Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Johnny Carino Wine Dinner

Did you know that Johnny Carino's does a monthly wine dinner. I did not until a couple of months ago. I was on their site to print up a menu for Curb Side pick up. I do this occasionally since I live on the end of town they are. There are certain things they do that I like and sometime I just don't want to cook or go in a restaurant. Usually on a weekend. So I got on their e-mail list and have been looking at the menus. The May menu seemed nice and it is a reasonable price. A four course meal with wine pairing goes for $29.99 plus tax and gratuity which came out at around $37.00. Once I got there and the dinner started it became apparent that corporate makes up the menu and does the wine selection. The three server allocated for this event (there about 40 people) did not know a thing about the wine or the meal. At dinners I usually attend the chef presents the meal and a knowledgeable wine person presents the wine. None of this was done here. However this way lends itself to a group of friends enjoying a night of decent food and wine pairing at a reasonable price without having to do any of the work themselves. People are sat by reservations so the conversations are with people you would know. This is something both neophytes and the experienced can enjoy. A pleasant evening just enjoying yourselves without any decisions. Following is the meal

Bruschetta Caponata
Toasted garlic bread topped with a grilled eggplant, roma tomato, black olive, artichoke, caper and roasted red pepper relish
Little Black Dress Pinot Grigio

This was great. The toppings tasty with no bitter flavors from the eggplant. The tomato and relish lent a sweet flavor while the capers and olives added a salty note. Artichoke is a noted flavor enhancer. The slightly fruit forward pinot grigio brought it together.

Chicken Dijon Pasta
Grilled sliced chicken, fresh zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, broccoli and roma tomatoes in a Dijon cream sauce with bowtie pasta
Five Rivers Chardonnay

This would have been good also however the pasta here is evidently not boiled in salted water. It was tasteless and bland and brought the whole dish down. Believe it or not there were no salt or pepper shakers on the table. The servers were running their tails off and I just could not bring my self to disturb them. I did see one customer get up and find some salt though so it was not just me. The chardonnay was slightly oaked with buttery undernote and the chicken went well with it

Chianti Gorgonzola Steak
Grilled sirloin topped with red wine braised mushrooms and gorgonzola, served with seasonal vegetable medley
Banfi Centine Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese Blend

The steak was a perfect med rare (pink in the middle not bloody) and quite tasty as were the mushrooms. The reduced red wine gave it an almost balsamic flavor. It would have been even better if I had gotten more than a sprinkling of gorgonzola. Look closely. The white specks on the steak is the cheese. They would have done better to take the gorgonzola and make a sauce and serve on the side. The grilled vegetables were good. The Banfi contained enough tannins and berry flavor to meld well with the steak.

Cherry Ricotta Rum Cake
Traditional Italian style ricotta cheesecake with graham cracker crust, topped with Amarena cherries
Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling

Kinda looks small but believe me it was intensely rich and sweet. Amarena cherries are an variety grown in Italy and preserved in sugar which forms a very cherry syrup and renders the cherries themselves like candy. The ricotta gave a tangy undernote which was a welcome relief to the the sweetness. The Riesling was done in the European style, on the dry side. It was perfect with this super sweet dessert. If it had been sweet also all would have been cloyingly sweet. As a matter of fact the red would have gone well with this cherry dessert too.

I would give this experience a 85% and I am likely to attend another one if I can get some of my group to go with me. A better experience with friends

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