The only way the evening could have been any more entertaining was if David Chang had crashed our dessert course and delivered a drunken rant about our cheese plate.
"F*cking come on, San Francisco chefs! Do something with your f*cking cheese!
Hey, can I get some f*cking figs?"
Hey, can I get some f*cking figs?"
That didn't happen, but even so, the night was a fun-filled feast featuring a four-course meal of fresh, local, and thoughtfully prepared food paired very nicely with an array of Black Box wines.
The evening started with some beautifully presented charcuterie in Spruce's "Library." This was my kind of library – sliced meats, crusty bread, wonderful wine, crackling fireplace, and absolutely no books. We were also allowed to speak above a whisper, which really works out great for me.
I enjoyed several glasses of Black Box's 2008 Columbia Valley Riesling as I chatted up my fellow Foodbuzz Featured Publishers. Seeing that most of the others were drinking the 2007 California Merlot, I wondered if my cold white wine was the best choice for the house-cured meats. I would have looked it up, but like I said, there were no books.
We moved from the Library to a handsome private dining room in the back of the restaurant. This was a good thing since there's nothing more annoying than trying to enjoy a romantic, softly lit meal, only to be subjected to the strobe-like flash lighting from a couple dozen cackling food bloggers.
There's a certain special something about having a meal in a private room like that. The food tastes better, the wine pairs more perfectly, and the conversations seem even more interesting. It's no wonder meetings about launching companies and plotting murders are held in such spaces.
Our first course was a visually arresting beet and pear salad. The deeply colored, carpaccio-style sliced beets were topped with aged goat cheese and walnut vinaigrette. The sweet, soft pear proved a perfect liaison between the sexy salad and the accompanying 2008 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Next up was a perfectly roasted halibut, served atop chanterelles and fennel frond broth, finished with a subtly sweet, jam-like puree of fennel bulb. This course was paired with two Black Box chardonnays– a 2008 Monterey County and a 2008 Napa Valley Reserve.
I really enjoy chardonnay paired with mushrooms, and thought both worked very well, however, when we were asked which we thought was the better match, I chose the Monterey County, as did Black Box's wine guru Steve Hosmer. Take that, bloggers that liked the other one better!
The main course was an impeccably presented bavette steak with sauce bordelaise, served with a stack of duck fat fried potatoes. I'd like to type that again… a stack of duck fat fried potatoes. A few thought this a bit too safe of a pairing with the 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon, but I defended the decision by simply repeating, "yeah, but duck fat potatoes," over and over.
The dessert course was a trio of cheeses served with honeyed almonds, and dried cranberries. It's at this point in the evening when I stopped asking questions like, "what cheese is this again?" – I put away the camera and pen, and just enjoyed the end of a great meal. Talking food, laughing, winking, and just being in the moment.
Throughout the dinner the sommeliers would explain what we were drinking and why it was paired with these ingredients. Usually, to this old chef's ear, these course introductions sound like, "…blah, blah, tannins, blah, blah, oak, blah, blah, vanilla," but I actually tried to pay attention to the whys and what fors. There really are reasons certain pairings work and other do not.
It was impossible not to notice how prideful the folks from Black Box are when they talk about their offerings. They know they have some great wines, and you can see how much they enjoy the fact it's packaged in a black box.
Due to the facts that it was decanted for service, and so damn food-friendly, not once during the entire evening did the thought, "we're drinking wine from a box," cross my mind. To me, that's the best compliment I can give.
Thanks to Foodbuzz for another wonderful evening! Thanks to Black Box Wines for (see above), and thanks to Spruce for all the wonderful food!
Check out some of my fellow food blogger's recaps of this event:
Danielle at Bon Vivant
Denise & Lenny at Chez Us
Janet at Pretty Green Girl
Joel at Six By 10 Tiny Kitchen
Jesse at Beer and Nosh