The Willow’s Wine Dinner Part II

When we last left off, we had imbibed three good wines and some delicious oysters, goat cheese truffles and tilefish with lamb belly at Chef Travis Myers‘ wine dinner at Willow’s Bistro. This time we’ll start off from the second course and on through to dessert. Let’s do it.

Second Course: Crispy Skin

Harmony Ridge Farms Duck Confit Leg with Chef John Bobby‘s (Rooster’s: A Noble Grille) andouille & gnocchi hash, Shore Farm Organic‘s bok choy, more of Fair Share Farms delicious mircogreens, an apricot & cherry mostarda with Lusty Monk Mustard. This was paired with Hartford ‘Russian River’ Pinot Noir.

In the past, I’ve not been a fan of duck. I don’t like dark meat fowl as a general rule. WillowsDinner4However, I have found over the last bit, that I like duck confit (which means it’s cooked in its own fat), perhaps because of the fat. The closer to the bone the meat, the darker it is. This was a very meaty piece of bird and didn’t hold too much of the dark flavor that I don’t like. Again, a good thing. The mostarda with the Lusty Monk Mustard was a great ‘sauce’ to go with the gamy bird. I did wish there was more of the bok choy, but, again, the secret weapon of the dish was the inclusion of the microgreens. It’s amazing how much difference that itty-bitty plant can make. There’s a strong yet subtle (if that’s possible) flavor that rushes out from the microgreens. Overall, one of my favorite dishes of the night. Definitely, my favorite wine of the evening. I’ve always been a white and sweet wine kind of guy but both Stephanie and I agree that we’re becoming real fans of Pinot Noir. This one, was jammy and we really liked that.There was definite fruit flavor here and it went perfectly with the duck. I kind of wish it had been the wine for the main course.

Palate Cleanser: Moss Farms Granny Smith & Calvados Sorbet

WillowsDinner5Made with Cloister Honey‘s wildflower honey, Sea Love Sea Salt and an apple crisp garnish. This was a perfect palate cleanser. Cool, flavorful, sweet and that little sliver of crisp apple was surprisingly apple-y. I didn’t expect that to have as much flavor as thin it was, but it was great. It did its job, cleansed the palate, gave a sweet break from the savory and wine and prepared us for the main course. No alcohol was included in this course, and rightly so.

Main Course: Carolina Bison 3-hour Braised Short Ribs

The large block of tender bison was accented with a cauliflower puree and wilted Dino kale, roasted parsnips, Let It Grow Produce‘s persimmon preserves, Fair Share Farms microgreens, Sea Love Sea Salt and a savory, natural jus. This is paired with a Ferrari-Carano ‘Trésor’ Red.

The kale with this dish was unusual for me. I find kale to be somewhat offensive, usually, but with the savoriness of the jus and the cauliflower puree, it was more there for flavorful texture than anything else, at least to me. The toasted parsnips are like crunchy WillowsDinner6curly-cues. The bison fell apart as I cut it to take a bite. Its temperature was perfect. Once again, the secret weapon was the microgreens. I know you’re tired of hearing me go on about the microgreens but they are truly an amazing supercharge to the savory dishes we’ve encountered tonight. While we did like the ‘Trésor’ Red, it didn’t have the same depth of flavor as the Hartford Pinot Noir. I mentioned this, but I would have rather had that with this, but the Ferrari-Carano wasn’t a bad choice. It did bring the bison to the forefront and set its profile off. Great dish, Chef.

Dessert Course: Sticky Toffee Cake

Red molasses ice cream, Willow’s candied pecan soil, date gastrique, orange zest, vanilla & date sablès and a pickled Bradford Watermelon rind. It was paired with Gloria Ferrer‘s ‘Va de Vi.’

WillowsDinner7The watermelon rind was chewy and tart. I do think it was at odds with the overall dessert, but it didn’t offend the idea, at all. The red molasses ice cream was hard to keep on the “cookie” top as both slid from the “soil” base and the ice cream was starting to melt. I think the ice cream was the star of this dish, though. So, melting or not; sliding or not, the ice cream was fantastic. The ‘Va de Vi’ is a bubbly blend of the Pinot Noir grape and chardonnay with just a hint of moscato. It went well with the sweeter fruits in the dessert.

