I love this time of year! I love the music, the lights, and the parties! As a Gulper one of my favorite parties of the Season is our annual Food and Wine Pairing Competition. Interested competitors put a team together decide on a tasting dish and pair a wine with it, then they prepare enough for all the judges, (about 20), and the winner gets a prize. It is win-win for everyone.
This year there were 5 teams which translated into Good Eats for this blogger/judge!
Team 1 - Deb Knepp, Alicia Lee Bray Brand, Chris Pawlowski and Heather Hatter, aka, Team Pinot Envy presented a bacon stuffing croquet with a cranberry, Gran Marnier and truffle glaze. Along with that was a mushroom stuffed with goat cheese. Oh yeah is was good. It was paired with your choice of either a Mirassou Pinot Noir or a Wild Haven Pinot Grigio.Now I have to tell you I got one of the first croquets of the evening. I don’t think the oil was hot enough because it was greasy. Later I went back for another on the recommendation of fellow competitor and judge Barry and it was hot crispy and the glaze set it off with a tangy, smoky sweet addition. It was really good. The mushroom was stuffed with goat cheese. Need I say more? Oh yes I do because when I tasted it with the glaze it was a wow! I chose the Pino Noir for the pairing and loved it. The light oak and deeper berry flavors of this very drinkable wine matched the smoke of the bacon and the sweet of the glaze. Really nice job by the team with the best name of the night, Team Pinot Envy.
Team 2 - Jimmy Brogan, Kelly Schultz Brogan, Luna Primerton, Wally Lurz presented the crowd with a meaty take on a sweet treat, bacon lollipops. With my first bite I was transported back to my childhood at the legion hall baseball snack stand and eating a Slow Poke.
Like my childhood treat the bacon pops were chewy, chocolate-y, caramel-y salty goodness. You, (okay I), couldn’t eat just one. This treat doesn’t send you into adult delights until you pair it with a Bridgman Syrrah. The woodsy blackberry notes bring it all together. The salt mellows out, the chocolate is a little richer and the smoke of the bacon pops. This was seriously delicious.
Team 3 – Coreen, Barry Imhoff, Serenity Garden Tea House, Chris Bryan put together a beefed up grilled cheese sandwich with a side of rainbow chard and bacon. This uber sandwich was filled with short ribs, pickled onions that got then a carmelized treatment, arugula, and if all that wasn’t enough they threw in bacon! One would think the little side of rainbow chard was extraneous when in fact it was a perfect accompaniment.
The fresh flavor of the greens cut the richness of the short ribs and cheese bringing balance to what would have otherwise been a heavy, heavy sandwich. They paired this with a Gulp favorite, Federalist Zinfandel. The Federalist also lightened the sandwich and added a needed acidity that brightened every bite.
Team 4 - Kelly Lee, Tracy Cottle, Michelle Getty, Adriel Wright, Mariana Nascimento put together what I thought was the prettiest presentation with all the tulle and silvery Christmas tree. Their food would not be ignored either. Succulent chicken, veggies and light sauce were enveloped in an eggroll wrapper to create beautiful chicken pot pie bundles.
It was wonderful and I think what made it most fun was I could pick it up and eat it without all the filling oozing out everywhere. It made me think of 18th century England and street vendors selling savory pies to Victorian shoppers. It was warm, comforting and perfect. They paired it with a clean and crisp Hugl gruener veltliner. It lightened the richness of the gravy while the food gave the wine a buttery quality. It was an excellent pairing. This group didn’t stop there. They included dessert. Oh yes they did. They made a pecan pie bar. Holy nutty sweetness that was good! I will say the wine didn’t pair as well with the dessert. I just put my glass down and munched away.
Team 5 - Pam Schuster, LeBeau, Ashley Renee Wall, Natalie Rogers were our late entry of the evening. Even though I am an impatient judge their offering was worth the wait. They created a spicy pork bun with pickled vegetables and drizzled it with a habanero hunan sauce. It was spicy, tangy, and crunchy with a hint of sweetness.They enrobed all that porky, crunchy goodness with a steamed bun. With that warm, soft sweet bread and the filling, I was in food heaven! They paired it with a Penfold Shiraz. I am not sure it worked as well with the pork bun as it could have. I would have gone with a Sangiovese for a red option or maybe a Savignon Blanc for a white. The shiraz was just too heavy for the bright bite of the pork bun. Don’t misunderstand me. I didn’t put either the bun or the wine down. I belonged to the clean plate and glass club!
Now for the drum roll please!!!!
The winner of the 2013 Gulp Holiday Pairing is:…..wait for it…..anticipation…………Team……the suspense is killing you, isn’t it?……….the winner is: Team 3 with their grilled cheese with short ribs and carmelized pickled onion sandwich!!!! And the crowd goes crazy! Ticker tape is flying!!! Woo HOO!!! Congrats to Coreen, Barry, Bryan and Audrey for their winning pairing!
Team 4 won a $20.00 gift certificate to Hullabaloo’s for 2nd place. Their pretty table display edged them over the competition to win this coveted award!
In the words of our Founder and Head Gulper, Coreen “Everyone is just getting better and better at this whole thing, making the competition very tough to vote for all of us. But I hope everyone had fun, I know I did! Happy Holidays to Everyone!!”
See you next year!!