Issue link: http://digital.copcomm.com/i/430172
december 2014 / the tasting panel / 73 According to Accarrino, "My cooking is Italian because my family is from Italy, although I'm from the Midwest and was trained in New York and California. A lot of the cooking comes out of a sense of nostalgia. I am constantly recreat- ing regional dishes from Italy with the ingredients I know well—reapplying them as an American chef." Lindgren tells us, "No wine-producing country has a deeper pool of native grapes than Italy." SPQR's wine program may be relatively small due to the restaurant's limited storage space, but Lindgren's wine discoveries never seem to end because of Accarrino's free flowing approach to cooking. "I love that his experiences has molded his senses," says Lindgren. "When he changes up dishes, we feel free to change up the wines." Lindgren and Accarino served up five courses and five wines to graphically demonstrate the endless ways in which they have been wowing their guests: Bohemian Creamery "Cowabunga" Fresh Cow's Milk with Goat Milk Cajeta Salvatore Foti 2012 "Vigna di Milo" Carricante, Etna Bianco, Sicilia Exhibit A for Lindgren was a Sicilian white wine made from the indigenous Carricante grape, served with a cheese hand-crafted in Sebastopol, Sonoma. Foti's Carricante is a medium-bodied dry white with a citrusy, tangerine-like tartness, illuminating fluid, fleshy, nutty, mildly rancio notes. Says Lindgren, "There is a savory element in the Cowabunga—a cheese so fresh [made just the day before], it hasn't even begun to form a crust." The luxuriously textured cheese was filled with cajeta (goat's milk caramel), the cajeta's mild sweet/tartness balancing both the acidity and lush texture of the wine. "That's the beauty of Italy," Lindgren tells us. "Where else can you find such unusual wines that you can pair with such an unusual cheese?" Sweet Carrot and Lentil Salad, Medjool Date and Vadouvan Curry Crema Kabaj 2011 Rebula, Goriška Brda, Slovenia There was a time when multi-spiced, deeply earthy and sweet sensations in Mediterranean-inspired dishes like this would confound any sommelier—makes you want to say, "Forget wine, drink chai." For Lindgren, this is precisely the value of skin-contact whites like Kabaj's renowned Rebula. "Italy's Colli Orientali del Friuli crosses right over into Slovenia, where the Ribolla Gialla grape is called Rebula. It's a sexy wine, meant for sexy foods. It has the round texture, mild tannin and sturdiness to mix beautifully with strong spices like cardamom, or mild curries, but also the natural white wine fruitiness to balance the sweetness of the cooked carrots and dates in this salad." Baked Ricotta, Autumn Squash, Pumpkin Seed Pesto, Pumpkin "Bottarga" and Kale Danilo Thomain 2011 Enfer d'Arvier, Vallée d'Aoste (Bacca Rossa/Petit Rouge) This earthy, medium-bodied red wine is made from Bacca Rossa and Petit Rouge grapes grown on steep slopes in the Italian Alps. "Although it's high-elevation," Lindgren tells us, "it's in an insulated valley, warm enough to ripen red wine grapes, although with high acidity. Combined with aromatic, floral, peppery, minerally fruit and mild tannins, you get sweet/bitter flavors that can handle all the different, contrasting flavors and textures in dishes like this baked ricotta, with all its earthy ingredients." Smoked Linguini, Clams, Bacon, San Marzano Tomato and Wild Arugula Pesto Paolo Bea 2007 "Vigna Pipparello" Montefalco Rosso Riserva (Umbria; Sangiovese/Montepulciano/Sagrantino) In this off-the-hook dish, Accarrino uses smoked flour to make his pasta and serves it up in a pesto utilizing arugula and almonds instead of basil and pine nuts, adding off-the- charts umami-charged dried tomato and pancetta. "This is another one of Matthew's dishes that forces you to change your wine approach. It looks like a white wine dish, but the flavors call for red wine." The Pipparello is a tautly balanced blend of Sangiovese with Montepulciano and Sagrantino, more powerful in the nose than in the grip: earthy, almost truffled perfumes; enough acid zip for the clams, and just enough tannin to balance the pervasive bitterness in the arugula, and absorb the fat in the bacon. "Degustazione de Caprino," Quince Saba, Cippolini Onion, Bok Choi and Mostardo Vestini Campagnano 2009 Casavecchia, Terre del Volturno (Campania) This is an autumnal power-dish of goat loins, goat sausage and goat bacon, matched to a muscular red made from the ancient, nearly forgotten Casavecchia grape. "Terre del Volturno is a land of dormant volcanoes," says Lindgren, "with rich soils and culinary traditions." There's a scrubby herbaceousness redolent in the wine's plummy, mushroomy character, but also an intrinsic acidity that seemed to rewind the palate between each bite. "We can run with these kinds of wines basically because of Matthew's cooking. It helps us build up a lot a trust with our guests. We can sell the wines that we love. It's reached a point where many of them sit down and ask, 'What should I eat, what should I drink?' In Italy, wines are an indelible part of each meal. It's the food that allows us to achieve that ideal situation here."