We have been privileged to have been involved with so many tastings lately. I don’t report on them to say, ‘hey look what we did’ as much as I am trying to  bring awareness to the beautiful and exquisitely flavored dishes that the chefs in our town are creating. Those chefs taking their visions and creating masterpieces of gastronomical proportions are the ones that stand out; the ones I highlight. As Chuck King, from American Premium Beverage said during this event: “this gives the chef’s a chance to show off,” and I think he’s absolutely correct.

These are called wine dinners but it’s more about the food, in my eyes (and mouth). I will say that Chuck did a great job in picking the right vino accompaniment, though. But, the real star is the food. I believe my two favorite dishes were the fish course (because of the lamb belly) and the duck confit. The duck may move ahead slightly just because of the Pinot Noir. Much thanks to Chef Will Kingery and Chef Myers for being the gracious hosts they are. Much thanks, too, to the talented kitchen staff, the bartenders, the dish washers and the awesome servers that were always there to make sure that our waters were filled, our silverware was always replaced and when minute errors happen, they were the ones to make things right (there was only one little snafu that’s not even worth mentioning, it was that minute). Willow’s is a class act and this was their way of showing off. So, I say show off!!

Willow’s Bistro is located at 300 South Liberty Street, Suite 125 in Downtown Winston-Salem. Keep an eye on their Facebook page, Chef Myers and Chef Will’s Twitter and/or Instagram pages and you’ll know when the next pairing dinner will be.

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The Willow’s Wine Dinner Part I

On January 31, we attended a wine dinner at Willow’s Bistro. An elegant dinner with delicious food, lush wines and fantastic community. Owner Will Kingery was a gracious host welcoming around fifty food enthusiasts and letting his star chef, Travis Myers, willows-logo_optshow off his culinary super skills. Chuck King, from American Premium Beverage was there to guide us through the wine adventure while Chef Myers enlightened us to his culinary treats. Some notable food names that were in attendance was Tony and Maria Dilisio, from DiLisio’s Italian Restaurant (I’m sure you’ve read about them here before), local “don’t call him a foodie” food enthusiast, Carroll Leggett and Winston-Salem Journal’s very own food editor, Michael Hastings, who we had the pleasure of having with us at the table at which we were seated.

In this two-part reflection, I’ll give you an idea of what you missed and why you should be on the lookout for the next pairing event happening at Willow’s Bistro.

Amuse Bouche: Roasted Old Salt – Rappahannock Oysters 3 Ways

This was paired with Gloria Ferrer Brut

I believe the consensus around the table was that we all enjoyed the roasted garlic, truffle butter and caviar the best. It was the most balanced. Not that flavor was an issue in any of the three, this was just the clear-cut winner. The bubbly Brut was a good pairing with the oysters.

First Course: Goat Cheese Truffles

Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese rooled in Willow’s own crushed candied pecans, port poached figs & pears, frisée, Fair Share Farm microgreens, Cloister Honey wildflower honey & lemon vinaigrette.  This was paired with Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc.

The goat cheese was tangy but those flavors were tamed a bit by the candied pecans, but I WillowsDinner2don’t mean that it dumbed it down. I just mean that some people don’t like the tang of goat cheese. Instead, they want their cheese to be more savory, yet not void of the creaminess that goat cheese offers. This dish preserved that tang while adding a crunch and when paired with the port poached figs and pears and the honey and vinaigrette gives a breadth of tang and savory.  The Sauvignon Blanc made the whole dish, especially the tangy cheese, sing.

Fish Course: NC Golden Tilefish

Tilefish with a puree made of Evangeline sweet potatos from Hunter Farms, “dip” beurre blanc liquid ravigote (which means reinvigorated) drops, the secret weapon, microgreens and manchego cheese shavings. The best part of the dish – something you’d not expect to WillowsDinner3go with fish – is a bit of Border Springs lamb belly prepared Lexington BBQ “style.” Lamb belly with tilefish? Well, yes, exactly BBQ’d lamb belly with tilefish. It was the fish course, to be sure, but the lamb belly stole the scene. The tilefish was quite meaty and worked with the sweet potato puree and the beurre blanc sauce. That would have stood up on its own, but once you add the lamb belly the flavors jumped into the sapor exosphere. The manchego was a somewhat odd addition and it probably wouldn’t have mattered had it been missing, but what would be missed, the microgreens and the lamb belly. This dish was paired with Stonestreet ‘Bear Point’ Chardonnay.

This was the first three of the six (with a palate cleanser) courses. I’ll catch you up on the rest of the courses in the next post. Part II will be here, soon and i promise it will be worth it!