Afterthought – Chef Tasting Menu at California Vintage
I’ve had a soft spot for Californian wines ever since my trip last year to breath-taking Napa Valley. The combination of beautiful scenery, quirky and often out-of-the-box ingenuity in wine making techniques, and of course, incredible restaurants, have me yearning for a return trip.
Here in Hong Kong, I reclaim a bit of that “California magic” at California Vintage, one of my favourite lunch hangouts. This is really one of my favourite lunch hangouts and I come here regularly to get my fix of their deliciously juicy tri-tip beef – but more on that in a later post!
A couple of weeks ago, California Vintage graciously invited me to taste their new Chef’s Dinner, a 7 course menu showcasing their popular dishes alongside unique Californian wines. Adam, their restaurant manager, hosted the event and provided a detailed narrative to some of the restaurant’s partnered growers. Accordingly to Adam, 90% of American wine are produced in California, but only 4% are from the Napa region (which was quite a surprise to me). California Vintage works with 22 small growers throughout the state to source unique labels to compliment their range of dishes. Wine tasting at California Vintage is as interactive as it is high-tech. Customers can purchase tastings directly from dispenser machines found throughout the restaurant. The dispensers are equipped with argon gas, so each pour is guaranteed to be at its prime.
Coming straight from work, and feeling very hungry, I had great anticipations for our first course of the evening – a light, delicate Baja fish taco, paired with sparkling Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs. it was a refreshing start to the meal, although I wished the fish had more vibrant seasonings to really awaken the palate.
Comfort food on a cold day – dungeness crab and artichoke dip with crunchy chips, all washed down with a glass of Cass “Flying Nymph” white.
I love the gooey, melty cheese – like a warm hug on a dreary day.
My favourite! Juicy beef tri-tip slider with chipotle aioli, paired with 2010 Venge “silencieux” cab sauvignon. I absolutely love the tri-tip in California Vintage’s lunch menu, and was very excited to see it resurface in these sliders!
Marin camembert and mushroom bruschetta adorned with pecan.
The richness of the baked camembert was well balanced by the 2010 Cass Grenache.
It’s not a Cali / Mex party without quesadilla! (Below) Quesadilla with braised pork and guacamole, paired with Acorn Rosato 2011.
Mm……garlic fries. I’m a sucker for salt, garlic and potatoes – lethal trio.
Grilled swordfish with pico de gallo, paired with clam linguini, washed down with 2010 Stillman St. Chardonnay.
Sinfully decadent chocolate pot de creme, paired with syrupy NV Kachina Vintage Port. The chocolate is silky smooth, and I always leave a bit at the bottom so I feel less guilty about devouring the whole thing!
Verdict: I’ve been meaning to blog about California Vintage for a long while, and have accumulated many pictures from my lunch time escapades. However, this tasting was a first for me to try their dinner selection. The menu features effortlessly simple, yet delicious, Westcoast fair, with unique local Californian labels playing accompaniment. I love the ease of the whole thing, and it really makes me miss Westcoast living. One thing I wish the restaurant would change is to make their own tacos and tortilla shells. I noticed that most of these were imported from California, and although I guess these could be considered this “authentic”, they can certainly be fresher. Why not take a page from some of the other taco joints in HK, and make fresh corn tortillas and chips in house? The flavours would definitely be much more vibrant.