Home Food & Beverage Lockdown Experience: Local Restaurant’s “Zoomed” Wine Pairing Dinner

Lockdown Experience: Local Restaurant’s “Zoomed” Wine Pairing Dinner

by SharonKurheg

Joe and I enjoy occasionally going to wine pairing dinners. For those who haven’t experienced one, you have a set menu at a restaurant that includes wines specifically paired with each course. Restaurants will sometimes hold these dinners as special events, with exclusive event-only menus, and they might even have representative(s) from the winery/wineries on hand to teach and discuss.

For us in Central Florida, we’re lucky to have a local food critic who works with various restaurants in town, so his wine pairing dinner events, which he’s dubbed “supper clubs,” happen on a somewhat regular basis, at all different types of places.

Except how can you have a restaurant’s wine pairing dinner, with a bunch of people when you’re all under “stay at home” orders?

You adapt.

Scott Joseph has been a food critic in Central Florida for over 3 decades. He had a long career of reviewing restaurants for the Orlando Sentinel, during which time he established himself as a trusted, reliable and comprehensive source of restaurant information in the region. He began to work independently in 2008 and, with so many contacts in the restaurant and wine world, began to host supper club dinners not long afterward. They’ve always been well received.

With the state of Florida under lockdown for a month, you would think a special event wine pairing dinner would be impossible but nope, Scott found a way. Instead of us going to the restaurant, the restaurant would come to us. Well, we’d pick it up (or have it delivered) and eat it at home, anyway ;-). And we’d have a virtual supper club! Here’s how he described it:

I miss our Supper Clubs, and realistically it’s probably going to be a while before we can schedule another one. But I don’t want to wait.

So let’s get together for a virtual Supper Club. Here’s how it will work.

We’re partnering with Soco Thornton Park [Note from Sharon: it’s an award winning eatery in Downtown Orlando that features “Southern Contemporary cuisine with a progressive culinary approach”]. On April 30, chef/partner Greg Richie will prepare the three-course dinner for pickup between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m. He’ll include instructions for reheating the main course – the appetizer and dessert will be room temperature. Also included in the package will be two bottles of wine chosen to pair with the courses.

At 7 p.m. we’ll log on to Zoom and enjoy the meal together. Chef Richie will be there to talk about the food and we’ll hear from some wine experts about the pairings. Maybe even from the winemakers themselves – how cool would it be to have the winemaker from Lexicon Wines Zoom in from New Zealand?

Both Joe and I thought that sounded really cool! So I wrote to Scott and made our reservation. Once confirmed the next day, I called the restaurant to pay and to make an appointment for when we’d pick up our food (Although we’re under “stay at home” orders until May 4, we’re still allowed to go out to buy food, including take out from restaurants.).

The menu sounded great:

Welcome Cocktail (Optional)
Strawberry Fields, strawberry-infused Wheatley vodka with lemon and vanilla.

Course One
Benton’s Country Ham Wrapped Cantaloupe, Burrata, Watercress
Toasted Sunflower Seeds, Balsamic-Basil Vinaigrette
Lexicon Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2018

Course Two
Barbecue Rubbed Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
Sweet Potato Gratin, Apple Slaw, Buttermilk-Chive Biscuit
Carson Scott Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, 2017

Course Three
Hummingbird Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Pineapple-Lemon Marmalade
Carson Scott Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California, 2017

I picked our food up the day of the event, and when I got home, I got the lay of the land, so to speak, on what I’d have to do in terms of re-heating and preparing.

(The 3 paper bags in the photo on the left were our welcome cocktails and the 2 bottles of wine. While we’re on lockdown, restaurants are allowed to sell booze “to go.”)

I’m usually the cook in our house and I often make a meat and a vegetable side. That’s it. This was 3 courses, with multiple “pieces” to each course. You guys, ALL. THE. DISHES. AND. SILVERWARE! 😉

Anyway, at 7pm we were ready for our wine pairing dinner.

