by Team Eric
Sommelier: Eric Hastings, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood Houston
Blogger: Kristi Willis, Austin Farm to Table
Photographer: Marshall Wright, Eat This Lens
Facilitweeter: Carla Crowner, Austin Urban Gardens
A group of Austin food writers and photographers are huddled around the back room of Uchiko on a rainy, chilly Sunday afternoon. You can feel a slight undercurrent of nervous energy as we wait to find out what is in store for us during today’s inaugural Keeper Collection Wine Ride.
Five Sommeliers from around the state are partnered with a team that includes a blogger, photographer and tweeter with the mission of traveling to four restaurants and food shops to pair food and wine, picking a perfect pair at each stop. The dishes and wines are a surprise, and only the Sommelier can taste, the rest of team relying on them to tell us what they are experiencing – an added challenge since we just met Eric Hastings, Sommelier of Eddie V’s Prime Seafood in Houston.
As it turns out, Eric Hastings is an amiable guy. When we arrive at each venue, he quickly greets attendees asking them how they are doing and if they are having fun. You’d never guess he was a former hockey player, a sport known more for rough and tough antics than for savoring the good life. You might not even guess that Eric is a Sommelier, a career often stereotyped as stuffy, snooty and unapproachable.
You might overlook Eric right up to the moment when he begins describing the glass of wine cradled in his hand. As he details the complex elements of the wine and how it brings out the best in the carefully crafted food, you suddenly realize that this laid-back, affable man is very, very serious about his wine and loves his job.
Eric is dedicated to discovering new wines from lesser-known regions, challenging his guests to try new things. “I have quite a few Italian wines on my wine list, but I also spread it out across Spain, France, Australia and the United States. I want to provide balance on the list.”
During his presentation at each stop, he reminds us that pairing is about more than taste and that you want to experience the food and wine with all of your senses. How do they smell together? Do their textures complement each other? Do they balance well and make each other sing? He smells each dish before he tastes anything, sticking his nose right up to the edge of the bowl and inhaling deeply.
He carefully prepares each bite, making sure he gets flavors from each element on the plate. As he savors the flavors, he utters an “Oh, wow!” or “Now that is fun!” before he describes for the attendees his perception of the dish, offering up some nugget of information they’ll be able to use again in their own pairings.
For the Foreign & Domestic sweet pairing, he chooses the rice pudding with caramel and the 2007 Domaine Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain, “That is a pretty fun combination with the juicy red fruit of the Bourgogone with the caramel and the rice pudding.” He explains to the attendees why he picked the Bourgogne over the Champagne, “The rice pudding and the sparkling wine offer another unique combination. The caramel works pretty well with it, but the texture of the rice pudding doesn’t match up very well with the Champagne.”
The cheese pairing turns out to be Eric’s favorite of the day. He pairs the Ossau Iraty with the N.V. Thierry Massin Brut Champagne telling us, “The cheese has a delicate yet firm texture to it, very mild saltiness and a nuttiness that is working great with the Thierry Massin. The champagne might be similar with the Majorero, but I think the wine is a little too rich for that cheese.”
At Fino, Eric reminds us that just because you think a wine will work well, you don’t know until you taste it and the dish together. He mentally pairs the short rib and the Corbiere, but after tasting the earthy short rib dish with the Burgundy he notes, “This dish really sings with the Burgundy. I wanted it to be the Corbiere, but once I tried the Burgundy, I knew it was going to be the one. The mushrooms match the earthiness of the Pinot Noir. The decreased tannins complement the braised meat, while the acidity helps to bring it all together and break it all down.”
With a short ten minutes at each stop and at least three dishes and two wines at each pairing, he has to move quickly to make his determinations. He doesn’t have time to try things he knows won’t work. He skips the salmon at Central Market because it was served with asparagus. “Asparagus is a wine killer. It doesn’t pair well with anything,” he shares with us as we zoom off to the next venue.
Other dishes he saves until last as not to commit a critical mistake. “Oh, that looks like a tongue burner,” he says as he pushes the plate to the side to cool down. Both the Chicken Pot Pie at Central Market and the Jamon Serrano Croquette at Fino are both lava hot when Eric cuts into them. He can’t afford to burn his tongue and mar the pairings.
