A Grand Night Out | Dining | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

A Grand Night Out 

Innovative food and wine pairings, and no Dutch ovens in sight.

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Here’s the deal: I had intended this week to write about the International Dutch Oven Society’s world championship cook-off, which took place last week right here in Zion at the South Towne Exposition Center. I imagine you can read all about it at the Dutch Oven Society’s Website, idos.org. As for me, I got sidetracked on my way to Sandy.


To be frank, I wasn’t initially too enthused when I received my invitation to Grand America’s latest wine dinner. Over at G.A., they’ve put together a chef’s wine series'fancy dinners featuring, presumably, magnificent food and wine pairings. This sort of dinner, once a rarity and fancy treat in the restaurant/wine world, is now pretty much routine. You know the drill: A wine blowhard (usually a soldier of the winery’s public-relations/marketing team) from Napa or Sonoma storms into town and holds court in a restaurant where the chef(s) struggle mightily to pair an over-oaked Chardonnay and Hawaiian Punch Zinfandel with food that, under normal circumstances, actually would have been edible. It’s not always fun, which is why I mostly choose to forego wine dinners these days in lieu of a Papa Murphy’s pizza and a six-pack of orange Fanta.


But this particular event intrigued me. It showcased some of the wines from Bucklin Old Hill Ranch, a small, postage-stamp-size winery in Sonoma that might as well be located on Neptune insofar as it’s bucking most of the wine trends of the Golden State. So I dusted off my cufflinks, broke out the Canali suit and headed over to Grand America.


Oh. My. God. Words can’t really do justice to the dinner that the food and beverage team and Frank Harris'the Director of Catering & Convention Services at Grand America'put together in hosting Bucklin Old Hill Ranch winery’s Will Bucklin at G.A. last week. It was one of the most enjoyable wine dinners I’ve ever attended, and I’ve attended quite a few.


Guests were greeted with an aperitif of what most thought was a pricey French Champagne. It was actually a sensational Spanish cava called Marquis de Gelida Brut, which sells for a mere $13.95 per bottle. I’d like to say it was a perfect match for the amuse bouche of seared melt-in-the-mouth foie gras and white truffle. But as soon as I tasted Bucklin’s 2005 Compagne Portis Vineyard Gewürztraminer with the amusing little amuse bouche, I knew this dinner was going to be something special. You probably think of Gewürz as a sweetish, cloying little white wine to be drunk with Kung Pao chicken and pad Thai. So do I, ordinarily'but not this one. The ladies on my left used words like “remarkable” and “outstanding” to describe the CPV Gewürztraminer. I’ll just say it rocked. To read more about the rockin’ Bucklin wines, please read Grapevine on p. 39. Here, I want to focus on the food.


Grand America is doing an interesting thing at its monthly chef’s wine series: They’ve implemented a “team” approach, headed up by executive chef Jeffrey Russell, which incorporates chefs from various Earl Holding hotel and resort properties, including Grand America, Little America and Snowbasin Resort. Chef Elio Scanu of Snowbasin created the first course: Peekytoe crab salad with roasted pineapple aioli, crisp Spanish Serrano ham and lime “air,” octopus carpaccio with Frantoio Cacioli extra-virgin olive oil, and ginger “caviar.” It would take me the rest of this column to break down this dish so I’ll just say this: I’ve never tasted a better or more complex appetizer anywhere. This Scanu guy is a freakin’ genius.


Who in their right minds would pair Syrah with cod? Funny you should ask. It turns out that Bucklin’s Bald Mountain Ranch Syrah is so food friendly (again, see Grapevine, p. 39) that we can now officially toss out the “white wine with fish” rule. A hockey puck-size risotto cake held hidden treasure: chunks of tender lobster and silky, melted mozzarella cheese. Atop the risotto cake, which was made from wild amaranth, were wilted Asian greens and a buttery-tasting, melt-on-the-tongue miso-marinated black cod. Exquisite.


I could have stopped right there and been very, very content. But superbly trained servers like Shane kept bringing us more food. Here’s what he said about the second entrée: “This is veal tenderloin wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon. It comes with a black barley ragout, wild mushroom sauce and Millcreek coffee-Zinfandel sauce.” Indeed. It also came with two versions of Bucklin’s outrageously tasty Zinfandel. Veal and Zinfandel? Yeah, I know. But this food and wine pairing, like all the others, was simply remarkable. “This,” as Will Bucklin said during dinner, “is not your grandmother’s Zin.â€nn

Reading about dessert probably is going to piss you off, because you missed it. Picture this: Chocolate mousse somehow molded into a Nerf ball shape and sliced in half. When I broke mine open, it oozed out Williams pear brandy. Alongside was a stupendous dollop of house-made basil ice cream. But here’s the kicker: A solid square of ice the size of a Rubik’s cube served as a shot glass of sorts. In a small crevasse on the top of the ice cube was a “cold candy-sake shot.” Just try making that in a Dutch oven.


Chef’s Wine Series
nFeaturing Fisher Vineyards
nGrand America
n555 S. Main

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