In the mood for some nettle soup with juniper oil, topped with creme fraiche and infused with a drizzle of gin?
How about a sip of Reserve Pinot Noir and a tapa topped with asparagus, roasted red pepper with fresh tarragon?
Or smoked salmon nuggets followed by lavender-infused loganberry liqueur?
All are on the menu in South Whidbey this weekend during the annual Savor Spring Food, Wine & Spirits Tour.
Sponsored by the Whidbey Island Vintners & Distillers Association, four wineries and two craft distillers have joined forces with some of the island’s best chefs to create delectable duos of food and beverage.
Tickets cost $25 in advance, or $30 Saturday and Sunday, and include tastings at six locations in Clinton, Langley and Freeland.
Celebrating a decade of springs pairing Whidbey’s fine wine with its homegrown farm food, this year’s tour promises to be a palate pleaser.
“We’re putting more energy into it this year,” said Karen Krug with Spoiled Dog Winery. “Every venue chooses their chef to pair with and creates what works best for them. We try to highlight lots of different chefs so people enjoy a variety of tastes.”
Krug reached out to Lis David, an experienced chef who’s just started her Mediterranean-inspired catering business called Magical Feast. After being told about Spoiled Dog’s offerings of unoaked chardonnay and an off-dry riesling, David had an idea.
“It’s spring and I love asparagus and tarragon with eggs so I am doing a tortilla española which is a fancy frittata,” David said.
Spoiled Dog also plans to offer tastings of Escape Blanc riesling blend with Whidbey Island-grown siegerrebe) and Reserve Pinot Noir.
Added David: “I chose a Spanish red pepper sauce with some spice to complement the fruitiness of the Riesling.”
But how do cooks know what to pair and what not to dare pair?
“We just develop a catalogue of flavors in our head that will work together,” offered Trap Landry, who specializes in food of the non-cooked variety at his Langley restaurant, Anthes Ferments, that he runs with his wife, Sonya Tsuchigane.
“I’ve got over 30 years cooking and my background is really fine dining restaurants,” he said.
Rita Comfort of Comforts of Whidbey invited Landry to create a dish to complement the winery’s popular High Tide White, an off-dry blend that takes “structure and fruit from the Madeleine angevine, while being enhanced by the smooth profile of the Madeleine sylvaner.”
Nettles, natch, nestle in his dish as they grow like weeds round these parts. Throw in some pistachios, blend into a pesto and squeeze the paste into gougeres, “a baked savory choux pastry made of choux dough mixed with cheese.”
Also known as a French cheese puff.
Gordon Stewart, co-owner and executive chef at Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill, is pairing with Mutiny Bay Distillery, known for its blueberry liqueur and whiskeys.
But both are spotlighting juniper this time around.
Mutiny Bay is busting out its latest spirit, Strait Gin, described as a “classic juniper forward gin made from a combination of grains, refreshingly dry, with notes of citrus and spice and balanced by a smooth, sweet, subtle flavor made possible by the botanicals.”
Stewart’s nettle soup is made with juniper oil, topped with creme fraiche infused with Mutiny Bay Distillery’s Strait Gin.
Holmes Harbor Cellars will serve wild mushrooms stuffed with short rib and Gorgonzola from Rustica Cafe in Oak Harbor. Blooms is featuring mini crab cakes on a bed of micro greens topped with roasted red pepper aioli. The dish is made by chef Wayne Carter in their own new Freeland restaurant, 5511 Bistro, to pair with its latest sauvignon blanc release.
Blooms is also debuting Blush, a rose made with grenache and malbec.
Last but not least is Whidbey Island Distillery, the first small-batch spirit maker on Whidbey.
It’s showing off a new-fangled still, and, if the spirits allow, a special release of lavender-infused loganberry liqueur made with help from Lavender Wind Farm in Coupeville.
Saltwater Fish House & Oyster Bar in Langley is supplying one of its popular dishes, in-house smoked salmon nuggets.
All this for $25 — a bargain bon appétit!
Savor Spring Food, Wine & Spirits Tour; six local winery and craft distilleries offer tastings and prepared food samples made from local farms and chefs; 11 a.m.-5 p.m, Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19. Tickets $25 in advance; $30 at venue.
Purchase tickets in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4061164
More information: www.whidbeyislandvintners.org/
This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sibling paper to the Herald.
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