Wes Hamrick is a professional pianist who can be seen playing at venues all over Orlando, including the Grand Floridian Resort Hotel & Spa at Walt Disney World and The Grand Bohemian Hotel in Downtown Orlando (where he’s also the Director of Entertainment). He was the first person we encountered at our dinner, playing a wide variety of tunes, while we all entered the Zoom chat.

Photo Apr 30, 7 00 32 PM

We began right around 7pm and enjoyed our cocktails while Scott explained what to expect for the evening.

The first course was the salad (on our too-small Fiestaware salad plates and with our Publix brand paper napkins cuz we’re fancy that way LOL).

Photo Apr 30, 7 00 51 PM

Chef Greg Richie from Soco explained a bit about why he made the selections he did, which included some ingredients he wanted to use that just weren’t available because of the coronavirus crisis (shipping, etc.), which is why we had “this” instead of “that.” It was all good, both literally and figuratively.

We also had some special guests to tell us about the two wines we were drinking during the meal:

  • Fran Kysela of Kysela Pere et Fils is a wine importer based in Virginia. He’s the sole importer of the 2018 Lexicon Sauvignon Blanc we had with our salad (not pictured above – that was still my Strawberry Fields).
  • We had a 2017 Pinot Noire from Carson Scott that went with our main course as well as our dessert and Joe Otis, the winemaker from Carson Scott, was on hand for a bit to tell us about it.

Having the chef and winemakers with us via Zoom was definitely an interesting experience…sometimes it worked, sometimes not so much. 😉

The food, by the way, was delicious! It’s a pity ours was displayed so badly, but that was totally on me. I mean, I can write pretty good (that’s a joke. No need for the grammar Nazis to send nastygrams, please and thank-you). After a decade or so of voice lessons, I can sing OK (well enough to get occasional solos and to be accepted into auditioned choirs). But visual arts? Not my thing. Case in point, here is our second course. The picture on the left is how the chef made it look. The mess on the right is mine ;-).

Our final course was the hummingbird cake. To make it more portable, it was offered in cupcake form. I found I didn’t need much of the pineapple-orange marmalade to go with it – I’m saving most of it to go on some toast in the not-too-distant future.

Photo Apr 30, 8 15 10 PM

And then we were done.

Everyone agreed that they had a really good time. It was definitely the most unusual wine pairing dinner we had ever experienced. But after staying at home almost all the time since (for us) March 11, it was also a VERY nice change (even with ALL. THE. DISHES. AND. SILVERWARE. LOLOL!). And Joe even cleaned up!

All that being said, I’m really looking forward to the time when it’ll be safe to go to the occasional wine pairing dinner at an actual restaurant.

#stayhealthy #stayathome #washyourhands

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

2 comments

james May 4, 2020 - 2:15 pm

You write very well-ly. Interesting idea, I’ll kick it around with a local critic. How was it paced? Did the host ask if everyone was done with a course? did you take a break to warm up hot courses? Could he see how each diner was progressing?

Reply
SharonKurheg May 4, 2020 - 2:27 pm

The pace was fine. I think the whole thing took about 90 minutes, give or take? But it was only 3 courses.

Because we were on Zoom, Scott could see when we were done with a course. Even if he couldn’t necessarily see our plates, he could see when forks stopped going into mouths LOL. I didn’t include a picture of the Zoom because I didn’t know the other participants well enough (read: at all LOL) to feel comfortable getting their permission to include pics of them in the post (I had asked Scott earlier if we could write a post about our experience, and spoke to him again, after the event, about using pics/info of/about Wes, chef, the wine guys, etc.).

Only one course had to be heated up – the main course, which was purposely chosen to do well in the microwave. Biscuit in the oven for 5ish minutes. When we got up to that part, Wes started playing piano again 😉

It all worked out well. Scott’s also hosted a bajillion of these “supper clubs” before, so he’s good with timing and the non-verbal cues of when to continue.

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