The Vinography dinner at Manresa

My running bud Rob is currently doing a liquid diet and has lost 45 pounds (give or take) over the past couple of months. He’s winding it up for the end of September, but he’s not quite done with it yet.

He IM’d me about a week ago.

Rob: Do me a favor?
Diane: Mais oui.
Rob: Go to this for me.
Diane: Throw caution to the wind.
Rob: I’d get sick eating so much rich food right away.
You go and tell me everything.
Diane: Well. Okay. If I have to.

“This” was the Vinography dinner at Manresa. Manresa, for the non-foodies amongst us, is one of the top restaurants in the world and it’s not too far from us.

When the maitre d’ escorted me to the back patio, I saw a whole bunch of people dressed in fabulous black. I really, really have to invest in a little black dress at some point. A tall well-dressed man came over to me and introduced himself as “Alder.” I am distinctly uncomfortable joining groups of people I don’t know, and Alder immediately put me at ease as we chatted and drank Cava (a sparkling wine from Spain, much like Prosecco and as tasty). The man is the perfect host. In fact, if I ever have a large party at my house, I’m going to ask Alder if he’ll come down and host it.


The dinner was fabulous.

Alder told us he worked with Manresa Chef David Kinch to pair the perfect dish with each of the wines Alder had selected. Apparently, Chef Kinch knows what he’s doing, ’cause these dishes were good.

We started with the Auberge egg, which is a soft poached egg in its shell with herbs, butter, sherry vinegar, and maple syrup. I’ve had it both times I’ve eaten at Manresa before, but you can’t have too many Arpege eggs. You wouldn’t think a combination of egg, sherry vinegar, and maple syrup would be good, but honey, if you knew the proper recipe, you would be making this puppy at home all the time.

And then we got started with the dinner:

  • Steelhead roe, smoked and freshly cured, in a light gelee of jasmine tea and myrtle leaves, with 2003 CrauforD Sauvignon Blanc

    This was my least favorite dish, because the combination of “fishy” and “smoked” is not my thing. I was the only one at the table who left any on the plate, so it was, in fact, just me. I did try two bites, because I promised myself that I would try everything during the dinner. (For that price, I’d better.)

    The wine was excellent. Very fruity without being sweet. I haven’t drunk a lot of white wines recently, but this would definitely be one I’d be on the lookout for.

  • Gulf shrimp and clams on the plancha, with 2000 Miura Chardonnay.

    Yes, Gulf of Mexico shrimp, flown in that morning. Certainly my first thought was, Who in the hell were the idiot fishermen who went out there with Rita bearing down? Well, I was glad they did, because that really was some of the best damn shrimp I’ve ever had: large and nicely grilled, and the clams had a small pork gelee on top of them were excellent.

    The wine: definitely the best Chardonnay I’ve ever had. Alder mentioned the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd and everyone laughed. My first thought when I tasted the wine was, “This is what wine ice cream would taste like.” When Alder talked about the wine, he mentioned that it was very much like a “creamy pastry,” and I thought: Whoo hoo! I’m in the general vicinity of the appropriate wine metaphor! Excellent wine.

  • Milk-fed capon breast, poached then roasted, with risotto “biodynamic,” cippolini onions, and foie gras cream, with 2001 Campion “Firebreak” Pinot Noir

    Oh good lord, this was some fine eatin’. The capon was as soft as veal, the risotto firm and creamy, and the foie gras cream not too hard on the foie gras (not my favorite taste).

    The wine: this tasted very light, not with the heavy, dark tannic taste I associate with a red wine.

  • Roast marcassin with spices, pine mushrooms, and roasted escarole, with 2003 Casa Nuestra “Tinto St. Helena” Red Field Blend

    Who knew roast young boar was so tasty? It was rubbed with a mix of 12 or 16 spices (can’t remember) and rare and soft. The mushrooms: yum. The only down element for me was the roasted escarole, because it was very bitter. Darin said it was perfect, which means I’m not going to be searching out a lot of escarole in my future.

    The Tinto was my least favorite wine, because it was so dark and heavy and tannic. It was still a great wine, though, and more than that it was a great pairing with the red meat of the boar, though.

  • Braised black mission figs in exotic honey and mascarpone sorbet, with 1996 Stony Hill Semillion de Soleil dessert wine

    The dessert was very tasty, even though I didn’t eat all of it. The mascarpone sorbet? Man, if Haagen Dazs started making that flavor… The exotic honey was a honey brought back from Costa Rica by one of the Manresa kitchen workers, and it was infused with orchids and other tropical blossoms. The figs were perfectly cooked, which I found out because Darin told me (he ate my helping).

    Generally I like sweeter dessert wines than Alder does, but the Semillion was wonderful. Every time I sipped or sniffed the Semillion de Soleil, I kept thinking of musical chords — three, or maybe more, flavors seemed to be playing at the same time.


    One thing I noticed about all the wines was that they had a bouquet. Generally when I sniff a glass of wine I get, well, a wine-y type smell. You know, a hint of alcohol. But these wines had bouquets of fragrances, whether fruity or dark or sweet and complex.

    The best thing about this dinner was that there were people who knew a lot about wine and those who, like me, know what they like, even if they don’t always know what it is. Okay, maybe I was the only one there who doesn’t know a Cabernet from a Zinfandel without checking the label. But they let me stay anyhow.

    The other great thing was that few people there knew one another, but they all felt very comfortable with chatting easily. I felt incredibly at ease the whole time.

    I would totally do this dinner again!

    And here are Alder’s thoughts about the meal.

  • Comments

    1. says


      Can you hear me blushing through the browser? I’m really glad you enjoyed the dinner, and I’m super pleased you thought I was a good host, I was definitely trying to make sure everyone had a good time, and I’m glad I succeeded with you.

      It’s funny you mention the steelhead roe — I noticed that you left most of the plate untouched and thought to myself “Oh no!” but I’m glad to know the rest of the dinner made up for it!

      Thanks again for coming!