Last Sunday, not one but two dinners took place on a bridge to celebrate Farm-to-Fork and the amazing bounty we are lucky to enjoy living in the greater Sacramento region.
One of those dinners took place on the Deadhorse Island Bridge and was hosted by the California Pear Advisory Board. The menu featured locally grown produce, namely pears, in almost every course, and the signature beverage of the evening was a pear martini crafted by Jay Yoon of Dawson’s Steakhouse.
From the moment I heard this dinner was going to take place for people who were unable to attend the Tower Bridge Gala dinner, I was very excited for the organizers, and very interested in attending. Especially when I heard my friend and fellow blogger (Munchie Musings), Catherine Enfield would be attending.
It’s really something when you anticipate something so much and it turns out to be everything you expected, but so much more. On the evening of September 27th, we arrived in Walnut Grove and the Dead Horse Bridge (given its name from retired work horses who spent their last days on the island), located across the water from Giusti’s (a local restaurant responsible for the main course to be served that evening). The table and the bridge were beautifully decorated for the guests slated to dine there.
Soon Andy and I were mingling amongst the other guests, as well as Catherine and her guest. The starter was a pizza from Hot Italian in Sacramento, featuring pears and gorgonzola cheese, their Murino pizza.
Being gluten free 95% of the time did not stop me from tasting the appetizer and I enjoyed it with a pear martini, crafted by the aformentioned Jay Yoon of Dawson’s Steakhouse. If you haven’t been to Dawson’s, you’re missing out. Dawson’s is one of the most underrated restaurants in Sacramento. If you’re a wine lover, check out the wine dinners they have every few months. Here’s Jay making my martini!
I loved the addition of the pizza and the pear martini. It was such a touch of class, and made the Dead Horse Bridge Dinner seem so much like a private cocktail party. Then there was the wine, all provided by Bogle Wines and the beer, provided by Sudwerk Beer. The sodas were provided by River City Sodas, and the drinking water was even infused with pear. I could tell the organizers were beaming with pride and showcasing their product (pears) in the best way possible.
On display were several works of art (photography) by Skyler Stanley, including the piece below. Skyler was also the event photographer and took all the photos that were made into a video slideshow of the event that can be viewed by clicking here.
Then the courses began. First, a Delta Islands organic tomato and basil with fresh mozzarella salad. The Bogle Chenin Blanc was a perfect pairing with this salad and the next salad to come.
The first salad was a traditional mozzarella salad, but the endive salad really showcased the pears. Blue cheese and walnuts are a classic sidekick for pear. and the platter of salad didn’t last long amongst my table mates.
Then following the salads was the main course: A barrel-roasted pork rib roast with caramelized pears. Some meals just go down in history as the best you have ever had, no matter how simple the preparation. This meal was headed that way, and the pork we had next only added to my enthusiasm.
It’s really the atmosphere and the company with which you share your meal that makes it great, but it doesn’t hurt to have one of the best pieces of pork you have ever had in your life in front of you as well. The pears in the dish gave a sweet element that danced with the well-seasoned pork. Guests were also served sweet corn-on-the-cob from Dixon with the main course. Bogle’s Petite Sirah and Phantom Red Blend rounded out the wine selections.
OK, so I was all ready for seconds. I really was. But next came dessert, a delightful array of items from Golden State Fruit including dark chocolate crumbs, dried and fresh pears, almonds and Fiscalini cheddar cheese. It was like I was in charge of the dessert plate because it was a stunning combination of all of my favorite things on a plate!
With the dessert items, Bogle’s Petite Sirah Port was also served.
The words amazing and incredible can’t even describe my experience. The Pear Bridge Dinner was such a great success, but could not have been without the help and donations of time and goods by the following people… I want to give a round of applause to the chefs who put the meal together: Mark Morais of Guisti’s and his team –Sam Rainwater, John Baranek and Katie Morais. More thanks goes out to J.B. & Jeannie Morais of Delta Islands; Sudwerk Brewing Co.; Rich Collins, California Endive; Jim Boyce, Produce Express; Dixon Ridge Farms; Bogle Vineyards; Rivermaid Trading Company and all of the local Delta pear farmers, as well as Golden State Fruit.
More kudos goes to Chiles Wilson, Daniel Wilson, Chiles Wilson Jr., CJ Jensen, and Dixie Wilson for the use of her bridge. Rivermaid Trading Company was responsible for set-up, serving and clean up before, during and after the event. Big love to Jay Yoon and his assistant, Susan, from Dawson’s Steakhouse in the Downtown Hyatt for the delicious pear martinis. More thanks to Jody Bogle, Janice Lucas, Steve Lucas, Tim Lucas and Judy Rhea for pouring wines and beverages. Emily Allen of EJA Designs created the beautiful flower arrangements for the event.
To say the Pear Bridge Dinner was memorable evening is simply an understatement, and if you’re reading, one I hope you’ll take part next year. To keep up with future events, you can find the California Pear Advisory board on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, on Instagram here and on Pinterest here.
If I had only one wine left in the world to choose out of the several that I enjoy, I would keep Pinot Noir because of it’s complexity and versatility. In this edition of Flights By Night, we feature a duo of Pinot Noirs paired with sliced duck breast (graciously sent to me by Maple Leaf Farms), with a pear and carrot sauce, on a crispy sweet potato nest.
The Pinot Noirs we shared with the duck include a 2012 Willowbrook Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) and a 2012 Gavilan Pinot Noir (Chalone Appelation). When Andy and I choose two of the same varietal for a pairing, it’s fun to choose two wines we have tasted before and already know are very different. The Willowbrook is a very pleasant wine to drink all by itself with all the characteristics of a soft pinot noir, but I find the Gavilan is a better wine when it is served with food. The Gavilan is slightly effervescent and has a fuller body. That being said, we obtained many bottles of the Gavilan at a very good price, and my tastebuds fell in love with it. It became my everyday drinker for a while. Now onto the food pairing…
The sauce served on top of the duck is a take on an Alton Brown recipe–I wanted to use pears in my sauce in honor of California Pear’s Local Pear Love campaign. The major switch I made is that I used carrots instead of parsnips in the recipe, the rest I kept (mostly) the same. 🙂
For the sweet potato nests, I shredded two sweet potatoes in the food processor, squeezed out the excess water in them, and placed the shreds on a parchment lined and lightly oiled sheet pan (I like using a coconut oil spray for this.) I baked the shreds at 400° until they were browned and crispy. Then I plated the shreds in a circular formation to resemble little bird nests.
To prepare the duck, I seasoned the breasts with salt and cracked pepper, then started them in a cold saucepan (skin side down). I slowly brought them up in temperature and rendered out the fat, getting a nice sear/texture and brown color on the skin. Then I flipped them over to cook them a bit more and finished them in the oven for ten minutes at about 200°F. (When you remove the breasts from the oven, allow them to rest about five minutes before slicing into them. They will stay nice and juicy that way!)
You can read about other food and wine Flights By Night here!