Two dinners were in program at the Excelsior Inn of Eugene, in which both my wines and my food would be featured. I have know Maurizio, the owner and former chef, for many years and we had always wanted to orchestrate something of this sort, but there never seemed to be enough time. This was the perfect occasion. Except for the fact that my dinners were going to be Wednesday and Thursday and I was scheduled to be in Ashland on Tuesday. The only reason I managed to pull this off was thanks to the wonderful staff that awaited me at the Inn. Brian Borroughs, Allan Weller and Shane Tracey not only were welcoming and helpful, but curious and fun to work with, even when things didn't go as we had wished.
Walking into a new kitchen each time is a real challenge. You never know want type of equipment, space, fire and people you will be working in. And trust me the kitchen on a hundred year old building should be no challenge for a Roman chef like me, but it was. We prepped together all of Monday and got most of what was possible done..chicken liver pate, ten onion jam, pannacotta and the marinate for the pork. I left my instructions, hoped for the best and took off for Ashland with Christie, our Italian Wine Specialist DownState.
Ashland has the beauty of small, quaint and sophisticated little town. It's like you can breathe the shakespearean air all year round.
We visited many small refined retail stores and wine shops and both the Chianti Classico and the Riserva were appreciated and found their right spot: Old Road 99 Wine Shop, Harry&David, the Jacksonville Inn and Shop and Kart will all be most probably be bringing in our wines in the next few weeks.
But it was our dinner at Coquina, and the great talk I had with Lyn and David, that was the real high light of the trip down. Lynn is an extraordinary chef, the meal she fixed for us was just superb and gave me the possibility to experience her creativity and care for detail. So it only made me ecstatic when she said she loved the Chianti Classico 2010 and that she was going to be pouring it by the glass. Six cases where shipped to her the following morning!
Or let's more honestly put it this way: dinner number two allowed me to get everything so right that it made some of the hiccups of dinner number one be forgettable.
All eighty guests over the two nights had a wonderful time, loved the wines, enjoyed my storytelling of Petroio, appreciated my food and all together had a memorable experience. Which is ultimately my goal every time I do a wine dinner: to plant a seed in the hearts of the people that participate so that they too can become a part of the Fattoria di Petroio family. Being able to cook for them, showing them some real italian and tuscan cuisine, combined to truly tuscan tasting wines, is the best possible way to promote Petroio. Because may it be when I am stirring away my Risotto or may it be when I am at the sorting table taking out bad grapes my ultimate thought is always the people to whom these products will arrive, and that deserve only the best possible.