Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tasting Notes and Review: Grain vs. Grape Dinner at The Marlay House

Last Wednesday, Hubby and I attended the "Grain vs. Grape" dinner at The Marlay House, formerly known as The Grange (same owners, new name). The four-course meal was paired with either beer or wine for $38, or you could have both for an extra $10. I chose wine, Hubby beer (shocker, I know).

Irish Sausage Rolls and Canapes with Cashel Blue Cheese, Quince, and Pink Lady Apple

I could eat the Irish Sausage Rolls for breakfast and loved it that they were served with something with apple. Yeah, it's that Belgian thing of loving meat with fruit.

The Grain ("well, ok Apple") was Magner's Irish Cider, an light apple cider. Hubby's not a big cider fan, and he liked it.

The Urban Riesling (Mehring, Germany)also played with the apple flavors and added floral notes with a nice backbone of mineral. I've had this one before and still find it to be a nice off-dry Riesling. It's also a good one for less experienced wine-drinkers.

Twice Cooked Pork Belly, Organic Boston Lettuce, Grape Tomatoes, and Cypress Grove's Truffle Tremor Goat Cheese

Apparently the grain, the Duvel Green Belgian Golden Ale, was also the acidic part of the salad dressing. The "Green" in the name has nothing to do with Irishness or environmental awareness, but rather because it's young and has not been fermented twice like previous Duvel incarnations. This makes it more cask-friendly. Hubby liked it. I thought it tasted like beer.

The Heavyweight Chardonnay (Lodi, California; 85% Chardonnay, 10% Chenin Blanc, and 5% Marsanne) was unlike any Chard blend I've tasted with its nose of mint and toast, and minty-buttery-vanilla with notes of lemon combo on the palate. I noted that the food made it make sense, and the other wine drinker at the table noted that it made the food make sense. Without the other, the food was a little too unbalanced toward the savory side, and the wine too much toward the sweet flavors side. Together, they worked, which is the point of a pairing, although it's ideal when each can stand on its own.

Note: Both the Duvel Green and the Heavyweight Chardonnay are newly arrived in Georgia.

Grilled Lamb Porterhouse with Fennel Pollen and Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushroom over Soft Polenta

This was probably my favorite course with its combination of textures and flavors. The wine, McManis Cabernet Sauvignon (California) was also my favorite for the night. Ripe berry nose with great fruit, hazelnut, and mocha on the palate. The finish faded to one last kick of fruit. Perfect with the lamb. Hubby didn't have anything more to offer for the Bell's Brewing Amber Ale (Michigan) other than he liked it.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Blackberry Coulis

Imagine a Creme Brulee that's not brulee'd and has escaped from its dish, and that's Panna Cotta, essentially a creamy custard. The blackberry balanced the vanilla sweetness nicely.

Hubby and I have seen the Choco Vine (Holland), Cabernet Sauvignon with dark Dutch chocolate, in stores, but we've never tried it. It looks like chocolate milk, smells like milk-chocolate covered cherries and sugar, and tastes like a chocolate-cherry liquor instead of a wine. However, it's only 14% A.B.V. We enjoyed coming up with things we could do with it like put it over ice cream, pour it in coffee, or make dangerously sneaky mixed drinks with it. Chocolate cherry martini, anyone? It's also quite nice served on its own over ice.

Oh, and Hubby liked the Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout (Colorado). Again, he's not a stout drinker, so this was a good choice.

The only thing that Hubby didn't like, and I agree, is that the last couple of courses felt rushed. He ended up with parts of all four beers on the table in front of him because he didn't have time to finish them. We wondered if maybe they'd gotten complaints after the last dinner, which was quite leisurely. We wouldn't have minded things to be stretched out a little more, but then, we don't have kids to get home to.

Bottom line: The Marlay House is a nice addition to the Decatur pairing dinner scene, and it's more reasonable than a lot of them price-wise.

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