wine pairings

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Michael’s on the Hill in Stowe, Vermont was one of my last restaurant meals of 2011, and it ended up being my absolute favorite. I certainly did lots of good eating in 2011. From Sonoma to Boston’s growing culinary landscape, from Washington D.C. to Ireland, there was definitely great food, but it took a somewhat thrown-together trip to Vermont for me to find the pinnacle of my dining bliss for the year.

Michael's on the Hill

Michael’s is, as you would imagine, on a small hill. A white house that is much bigger on the inside than it looks, the restaurant is decorated in white lights providing an elegant and festive feel. We arrived early for our reservation; after a day of hiking, walking, and touring Stowe, we were chilly and ready to relax! Once inside, we took seats at the small bar for pre-dinner drinks. I went with the cozy Woodford Reserve Manhattan, a deep ruby drink, thanks to the Port in it. It was strong but delicious and warmed me from my toes.

Michael's on the Hill

When it was time to head to our table, we had quite a bit of trouble deciding on what to order. We wanted multiple items in each course and decided to go with the Gold tasting menu with wine pairings for our appetizer and entrée courses. Wine pairings chosen by a chef excite me to no end; I love that element of surprise!

tasting menu

While we waited for our first course, we received a warm baguette, Cabot butter, sea salt, and olives to nibble on. The bread was crusty and hearty; spread with butter and sprinkled with salt, I could have eaten it as a meal in itself.

bread

Our delightful server Heather also brought us the amuse bouche for the evening, smoked salmon with a pickled cabbage topping. This two-bite treat was exquisite, with the soft, slightly salty mousse perfectly enhanced by the crunchy, tangy cabbage. Again, I could have made a meal of these.

salmon mousse

The amuse bouche really set the tone for the rest of the meal. Soon after, we received our first course. We both ordered the White Vegetable Bisque with Caramelized Pork Belly & Truffled Parsley Oil, paired with a Provenance Sauvignon Blanc. Heaven in a bowl, I tell you. Sweet chunks of pork belly were surrounded by velvety, creamy soup and accented with a punch of truffle, the aroma reaching our table before the soup did. The Sauvignon Blanc had a nice acidity and tropical fruit flavors along with a little bit of minerality, and it was a great pairing for the soup. We lovingly ate each and every drop. At this point, we were completely smitten with Michael’s.

vegetable soup

For my main course, I had a really tough time deciding between the arctic char and the gnocchi, but in the end I ordered the Winter Vegetable & Potato Gnocchi Gratin with Preserved Lemon, Rosemary & Herb Salad. This dish was so incredibly well balanced. The lemon and herb salad really added a freshness to the rich gnocchi and rustic seasonal veggies. My husband had the Skillet Chicken with Red Wine Blue Cheese Risotto & Broccoli Rabe which was simply sinful. The risotto was so flavorful, and the chicken was perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

My glass of Tempranillo was another excellent pairing.

gnocchi

We almost couldn’t make it to dessert, but since it was included in the tasting, we went for it. We each had a cup of local Green Mountain Coffee to help wake us up a little after such a long day and big meal.

And then we got into dessert. . .

For him: Dark El Rey Hot Chocolate with Warm Chocolate Beignets (with house made marshmallows and candied orange zest)

beignets

For me: Gingerbread Pudding with Spiced Cream Cheese Ice Cream

gingerbread pudding

Sigh. We could only eat about half of each we were so full, but I loved both desserts. I have to say, since it was such a seasonal choice, I think the gingerbread won for me. Plus, how can you go wrong with cream cheese ice cream and caramel?

We both proclaimed this one of the best meals and dining experiences we have ever had and decided our next trip to Stowe can’t come fast enough.

Michael’s on the Hill was cozy and special without being at all pretentious. The staff had a level of professionalism you would see at a high-end restaurant in a big city but also exuded warmth and a genuine desire to make our experience unforgettable.

What was your Meal of the Year for 2011?

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Tags: Food, Michael's on the Hill, Restaurants, Travel, Vermont, wine, wine pairings

My, how life has changed. Just a few months ago, I was working in a perfectly fine job doing work that was okay, but nothing that I really loved.

And today? I get to spend time recipe testing for a new book from wine expert extraordinaire, the fabulous Natalie MacLean, author of the very highly acclaimed Red, White, and Drunk All Over. Natalie’s newest book brings together her wine expertise with great recipes from around the world.

focaccia

As part of recipe testing, I first chose, from a list of recipes, the recipes I wanted to attempt. My choices included focaccia bread, a potato recipe, a green bean recipe, pumpkin soup, and a chicken dish. Because the book is not yet published, I can not share the recipes or details of the dishes, but I can tell you that so far they have all been very easy, really delicious, and ideal for entertaining.

red potatoes

I am still in the process of completing all of the recipes that I chose, but it is definitely an interesting experience. For one, some recipes may not be complete or written out as they will appear in the final product.

As a result, recipe testing is a little like conducting an experiment. Even though other people, including chefs in some cases, have already tested the recipes, the interpretation of the instructions can vary from person to person which makes writing a cookbook seem like quite the challenge!

Also, because Natalie is based in Canada, the measurements in the recipe are written using the metric system. Here’s where it is handy to be married to someone who grew up using the metric system Smile Between my husband’s ability to make conversions in his head and a few internet conversion sites, I was easily able to figure out how much of each ingredient I needed.

My job is to basically read through the recipes and make them, noting ingredients that may have been difficult to find, steps that may have been missing or unclear in the cooking process, and whether or not the outcome was a success. I have had fun so far looking at the recipes from my own perspective but also trying to think of questions other home cooks might have. All in all it has been a great exercise.

I am looking forward to the book’s release in the fall; it will definitely be on my wish list because I am so excited to see what wines are paired with the food.

Have you ever been a recipe tester or wanted to write a cookbook? If you got your own dream cookbook deal today, what would your book be like?

Note that I am volunteering to be a recipe tester; I am not being compensated in any way to promote the book or website, and my opinions are entirely based on my experience testing the recipes. :)

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Tags: cookbooks, cooking at home, Food, food and wine, Natalie MacLean, recipe testing, recipes, wine pairings, world wine regions

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