Saturday, February 13, 2010

Feasting at The Kitchen in the Year of the Tiger

A feast to celebrate Lunar New Year is an occasion I look forward to every year. I believe this biodynamic phenomenon not only brings good karma, or balances the yang with my yin, but is also the best time to gorge on Chinese food and the most opportune moment to drink almost exclusively awesome white wines. Why white wines? Because when it comes down to it, only white wines have the complexity to match up with great Chinese cuisine.

I organized a special banquet for 12 people--a fortuitous number after the 12 animal signs in the lunar calendar--consisting of good friends of Vineyard Gate, at The Kitchen in Millbrae, CA, one of the Bay Area's top Cantonese restaurants, and a bottle's throw from the store.

After a Champagne toast at the store, where I poured the luscious Henriot Blanc Souverain, a blanc de blancs with stunning intensity and refinement, we ambled to the restaurant, suitably imbibed and very hungry.

Our bespoke ten-course menu, which I arranged a week before with the restaurant's manager, Peter Yin, and number one chef, Michael Kam Wo Au, a Grand Master of Chinese Cooking and be-medaled chef in French cooking, was exemplary for its yin-yang, hot-cold balance. Number one chef gave it a thumbs up. Prosperity is ours after the meal.

Cold-Cuts: Jellyfish, Beef Shank, Pigs Trotters, Barbecued Pork, Crispy Pork Belly, Wakame Seaweed Salad

Roast Squab

Sashimi of Geoduck Clam (mirugai) and Spot Prawns

Salt & Pepper Fried Geoduck and Prawn Heads

Shark's Fin Soup with Crabmeat (individually plated)

Pan Fried Sea Bass (individually plated)

The Five-Pound Australian Lobster

Steamed and Wok-Fried Australian Lobster

Sauteed Foie Gras with Mixed Mushrooms

Ribeye Steak with Tofu Cubes in Sesame Sauce Dressing

Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli

A triumph! Friends of Vineyard Gate cheering Chef Michael Kam Wo Au, while Manager Peter Yin looks on

Except for a red Burgundy towards the end, all the wines we paired with the courses were whites. Starting with a rare magnum of 1983 Maudiere Brut Reserve "Millennium" California Sparkling Wine made by Edmond Maudiere and disgorged in 1996. The blend is a mystery. There was a touch of residual sugar to make it more Extra Dry than Brut. Creamy-textured with crisp ripe apples and minerals.

Another magnum of Champagne, the 2002 Franck Bonville Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Grand Cru was crisp, dry, mineral, and elegant. A beauty!

Next was a 1988 Schloss Schonborn Riesling Spatlese Johannisberg Klaus, which was drinking marvelously. Splendid aromatics, sweet on the entry then bright, bitter note that shifts the flavor to drier and more mineral on the finish. Side-by-side, another beautiful Riesling was the 1990 Karthauserhof Riesling Auslese from the historic estate in the Ruwer was still young and fresh, a long way to go for this Auslese but sooo good to drink!

A couple of Zind-Humbrechts followed. The 1998 Clos Windsbuhl Riesling Vendange Tardive was medium sweet, with poached apple and cider hints. Elegant, graceful, perfect acid balance. Interestingly contrasted by the 1991 Goldert Gewurztraminer which was dryish, really luscious tropical fruit and spice flavors. Focus, lengthy finish.

Back to bone dry stuff with the magnificent 2001 Marc Kreydenweiss Pinot Gris Moenchberg. Soft layers of fruit and spice with utmost purity and delicacy. This was followed by a vintage of Alsace's most legendary Riesling, the 2001 Trimbach Riesling Clos Sainte Hune. Fully fermented until completely dry this mineral-driven wine has a most efficient, laser-focused delivery. Spare, austere, I shuddered with delight.

Finally, the 1990 Domaine Hubert de Montille Volnay Les Taillepieds was deeply colored (a 1990 after all) with a nose exuding earth and game, but tight, tarty, and taut on the palate with that unforgiving edginess typical of Hubert de Montille's style, and very atypical of the opulence of the vintage, which I think is a good thing as many '90s are fading fast. I don't doubt this wine, another a decade or so of patience then everything will be revealed.

There were two sweeties at the the end that I'm not sure I even tasted in the haze of all the courses and wines. One was the 2007 Jackson-Triggs Niagara Peninsula Vidal Ice Wine, which I wish I could remember given the producer's excellent reputation. The other was the 2005 Seebrich Riesling Eiswein Niersteiner Oelberg from an overachieving Rheinhessen producer that I'm quite familiar with. The vineyard's red slate/clay soils grow fruity, lush Rieslings, and the Eiswein is a speciality of the estate.

Altogher, what a feast! It seems everyone overate which I think is auspicious. I look forward to doing this again with Vineyard Gate friends next year. Meanwhile, Happy Year of the Tiger!

The Kitchen
279 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA
Open everyday for lunch and dinner

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