Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Dessert Tasting and Wine Pairing at Napa Valley Grille

Desserts for dinner? Why not, especially when you're having a whole tasting of them. That's what I and other bloggers ended up doing one night at Napa Valley Grille, where we sampled their new spring dessert menu created by Pastry Chef Manuel Ortega.

Six desserts, with wine paired by their beverage director, Christina Sherwood (who did a great job pairing, I might add). Yep, that's how we roll.

Here's our dessert tasting:
Pineapple Upside-Down Tart coconut sorbet, brown sugar caramel ($9)
2006 Iron Horse Cuvee, Russian River Valley

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
For a sparkling wine, the Iron Horse Cuvee actually had a thick body that can stand up to the richness of the cake. The pairing enhanced the bright flavors of the pineapple, making the otherwise heavy dessert refreshing.

Saffron Crème Brulee, pistachio nougat cookie ($8.75 - the one pictured is not the regular size but a sampler)
Creme Brulee
I was afraid the saffron would get lost, but the aroma was still strong, which the whole table loved. After all, we eat not just with our mouths, right?

Blood Orange Crème Caramel candied orange, tarragon crème fraiche ($8.50 - the one pictured is not the regular size but a sampler)
2009 Gundlach Bundschu, Gewurztraminer, Sonoma Valley
The wine and the orange here was a great pairing of the sweet and acidic, and the spice aroma of the wine accentuates the dessert's flavors. I loved the strong orange essence in the creme caramel. With the aromatic thyme and lavender cream, this might just be my favorite dessert.

White Chocolate Affogato, caramelized cocoa nibs, coffee cream
Finale Late Harvest Semillon
Smooth and creamy, with a distinct coffee flavor without being too strong. The Semillon was thick and sweet, but had just enough acid to make this pairing work.

Drake Farm Goat Cheese Tart, apricot confit, orange blossom honey
2006 Burgess Syrah
Goat Cheese Tart with Apricots
The strong goat cheese went well with the tartness of the apricot. The tart was a little crumbly. And pairing dessert with Syrah? Unexpectedly great. The wine cuts the richness and sweetness of the tart, smoothing out the flavors.

Warm Nutella Brownie, gianduja fondue, vanilla gelato ($8.25)
Taylor Fladgate 10 year Tawny 
Nutella Brownie
A moist and rich brownie with a melted nutella center! That's not all, don't forget the nutella and caramel on top, and the vanilla gelato. Ultimate decadence for the chocolate and nutella lover, and enough to feed four people. Surprisingly, it wasn't cloyingly sweet, and the gelato cuts it nicely.

The 37 year old pastry chef is a Buenos Aires native who then went to school in Boston for fine arts and design. He worked as a designer for a while before switching directions and enrolling at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Drawing from his designer background, he believes desserts shouldn't just be pretty but also easy to eat.

Napa Valley Grille
1100 Glendon Ave # 100
Los Angeles, CA 90024-3593
(310) 824-3322

Disclosure: This event was hosted.


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