beans shine. He also mentioned that the lamb was from a family farm, Blackberry Rock Farm. I don’t eat lamb, so I just ate the crunchy potato crust, but my table mates enjoyed it immensely.
The wine paired with this course was absolutely gorgeous, a Clarendon Hills Syrah from Australia. The nose was of cocoa and blackberries, and the taste was purely chocolate covered blueberries. I could definitely see this beautiful wine pairing well with a rich meat like lamb or even a nice stew.
We learned that the winemaker for this wine does not irrigate the grapes, that they basically just let them grow as they do, and the result is what it is.
The third course was absolutely to die for, a dark chocolate cream phyllo pie with spiced Cape Cod cranberry. As Chef Poulain started on this course, the hotel fire alarms started going off. We waited, listened to the emergency message which basically said that we didn’t need to leave, and stayed in our seats. Chef Poulain kept his cool and humor throughout, speaking over the alarms and whipping up a delicious chocolate ganache for his audience.
While Chef Poulain worked on the dessert, he also told us that he had recently been contacted by Food Network and asked to make a Boston Creme pie, a dessert which the Fairmont makes very well. The original recipe, however, was made at the Omni Parker House, and Chef Poulain declined and directed them to the Parker House. I thought that was a sweet story and a testament to the type of chef he is.
Oh my gosh, this dessert was perfect and actually did not look like it was too difficult to make. The spiced cranberries tasted 100% of New England. As they were frozen-fresh Ocean Spray cranberries from Cape Cod, they were! The spiciness paired well with the firm, almost fudge-like chocolate cream filling and the flaky, buttery phyllo. I think Chef Poulain used about 5 layers of phyllo, each spread liberally with melted butter. Chef Poulain mentioned that he was from Normandy and that the cuisine there is laden with cream and butter. Yum, yes please.
The final wine pairing was a Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon. Richard from Commonwealth Wines explained that he could have chosen a dessert wine but chose this Cabernet because the dessert was not super sweet. The dryness of the wine, with a perfect amount of berry flavor, went well with the dessert. I have grown to dislike sugary, sweet desserts in my old age, and this dessert was perfectly rich but not sweet at all. I finished every last bite.
Unfortunately, the alarms going off did make the sprinklers activate in the hotel lobby which made for quite the hotel mess. However, on my way out I had the GREAT joy of meeting Catie Copley, the resident black lab at the hotel, a dog I have been walking by and waiting to meet for the past year. Catie even has her own book out.
The BCAE and the Fairmont did an incredible job of putting this event together. I couldn’t believe the high quality and portion sizes of both the wine and food. For the small fee that I paid, I got a gourmet meal and left full and happy. I enjoyed the conversation with my table mate, the chef presenting was engaging, talented, and fun, and the whole event went off seamlessly.
If you live in the area, I would recommend this series. I also would definitely recommend the Food Writing course at BCAE which I took in the fall and just wanted more of!
Tonight the foodie love continues as I celebrate my friend Raija’s birthday at Craigie on Main. You may remember my last meal there, and the intense love I have for this restaurant.
Do you have any fun weekend plans?
Please don’t forget about my raffle to raise money for The ALLY Foundation! Each entry is a $10 donation on my fundraising page: http://www.firstgiving.com/meghanmalloyteamally. The prize is a $100 gift card to Williams Sonoma! The ALLY Foundation is doing incredible work protecting us from violent sex offenders, and I am proud to be running the 2010 Boston Marathon for them. Anything that you can donate will help!