A Patterson's Registered Berkshire was the centerpiece of a "Nose To Tail" dinner at Amuse located in the Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts.....
BY MEGAN MARCONYAK Richmond Magazine
Curious about wine dinners? They happen all the time in Richmond, but you may feel a little intimidated when you think about going. Fear not! Travel along vicariously with writer Megan Marconyak and see what one recent Richmond wine dinner was like.
Last week's “Nose to Tail” Feast at Amuse Restaurant in the VMFA featured new flavors for many of the guests, as well as a new experience for the chef de cuisine, Greg Haley. Haley worked with Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery to butcher a whole pig and use it to make five courses paired with French Burgundies from Virginia winemaker Michael Shaps.
This the third special dinner Amuse has hosted. “It’s nice when the exhibits stop for us because we can take a break and do some fun things,” said Amuse Restaurant Manager Michael Smith.
Chef Greg Haley photo courtesy VMFAHaley wanted to try his hand at cooking a whole pig, and the dinner provided the perfect opportunity. “As much as I love you guys, this dinner was really about me,” he said. Cauthen got a pastured registered Berkshire from Autumn Olive Farms outside Waynesboro, Va. — and together she and Haley spent about 4 1/2 hours butchering it to get it down to small enough pieces that he could bring into the kitchen at Amuse. “The great thing about working with expert chefs is they are hesitant a first, but then they jump in with a ton of confidence,” said Cauthen.
As guests arrived, we were greeted with a choice of Michael Shaps wines, as well as homemade pork rinds, smoked pork tenderloin with house-made beer mustard served on cracked bread, house-made head cheese with sel gris (gray sea salt) and shrimp skewers with Asian-style pickled pineapple. I chose to wash the snacks down with a crisp, bubbly glass of Shaps Stafford Methode, a blanc de noirs made from Virginia Cabernet Franc grapes.
As we settled into our seats for the amuse bouche, Shaps told us a bit about his background in the wine industry — starting in restaurants, developing a passion for wine, studying in France, making wine in Virginia and eventually finding and opening a winery in France: “If you’re an American, this is the dream — going to France and making wine in Burgundy,” he said, adding that all the French wines that he’s made are less than 200 cases in production.
Shaps started Shaps & Rouchey-Sarrazin in 2004 when he and a friend found a winery in Meursault and began growing grapes and renovating the house. He recently took over the winery himself, so starting in October, the wines produced there will be under the label Maison Shaps. Michael ShapsHe started Wineworks in Charlottesville in 2007, where he produces his own Michael Shaps wines, Virginia Wineworks wines, which are more value-oriented and include Virginia’s only bag-in-box wines, and wines for many other Virginia wineries.
The dinner started with an amuse bouche of smoked pigs feet and pickled onions on kohlrabi chips—this was my first taste of pigs feet, and they were rich and flavorful. The first course was scrapple with grilled apple and hickory syrup. This was also my first taste of scrapple, and it was my favorite course. The scrapple was well-spiced and cooked in a patty that was crisp outside and soft inside. The drizzle of syrup and apple made for a perfect sweet-savory combination. The dish was paired with Shaps & Roucher-Sarrazin Meursault Les Vireuils 2006, a chardonnay aged in 25 percent new oak barrels that was smooth, very lightly oaked and buttery.
Up next was crispy skin rockfish served with Tasso ham, white beans and Brussels sprouts. Cauthen told me Tasso ham is lightly cured pork that’s spiced, then smoked. It added the perfect hint of umami to the white beans and sprouts under the fish. This course was served with Shaps & Roucher-Sarrazin Meursault Premier Cru Les Charmes 2006, also a chardonnay. “If you close your eyes and taste it, it’s almost like your drinking a red wine,” Shaps said.
Next was a flavor-packed Afton-Mountain mushroom risotto topped with crispy pig's ear, arugula and buffalo-milk Parmesan served with Shaps & Roucher-Sarrazin Nuits Saint Georges 2006. This dish was another smart mix of flavors and textures: soft, cheesy risotto, pungent mushrooms and crispy, smoky pig ear topped with fresh, peppery arugula and ripe, salty, shaved cheese. The pinot noir, full of deep berries without a heavy finish, complemented the food's flavors perfectly.
The final savory course was a confit of pork shoulder over Jerusalem artichokes with fava bean salad and served with Shaps & Roucher Volnay Premier Cru Les Santenots 2006. Berkshire pigs at Autumn Olive FarmsThis pork was hearty and crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. The meaty flavors were complemented by an earthy undertone from the vegetables. Accompanying it, the pinot noir was brightly flavored with red fruits and tannins — it was big, bold, and my favorite of the evening.
For dessert, we had old-fashioned huckleberry pie topped with ricotta ice cream and bacon brittle paired with Shaps Raisin d’Etre dessert wine. A bite containing all the components of the course was heave — tart, sweet and creamy with a smoky, salty finish from the bacon brittle. When Henley stopped by the table, he said that he been familiar with the Shaps dessert wine before the dinner, and he knew immediately he wanted to pair the sweetness with the tart flavor of the huckleberries. He also told us he used leaf lard to make the crust — it made for a crisp, flaky pie crust that didn’t overpower the rest of the flavors in the dish.
Smith is still figuring out the details for the next Amuse dinner, but says in the meantime, the staff is redesigning the bar menu to coincide with the VMFA’s upcoming exhibit, Pop Art and Beyond: Tom Wesselmann, opening on April 6. “Think about what you’d drink at a ‘60s or ‘70s summertime, swingers' party,” he says. Expect to see retro twists on classic cocktails like The Cheeky Tiki rum punch served over crushed ice in a Tiki mug, or the Lusty Nail, a take on the rusty nail. There’ll also be a new cocktail menu that recreates Wesselman’s pop-art work in drink form. I suggest asking about the inspiration for The Tan Line dessert drink on your next visit.