Wow! It is that time of year again! Time to don our festive Alsatian outfits and drink our way through a legion of unpronounceable white wine varietals while eating delicious pork and Asian inspired dishes.
For me it is something far more, something more akin to a spiritual homecoming to a place where my heart and soul still resides. My family lived in Mendocino for seven years and I still think about those beautiful experiences often. I had the good fortune to work with Bob and Claudia Klindt at their amazing micro winery, Claudia Springs Winery for three years. I was their cellar rat performing whatever task that needed to be done on that date. One hat I wore remarkably well was marketing, basically a license to torture them electronically with imagery and pictures only a twisted kitchen mind could conceive. In their good nature they actual let me run with a few of them and never fired me, though the picture of Bob in Alsatian attire came awfully close. I had a lot of fun working there and learned a lot from Bob and Claudia.
Every year, the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association host two great festivals, Pinot Fest and the other celebrating the wine varietals commonly found in the Alsace region of France. My great grandparents are from Alsace so the thought of eating steamy bowls of choucroute while downing glasses of Gewurztraminer almost sounds sexy.
The International Alsatian Wine Festival was one of the highlights of the year I looked forward to. Dozens of winemakers and restaurants from all over the world converged on our sleepy little valley and uncorked some of the world’s most amazing white wines. I eventually got involved with some of the inner workings of the festival culminating with me coordinating the food side of the event in 2011.
I got bitten by the Chef bug and returned to man the ranges at Figue Mediterranean in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. For a year and half I have been deeply immersed in all things Mediterranean from beautifully poetic seafood stews like Bourride, Bouillabaisses less elaborate cousin to Moroccan Chicken Tajines to perfecting the art of spit roasting and everything in between.
Like the prodigal son I am returning to the Anderson Valley this Friday to do a demo of my Moroccan Seared Sea Scallops that I formulated especially for this event. It is a quirky fusion of Moroccan and Italian tastes that simply work well together with off-dry Gewurztraminers. My thought process was to create something that not the typical foods paired but would fit the bill. I consulted Evan Goldstein’s book ‘Perfect Pairings’ and took his wonderful pairing advice.
Gewurtraminer goes well with aromatically spicy dishes. You need to be aware of the level of heat, but exotic cuisines that stress curry, ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom are very happy tablemates.
I thought about the cuisine we are doing at Figue (www.EatFigue.com) which really is a fusion between classic, traditional flavors and bold and experimental interpretations fusing different cultures. The Mediterranean is the first true fusion cooking the world has known. The menu of Figue is the story of the Mediterranean. It is the story of conquests, invasions, immigrations and discovery. Each wave of change brought new foods, cooking techniques and dishes to the table. I look at the range of typical recipes, ingredients and techniques and see an artist’s palette full of beautiful colors and sensuous flavors waiting to be reimagined on a canvas.