At a dinner party we threw a few months ago, we’d heard about how great Atlas Bistro was and we all decided to set up a date to visit and check it out. A special surprise that was thrown in at the last minute was that Chef Brandon Crouser was manning the helm for the evening (actually for the month), a treat for sure!
We arrived wine in hand… Atlas Bistro is BYOB. It’s a great opportunity to bring some of your really special wines from home or purchase a bottle or two next door at the adjoining AZ Wine Co. Perusing the menu, I couldn’t make up my mind. Luckily the table agreed and we decided to move forward with a chef’s tasting menu; we were not disappointed!
To start we sipped on a beautifully dry rosé, a NV Vilmart & Cie Champagne Cuvé Rubis. Oh my… @ChefGwen, my rosé loving friend, would’ve swooned over this. Unfortunately, when I asked where I could get some, I was informed it’s unavailable… only arriving to the United States in very limited quantities. Well, I was very happy that I had the opportunity to enjoy it, savoring every last little sip.
Our first course was a smoked salmon spring roll comprised of Applewood smoked salmon roulade with salmon mousse, with chimichurri potatoes, topped with fresh arugula and a nice crisp radish slice, served atop mustard cream. Throughout the meal, we were so pleased at the freshness of the ingredients and the light, yet tantalizing flavors of the courses.
The next wine poured was a 2004 André-Michel Brégeon Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine Gorges. Yes, that’s a mouthful, and so was the wine. I wanted to keep my mouth full of it! A beautiful white wine (Melon de Bourgogne is the grape… yup, my first time ever hearing about this one) that paired wonderfully with our next course.
Next up: Porcini breaded veal sweetbreads, sweet corn puree, roasted cauliflower and cilantro oil. The sweetbreads were prepared perfectly: a nice crunchy crust. That might’ve been my favorite of the appetizers. If you stop by Atlas, you must order these.
That was paired with a nice, refreshing white Burgundy, brought by Arizona Vines & Wines own food writer and blogger, Christina B. (@rubee100) Patrick Javillier Bourgogne Blanc Cuvee des Forgets. I’m looking for this one to have again!
Bill B. (@billb656) and his wife Lill brought another new one, for me at least: an orange wine, 2002 Gravner Breg Anfora Venezia Giulia IGT. A really interesting and intriguing blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Italian Riesling. I didn’t think I was going to like it at first and then I really loved it. It’s not a wine I would drink on it’s own, but as a food wine, it was really wonderful. The oxidation in the wine really paired well with the fat of the sweetbread.
Our next course was the smoked duck breast salad, with radicchio and frisee, Black Mesa Chevre, Green Valley pecans, cranberries and duck cracklins. The duck was perfectly tender with just the right amount of smoke. A great combination of the smooth cheese, chewy cranberries and crunchy cracklins (I can never get enough of those cracklins). The wine pairing with this course was a show stopper. I knew we were in for a treat after the first three pairings, but nothing could prepare me for this…
A 1961 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva. OK, I’ll be honest, my palate is still evolving and I tend to not like European-style wines… especially those from Italy. You can judge me but it’s the truth. I still try them knowing that I’ll train my palate eventually and then sometimes there’s one that surprises me and makes me realize why I don’t give up. Well, this was beyond one of those. I could’ve sat and smelled the wine all night and been satisfied. It was a perfect balance of flavor. Bill, the self-proclaimed wine geek, who shared so many new wines with us that night, elevated himself to a new level by being so generous in sharing this wonderful experience with all of us. He decanted it early in the day and joked that he might not share. I’m sure glad he did. I’ll compare this wine to Jackie Kennedy, one classy lady who aged beautifully. Wow!
Our pasta course was a housemade ricotta and fennel gnocchi with Schreiner’s sausage and sautéed collard greens. We pulled out one of the wines that Josh and I brought, a go-to favorite to impress those who are, let’s say, a little unimpressed by the wines Arizona has to offer… this was a 2010 Dragon by Burning Tree Cellars… a Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah blend. We did it! Bill and Lill were sufficiently impressed by this wine and are now contemplating a trip to Arizona wine country with us!
The entree was served family style, two large pork shanks cooked confit, the meat fell off the bone. Served with haricot verts, cabbage, grain mustard and RazzCherry. Not sure which would go best, we had two additional reds… one I brought, a Justin Syrah, we picked up from Costco and another one from the Barruetas… a Villa Maffei Amarone della Valpolicella. They both went great and it was fun to have them side by side.
Our dessert course was “Death of Elvis” – Maple peanut butter cheesecake, bananas, strawberry, bacon and topped with cinnamon toast. Of course, he came prepared… we enjoyed a bottle of 2002 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume, a light sweet Chenin Blanc. Just when we thought we were done… then came out the cheese course (I love this!)… I had a few bites of dessert and let Josh finish it and then I dove into the cheese plate. A perfect end to a perfect dinner.
I have to thank our friends Bill & Lill for bringing so many wines I’ve never tried before, some very special and rare, and creating a once in a lifetime experience out of our dinner. With that many wines, you’d think there’d be a miss… not one in the bunch! Great company, conversation and tasty food. We’ll definitely be back!