Back at Uchiko, preparing for the final presentation to the gathered crowd, Eric hesitates, “I kind of want to go with the cheese as my top pairing, but the soup [Foreign & Domestic] was really terrific with that Pinot, and the short rib and the Burgundy [Fino] were great too.”
He looks back through his notes, slowly nodding his head, “But the cheese and champagne really were stellar together. It was a nutty, rich cheese with a dry, biscuity, toasty, nutty champagne. The acidity in the champagne broke down the fats in the cheese. The flavors of the hazelnut and the brioche complemented the flavors in the cheese.”
I advise Eric to go with his gut instinct. He smiles and says, “Yea, I usually do.” And, thank goodness he does. He followed his instincts from hockey to the world of wine and we are all the better for it.
Vote for your favorite Sommelier pairings (http://sommsunderfire.com/pairings-101/) and Wine Ride Team blog post (http://www.keepercollection.com/blog/) on the Keeper Collection site. The winning Sommelier gets an automatic entry in the Keeper Collection Somms Under Fire event in May 2011 and the winning blog team wins all access media badges to Somms Under Fire.
Eric’s Pairing Picks by Venue
Central Market: Pork Tenderloin with 2008 Dominique Mugneret Bourgogne Rouge
Foreign & Domestic savory pairing: Roasted Chestnut Soup with 2007 Jean Noel Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet L’Estimee
Foreign & Domestic sweet pairing: Rice Pudding with Caramel with 2007 Domaine Michel Lafarge Burgogne Passetoutgrain
Antonelli’s Cheese Shop: Ossau Iraty with N.V. Thierry Massin Brut Champagne
FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar: Beef Short Rib with 2008 Domaine D’Ardhuy Bourgogne Rouge
View more photos of Eric Hasting’s Wine Ride on Flickr.
Santa Fe is a soulful place for me. I’ve traveled here often since I was a kid and, upon arriving, my pulse slows down a bit and my breath deepens. It is one of the few places where I don’t feel like I have to have a plan and a busy day usually means I have a spa appointment or dinner reservations.
As it turned out, the market was across the street from our hotel, a few blocks off the square, in the the Santa Fe Rail Yard shopping area. The indoor/outdoor facilities allow the market to operate year round and on this crisp November morning, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the market was packed with people shopping for their holiday feasts.
|Turkeys waiting to be claimed|
We found a diverse array of products including fresh produce, meat, baked goods, preserves, flowers, and, of course, green chiles. The spicy aroma of the roasting chiles followed you through the market.
I was intrigued to find sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) and dried beans. We bought green chile mustard, green chile powder, green chile dip mixes and even a green chile croissant, which we promptly devoured.
I bought goat cheese from The Old Windmill Dairy and raspberry jam from Duke’s Raspberry Ranch for the family to snack on during our week together.
The Santa Fe Farmers Market was delightful and a terrific way to kick off a Saturday in one of my favorite cities. I can’t wait to visit again. Maybe next time I’ll get the green chile quiche or maybe the green chile preserves. So many possibilities!
View the full photo set on Flickr.
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with soup. First, I was sick, then the weather got cold, and a comforting, piping hot bowl of soup sounded like the cure to my woes. But, I didn’t want just any old soup – I wanted borscht.
|Hot Bison Borscht|
I cannot tell you why I wanted borscht. To my knowledge, I’d never had borscht. But I got these big, beautiful beets from Farmhouse Delivery and, suddenly, all I could think of was borscht. I’ve learned to just give in to these unexplained fixations; it really is the only way to make them go away.
After studying up, I discovered borscht can be served hot or cold, depending on the region of origin, and can have meat or be vegetarian. I picked a hot beef borscht recipe from Bon Appetit, but substituted a few ingredients for what I had on hand – turnips for the potatoes and bison short ribs instead of the beef. Don’t be scared off by making the stock – you can substitute store bought beef broth and add some browned stew meat to the soup.
|Bison Short Ribs for the stock|
The end result is worth the effort a hearty, rich, slightly sweet soup that is deeply satisfying. I’m so glad I made enough for 10 people so I have plenty in the freezer.
It’s chilly outside – what soup are you cuddling up with?