Located in Southern California’s Lake Forest
By Linda Kissam
There are a variety of places to learn about the art of food and wine pairing. You can start by learning to pair wine with the food. Or, learn to pair food with the wine. You could go to wine classes. San Diego State University has a whole certificate program on wine. Your local wine shop is often a great source to learn great matches and try new things without investing a whole lot of money. Going to winemaker dinners, although pricey, has always been an inspirational and engaging way to soak up new ways to love food and wine. Whatever your preference, your final lesson is most likely going to be that the fun part to food and wine pairing is that it is more art than science.
One of the best places to learn that lesson is at The Wine Artist in Lake Forest, Calif. The Wine Artist is a boutique winery and event facility specializing in cooking classes with wine pairings as well as corporate events, private parties and custom labeled wine. The entertainment center has more than 2,500 square feet tastefully decorated in a Tuscan theme. It is perfect for hosting private parties, team building, birthday parties, fund raising and charity events. Owner/Chef MJ Hong incorporates the best part of cooking classes, wine tasting, food and wine pairing and bottling wine into party themes such as: Taste of Italy, Taste of Spain, Sushi Party, Taste of France, and Taste of Thailand. This is a truly unique experience. The best part just might be that she has a schedule of classes you can jump into, or you can design one of your own and bring your friends. Either way everyone attending participates in the meal preparation and wine sipping. It’s a perfect setting for beginners to want- to-be chefs and wine aficionados.
Mj has always had a passion for cooking and entertaining. She purchased The Wine Artist four years ago creating an energy-charged atmosphere of interactive fun, education and social engagement. At a recent XYZ food & wine pairing class, it was clear to all that lack of cooking skills does not get in the way of having a great time. In this particular class, I brought the wines and MJ created a cooking experience around the wines. MJ’s kind guiding hand and constant positive approvals and affirmations keeps the group on track and focused on the end “yum.” Sitting around the table with MJ after all the cooking was done afforded all of us the opportunity to learn why the food and wine pairings were matched perfectly and were definitely a piece of tasty art.
We were welcomed with a fruity sangria made from The Wine Artist’s own Green Apple Riesling. Fresh, snappy and just the right notes of goodness. I was hooked.
Off to the kitchens we went. Divided into teams we were on our way.
The first dish prepared was a spicy arugula, pear and walnut salad. Preparation was simple enough for the least talented of us. MJ paired it perfectly with a fruity, minerally 2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay from Dutton Ranch in the Russian River Valley.
Next up was lovely lobster bisque. Again, a light handed approach to yum that was much simpler to make than I anticipated. The matching wine was a dry, oaky 2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay from Ferrington Vineyard in the Anderson Valley.
Life was good. We were on to the appetizers. The ricotta, gorgonzola and mushroom crostini was easy to make and delicious. MJ instructed us to only brush oil on one side of a baguette slice to keep it crispy on top. MJ felt the 2009 La Rochelle Pinot from Donum Estate in Carneros I had provided would be the perfect accompaniment. She was right. The deep ruby wine presented big fruit flavors and earthy overtones that held up to the rich crostini.
The next dish, polenta with sausage and mushrooms was delicious, turning under our hands into a rich, melt-in-your-mouth appetizer. Matched with a 2009 La Rochelle Pinot from the Santa Lucia Highlands, this wine’s lavish cherry and raspberry flavors sang a perfect duet with the dish.
Stuffed eggplant with rice was up next. Quick and easy once you understand the techniques of working with this troublesome vegetable. We mixed up garlic, onion, rice, and oregano, scooped the mixture into the baked eggplant shells, topped them with Parmesan, and baked the dish for about 20 minutes. The 2010 Steven Kent Winery Merlot from Livermore Valley was a great match.
Our final dish was an untraditional lamb skewer with tzatziki sauce. We made the lamb mixture into a sort of meatloaf with a variety of spices. We rolled the meat mixture into elongated sausage shapes and threaded them on skewers. MJ made another memorable wine pairing with the 2010 Steven Kent Winery Cabernet Franc. Its earthy mineral notes enhanced the rustic flavors of the lamb.
Our dessert was provided by MJ. It was a light mixture of mixed berries topped with sweetened mascarpone and topped with Marsala. The final pairing was Black Velvet, a black raspberry Merlot produced by The Wine Artist.
Speaking of the end “yum,” Chef Hong has sent along the recipe for the magnificent Lobster Bisque for you to try at home. Enjoy with her compliments.
P.S. This was a group favorite dish and pairing!
• 3 Tablespoons olive oil
• 2 shallots, minced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
• 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (½ teaspoon dried)
• 1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 cup seafood stock
• 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
• 2 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
• 1/2 lb. lobster
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
• 1 teaspoon old bay seasoning (optional)
• 1 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and sauté shallots and garlic for about one minute. Add Brandy and cook for about one minute. Add butter to pan and once melted, add flour and stir with a wooden spoon.
Add Worcestershire, thyme and sauté for another minute. Add sherry or white wine and cook for three minutes longer, scraping the bottom for any brown bits with wooden spoon.
Add paprika and seafood stock and combine well. Stir in tomato paste, half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about three minutes. Add lobster, nutmeg, old bay, salt and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.
Serve with crusty bread (optional) and pair with a dry, oaky Chardonnay, like the 2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay from Ferrington Vineyard in the Anderson Valley.
The Wine Artist is located at 21064 Bake Parkway in Lake Forest, Calif. For more information call The Wine Artist at (949) 297-3656; Email info@TheWineArtist.com or visit their website at www.TheWineArtist.com
Photo at top: Styled by Linda Kissam who is pictured at center. Photo taken by Wine Artist staff.