Pairing Dinner with Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

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I don’t know how food writers do it. Talking with Andrew tonight, he told us about their last-minute pairing dinners and the challenges of putting together an article the night before the Washington Post’s due date.

And so here I am, trying to write a simple blog post after six courses, complete with wine pairings and an after-dinner sampling of Blue Gin graciously brought to me by Matt Lanning and Chris Bailey.

(If you don’t know what dinner I’m talking about, hear me gush here.)

Anyway, I’m going to shoot off-the-cuff and put this thing out, grammar and prose be damned. Here’s my play-by-play of the dinner at Marché tonight.

Amuse Bouche

Northwest oyster with cucumber granita

Domaine Meriwether Brut
Thomas Jefferson Prestige Cuvée, Oregon 1998

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What a great pairing to start with. This oak-aged sparkling reached into the fattiness of the oyster and carried the sweetness of the cucumber granita down the palate into a long, luxurious finish. A complete dish with a lot of playful acid. Boo-ya.

First Course

Albacore crudo with capers, lemon, arugula and olive oil

Three Wives Pinot Blanc
Yamhill-Carlton District, Oregon 2007

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This was a bright white wine with toned-down fruit, a light body and some slight bitterness. The black pepper from the arugula pulled out the hidden fruit, and the salt from the capers removed the bitterness to show a beautiful, light white wine. On the backside the bright acid cut through the fat of the tuna. A+, snap!

Second Course

Handkerchief pasta, pork belly, sweet corn, spot prawns and summer savory

Roxy Ann Winery Viognier
Rogue Valley, Oregon, 2006

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Whoa, what up, pineapple? A great wine on its own, but picturing it with food was a tough challenge for me to wrap my brain-belt around… until the food arrived. Here’s a case of food improving wine, as the herbal punch of the summer savory washed away the tropical fruits and exposed those naked, shivering acids hiding just beneath the surface. It was enough to make the crowd feel dirty. In a good way.

Main Course

Duck breast and duck liver with blackberries and wood oven-roasted root vegetables

Territorial Vineyards Pinot Noir
Stone’s Throw, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2004

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Hey, sometimes you bat a thousand, and sometimes you don’t. The big ripe blackberries in the wine clashed with the big not-so-ripe blackberries on the plate. Roasted parsnips seasoned with sea salt would have brought out the earthiness of the wine, and the orange oil in the pate should have taken a backseat. Moving right along…

Cheese Course

Rogue Creamery bleu cheese and toasted hazelnuts

Spangler Vineyards Syrah
Southern Oregon, 2006

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Okay, we’re back on track at this point. Sitting at the table with the winemaker, Patrick Spangler, and my friend who put together all of the pairings for tonight, Ryan Stotz, is helping me understand the intricacies of the pairing. I wouldn’t have thought about the tannins in the hazelnuts sitting against the delicate tannins in the wine, nor would I have known about the viognier co-fermented with the syrah. What I would have figured out on my own, however, was the sourness of the cheese lighting up the big, juicy fruits in the wine.

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Dessert

Peach napoleon with frozen caramel mousse

Apolloni Viognier
Dolce Vino, Columbia Valley, 2007

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I don’t care for matchy-matchy pairings (raspberries with raspberries, etc) but the peach in the napoleon was mellow enough to bring out the stone fruits in the wine. Add in some caramel and acid and the whole mix is crazy delicious. Note to self: Use these ideas for a late-summer cocktail.


That’s my report, and I’m sticking to it. You’ve got my new-found respect, food and wine writers.

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13 Replies to “Pairing Dinner with Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page”

  • What I failed to mention in my post-prandial haze last night was just how amazing this event was. The energy in the room was electric, there were nothing but smiles – grins, even – on all of the faces I saw around me.

    The company was exquisite, Karen and Andrew are charming, engaging and very much passionate about the topic. It was, indeed, the culinary event of the summer here in Eugene.

  • Matt Lanning says:

    Great recap of the dinner, Jeffrey! And having just come from two weeks of stellar meals in San Francisco, this wasn’t just (apparently) the event of the summer in Eugene, but could have held its own anywhere in the country. Thanks again for letting us know about it!

  • Dina says:

    After reading this entry I wanted to let you know about a great place in Cannon Beach. It’s EVOO http://www.evoo.biz/
    They have “courses” where the chef prepares great food in front of you and pairs each course with a wine.
    I make a point of going at least once a year. Never been disappointed.

    PS I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good and entertaining work.

  • Kate says:

    Do you happen to know which Rogue Creamery blue cheese it was? I work at a cheese shop and would be interested in trying that combination sometime.

  • Dina – I’ve heard a lot of good things about EVOO and will have to check it out the next time I’m on the Oregon Coast. Thank you!

    Kate – I’ve got an email in to someone who will know. I’ll post my findings as soon as I find out.

  • Well, that didn’t take as long as I’d expected. We were having the Oregon Blue, Kate. I hope you get a chance to try the pairing sometime with the Spangler. Let us know what you think.

  • Jeff Frane says:

    Ryan is the person who finally convinced me that the whole wine/food pairing was real. He’s got an astonishing palate and an encyclopedic brain that allows him to remember the taste/aroma and all the information about pretty much everything he’s ever put in his mouth. I’ve been out to dinner with him a bunch and always turn the wine over to him — and have never failed to be amazed at what happens.

  • We were pleased to be able to bring Karen and Andrew to Eugene for this electric evening of food, wine and fundraising.
    Many people were supporters of Eugene Hearing and Speech Center and they couldn’t have been more impressed with the dinner, with Karen and Andrew and with the whole crowd who enjoyed the night.
    Thanks for enjoying and for supporting!

  • Jane – I just realized that I kind of forgot to mention the fact that this was also a fundraiser for a very wonderful organization. As someone who has spent many years exposed to some very noisy bars and nightclubs, one would think I’d be more mindful of the Center.

    I guess that’s what happens when I get carried away by some seriously tantalizing food and drink. Thanks for stopping by the website and saying hello!

  • Eugenia says:

    Wow. Did I miss something. You had me at “cucumber granita.” Brilliant! Thanks for taking the photos and giving us a taste — if only, alas, visual.

  • Robert Hess says:

    What? Not a single cocktail in that lineup?

    Wine and food pairing is so… so… “90’s”.

    Working on pairing cocktails with food is where it really starts to get exciting! :->

    Or perhaps I’m just in a sour-grapes mood since I wasn’t at the dinner myself.

    Great writeup Jeffrey, thanks!

    -Robert

  • Yep, for some reason they didn’t think to talk to their terrific bar manager, James West, or even their favorite former employee!

  • Jeff Frane says:

    Ryan originally had every intention of including a cocktail and a beer, but it didn’t work out.

    He told me he was actually relieved, because of all the additional work (and glassware) with dinner for 80.

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