Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Tammer Time!

Wine tastings used to get me excited. I used to look forward to conducting one every Friday at Stop Miami, my wine and tapas bar, deciding which wines to taste and what tapas to pair them with. I would attend wine tastings all over town and try many wines with which I was unfamiliar-until one day it became stale. Wine tastings and wine dinners became (often expensive) promotional gimmicks to boost people's bottom lines, and the creativity and excitement got sucked out of the whole experience. A conspicuous exception to these doldrums is Casa Toscana and its chef, Sandra Stefani. She is always coming up with new recipes and dishes, as well as menu stalwarts, that stay true to her Italian heritage, and pairing them with very good wines that aren't just throwaways to get you in the door. Additionally, at just $45 (all-inclusive), for five courses/five wines, these wine events are reasonable, and, if the last one is any indicator, a lot of fun.

The pairing of 'La Spinetta' wines was done with the assistance of the amiable Tamer ("like hammer with a 'T'") Harpke, from Indigenous Selections Also there was Cesar Aguado from Stacole Wines, who was one of my suppliers at Stop Miami, and they have an amazing portfolio of old and new world wines (and sakes, which also pair excellently with food, though not necessarily Italian). There was enough wine poured so that one could savor the food pairings as well as catch a buzz, and Tamer limited his spiels to the essentials-informative, interesting, and just enough of each. And the wines were great. But let's start with the food, which is what makes the wines really stand out. I'll just list them followed by my brief comments...

Ricotta vegetable souffle and a parmesan crisp...all that and more
Vitel Cruja-a traditional Piemontese steak tartar...beyond expectations
Porcini mushrooms/shaved parm risotto...creamy earth tones
Pulled roasted duck and caramelized shallots/orange rosemary sauce/polenta
Chestnut Crepes with mascarpone walnut cream...ballsy, most unusual and tasty dessert

I missed taking a photo of the risotto, unfortunately, as I was chatting with some of my fellow diners, a very mixed local crowd of big groups and couples. (Actually I was just stuffing my face.) Incidentally, the event sold out.
For more info, go to or call 786-262-6408 to reserve. This Thursday 6/25-The Veneto, including the amazing Amarone. Coming soon will be Planeta wines from Sicily, and the chef told me that she has already begun infusing a special digestif with bay leaves, lemon, and cinnamon, just for the occasion. Maybe she can single-handedly bring back the excitement, and most of all the affordability, of this kind of event.

2005 Langhe Sav. Bl.
2006 Barbera d'Asti 'Ca Di Pian'
2006 Langhe Nebbiolo
2005 'PIN' Monferrato Rosso (Nebbiolo/Barbera blend)
2007 Moscato d'Asti Bricco Quaglia