Port in the Storm…

That is what the Lucerne Inn became on the night of our last Wine Dinner there…January 12th…The weather report was for snow, sleet and freezing rain…not what any business planning a special event wants to hear… The Lucerne Inn is in Dedham, Maine where the Phillips Lake effect on weather intensifies any winter storm and sometimes developes some of its own.  I received a few phone calls that day from our evening guests…”are the going to cancel the Wine Dinner?” I was asked. “Of course not” I responded…”The Lucerne Inn never closes…they have rooms to rent.”  I reminded them that on Wine Dinner nights they offer rooms for only $40., and encouraged them to pack an overnight bag, just in case. The weather people got this one right. It started snowing late that afternoon, and by the time the dinner started we had a couple of inches of snow on the ground.  We originally had 28 reservations on the books…only 2 people canceled.  This was great news.  Unfortunately, my co-host for the evening Sigrid Coffin of Easterly Wines could not make it.  This was a little disappointing, as we had worked together on choosing the wines, all from France, and we were both really excited to see how they worked with the menu. But, she hails from Belfast…and this was one of those storms that made coastal driving conditions worse…so, safety first.  I would be flying solo on this one. We had all gathered in the lounge to enjoy our greeting wine Chateau la Moutete Rose Cotes de Provence…and the White Cheddar Puffs with Shrimp…now, some people think that Rose wines are only for summertime drinking, but this great example of Provence Rose changed some minds…the pairing was perfect, and so was the start of our evening. As we moved toward the dinner table at 6:30 it became obvious that we would soon have the entire place to ourselves. The storm had scared off all but a few faithful regulars, who had started their evenings a little earlier than we had, and would certainly be leaving before our dinner was finished.  The storm was more intense, and those folks who had not already commited to staying were now reserving rooms.  The fireplace was roaring in the dining room and everyone was settling in for a relaxing evening.  The next course…Pan Seared scallops in white wine butter…with Henri Bourgeois “Petite Bourgeois”…The citrus notes and acidity of this Sauvignon Blanc cut through the butter sauce and showed off the sweetness of the perfectly cooked scallops…delicious… Next would be the salad… We decided to change it up a bit…salads are difficult to pair wine with…some people choose to not even try, others stick with white wine.  We chose a red wine…Les Pouches Saumur Rouge…this softer style Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley was chosen to highlight the goat cheese in the mixed green salad and the crunchy potato basket that it was served in…the symphony of all those flavors worked suprisingly well…on to the entre…Beef Medalions with Cognac Sauce…Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes (served in the shape of a snowman) and green beens with candied walnuts…The presentation of this dish was the subject of conversation for the rest of the evening…for two reasons…one, because people aren’t used to having a snowman made of potatoes looking at them from their plate…some people at the table thought he was “too cute” to eat…and two…because the beef was cooked perfectly… I have done many dinners over the years…and getting the beef “just right” is very challenging, for many reasons, and is most often overcooked…this could not have been better…and the wine…Chateau Haut Pommarede Graves…a Bordeaux from an area known for its top quality whites as well as reds…is a classic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec was a perfect match to the beef. It was the best selling wine of the night…Our dessert was a Mille-Fuelle made with Maine Blueberries… Again, Sigrid and I chose to pair a wine that was a little different.  Instead of showing a “dessert” wine, we chose Domaine Le Capitaine Vouvray Les Aumones.  This acid driven example of Chenin Blanc has a beautiful nose and a hint of sweetness at first… which went well with the puff pastry… then the crisp finish helped clean all that pastry cream from your palate…delicious…

The perfect ending to this special dinner was not the freezing rain that was falling on top of the snow as the dinner ended, but all the great coversations that were had…the laughter that was heard…and that most of us got a room and spent the night.  One of the best Wine Dinners we have ever had there…until the next one…the second Thurday of every month…