A week has passed and my taste buds are still turning somersaults.
Last Thursday night, my much better half and I visited Dream Dance at Potawatomi Casino for the Ridge Vineyards Winemaker Dinner.
It was a meal to remember.
Dream Dance general manager Nathaniel Bauer, whose passion for the dining experience is evident when he greets customers and helps clear plates from the table, invited winemaker John Olney from Ridge's Lytton Springs Winery in Sonoma County, Calif., to Milwaukee and unleashed the creative genius of chef Jason Gorman.
Each dish on Gorman's four-course menu was paired with one of Olney's wines. With each course, Olney spoke about Ridge, giving details about the history of the winery's two locations -- at the Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Cupertino and the newer Lytton Springs site -- and other informative tidbits.
Gorman later confessed that he had not sampled the wines before the pairings. But, you wouldn't have known that at the table.
The first course, Maine Lobster Salad with honeydew melon, Chioggia beets and a brown butter vinaigrette, was paired with a 2006 Chardonnay from the Monte Bello Vineyard. The sweetness of the beets accentuated the crisp finish of the Chardonnay and set a promising tone for the evening.
Gorman's second course was a Diver Scallop, which came with American Kobe corned beef hash and a zinfandel reduction. The zinfandel in the dish was not the 2005 Paso Robles Zinfandel in the pairing, but the pairing was outstanding.
Ridge is known for its zinfandels, which emphasize the characteristics of the growing site. (The '05 came from Dusi Ranch in San Luis Obispo).
The third and fourth courses produced the most fireworks. Gorman, who specializes in "new Wisconsin" cuisine, prepared a Suckling Pig with Rosemary pappardelle, Marsala pork jus and sorrel pesto. The dish was paired with a 2004 York Creek Zinfandel from Napa Valley. Matched with the pork / pesto, the flavors of the York Creek wine seemed to explode on the tongue.
When Olney said that the wine would continue to improve, my partner looked at me and said, "We should buy a case." A server overheard our discussion and said, "Wait until you try the Monte Bello."
He was right: the '99 Monte Bello, a signature wine for Ridge, was spectacular. It was a deep purple with notes of chocolate, plum and maybe even a hint of maple syrup. Paired with Gorman's lamb sampler - tongue bisteeya, lamb loin with morel mushroom puree and lamb ribs with an organic honey curry glaze, it was the high point of the evening.
Gorman's choice of Pear Belle Helen, which mixed dark chocolate and cream with pears, was the perfect finish.
Many of the diners at the intimate gathering already were Gorman fans. But, the tag-team of Gorman and Ridge was an unstoppable force.
Dream Dance will close at the end of the month to move to a first-floor location near the casino's main entrance. The new digs will allow for larger capacity, valet parking and other amenities. The current Dream Dance location, which has been in operation for seven years, will be converted to a food court.
Before that happens, however, Bauer and Gorman will present another tasting dinner. The annual Morel Mushroom Dinner, slated for April 29, will match six courses of Gorman's food with wines presented by Enrica Scavino, whose grandfather, Paulo Scavino, is a famed winemaker from Piedmont.
Doors will open at 6 p.m., with dinner served at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $150 per person, not including gratuity.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.