Winemaker dinners can be like summer thunderstorms. . . there’s one almost every day.
Once in awhile, though, they can be something special. Like last night’s dinner at the Four Seasons Palm Beach featuring the wines of Italy’s famed Antinori Winery. Resort executive chef Darryl Moiles, himself just returned from a couple of weeks eating and drinking his way through The Boot, crafted a four-course meal (plus munchies) to compliment a quintet of Antinori wines, including a superlative Brunello and powerful yet elegant Supertuscan.
We washed down an assortment of small bites like scallops with caviar, steak tartare on crostini, and oysters on the half-shell with red wine granitee at the bar with a light, delicate 2010 Col de Salici Prosecco, then moved to the dining room and got serious.
Moiles’ menu channeled the Italian culinary ethos of highly sophisticated simplicity, beginning the slabs of impeccably fresh ahi dressed with toasted pine nuts, lemon and an inspired “black olive oil”—pungent oil-cured olives partially dried and whizzed with mild olive oil, which intensified the olive flavor while taming the bitterness at the back palate that’s characteristic of high-quality olive oils. The melon-y richness and soft Meyer lemon acidity of Antinori’s 2009 Guado al Tasso Vermentino played nicely against the meaty tuna and earthy-tasting black oil.
Next came a salad-like ragout of fresh porcini mushrooms, cippolini onions and cauliflower, drizzled with a truffled vinaigrette and topped with a gently poached egg fuzzy with grana padano. Here the earthy flavors of the porcini and truffles were balanced by the molten egg yolk, that spilled out when the egg was broken, enriching further an already rich sauce. The 2005 Pian Delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino, was classic in its bright acidity and complex flavor profile that ran from dried fruit and cherries to tobacco and leather, which made the most of the dish’s earthy-sweet lushness.
A square of massively flavorful Wagyu beef (from Central Florida, no less) was so ridiculously tender after a four-hour braising that it cut at the mere mention of the word “knife.” With that uniquely Italian sense of balance, the rich fattiness of the beef was cut by a salad of intensely sweet cherry tomatoes (in South Florida! Who knew?), baby artichokes, bits of unctuous bone marrow and a handful of celery leaves, a hugely unappreciated product that more chefs should take advantage of. A dish this big and bold required a wine of equal heft, like the 2007 Tignanello, a wine so meaty you could almost eat it with a fork, yet in the Italian manner concealing the iron fist in a velvet glove.
Finally came tiramisu with caramelized banana and a scoop of lightly licorice-flavored ice cream, flavors that begged to be paired with the hazelnut and caramel essence of the 2004 Antinori Vinsanto.
The Four Seasons doesn’t do many of these dinners; I believe this was the third or fourth this year. But at $125 per person, they’re not only a great experience but pretty good deal.