Thursday, June 24, 2010

Truffle Vinaigrette and a Serious Case of Pinot Envy Make for An Enjoyable Restaurant Week Feast at Escena Grill in Palm Springs

My meal at Escena Grill almost didn't happen-that's because I couldn't find the place...seriously. There was no signage in sight for this midcentury-inspired restaurant inside the Escena Golf Club, so naturally I was a bit concerned as I nervously navigated the twists and turns of the property, eventually arriving at the establishment I'd been dying to try. I soon realized it was a very good thing that I hadn't given up. 
In honor of Palm Springs Restaurant Week, Escena offered a four-course prix fixe menu, with a wine pairing option available. First up was a chilled tomato gazpacho with scallops, which the restaurant paired with a Ruffino Pinot Grigio. The soup was peppery and delicious, and the acidity of ripe tomatoes matched well with that same characteristic I always enjoy in this wine. 
A salad of grilled romaine hearts was hugged by a smooth and airy bleu cheese vinaigrette with candied almonds-just wonderful with a crisp and floral Riesling from Chateau St. Michelle, one of Washington State's finest producers of the stuff. (Incidentally, I will be able to enjoy even more of it since this same winery is sponsoring a dinner at the conference I'm attending this weekend). I was starting to get the idea that these Escena folks really have a knack for the pairing thing.
Next, a beautifully roasted piece of halibut arrived with sauteed spinach in a passion fruit and shrimp beurre blanc. The match made in heaven was a rich and creamy Sonona Cutrer Chardonnay, a wine I found absolutely alluring with its hints of spice and banana.
My lust for truffles has been pretty well documented lately, and quite frankly I have become somewhat of an embarassment to the people dining with me, even at the mere mention of them. I was giddily enthralled with a mini crab cake that came to me perched atop a roasted corn and truffle vinaigrette, a beautifully pink shrimp acting as garnish. The dish was matched with a Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc full of melon, pineapple and pear. I count New Zealand Sauv Blancs among my favorite whites, and the minerality of the wine was a great fit for the sweet crabmeat and earthy truffle flavor. At this point, I just really like using the word truffle.
Pull apart, melt-in-your-mouth braised short ribs with herbed polenta and haricot vert was paired with an unusually earthy Pinot Noir from Gainey Vineyard. Boasting flavors of deep, dark cherry and cola, this one also has aromas of pine, the kind I encounter on my frequent drives up to Idyllwild. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, I found myself with a serious case of Pinot Envy. It was a bold pairing and it worked like a charm, much like the rest of the evening's matchups. I will return to Escena Grill, and soon. The upshot is, I'll be able to find it with my eyes closed this time.

Special thanks to Elise Routh and the staff at Escena Grill:

On Monday, I'll take you to beautiful Walla Walla, Washington, site of the 2010 North American Wine Bloggers' Conference (no, I'm not making this up and yes, I know you're jealous-I would be too!) There, I will meet 300 of my closest blogger friends, get an in-depth look at industry trends and indulge in three days worth of delicious wine and food. See you back here Monday!

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