Tuesday, January 6, 2009

THE Dinner at Markham

Many requirements affect the site choice for the chef-prepared dinner: location, facilities, availability, staffing, but the biggest, most important for a meal of this caliber is - the "Wow" factor. Markham Vineyards delivered that, and beyond, as the host location for the Cattle Baron's auction dinner. Part vineyard, part art gallery, they were featuring a photography exhibition of Baron Wolman from his years at Rolling Stone Magazine. And the host, Bryan Del Bondio, President of Markham took everyone on a very personal tour of the winery, sharing the history of Napa - he is third-generation of a Napa winemaking family.

Each of the six chefs were responsible for one course of the dinner (except Amador, who made the reception canapes and the cheese course). While this sounds like a "light" duty, the amount of attention given to their one dish: from course conception to ordering (and hand selecting) the finest ingredients to ensuring the proper equipment is available, each chef is competing to put the best-tasting dish on a plate. Then there is the coordination with the vineyard about the wines to be paired, of course all from the host winery.

The chefs and their spouses were privileged to join the purchasers of the package, it was served in the barrel room of the vineyard, a table set for perfection. As the chef's finished their courses, they too came to the table to enjoy the fine wines Markham was pouring. The menu, as follows:

Reception (by Amador Mora)
Ginger & Basil Salmon Confit (garlic aioli), Citrus Poached Shrimp (homemade chipotle remolade, Skewered Figs (kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, balsamic caramel sauce)
Domaine Carneros Sparkling

First (by Kent Rathbun)
Buttered Poached Lobster (parsnip puree, tangerine fennel "soup")
Markham Chardonnay, 2006

Second (by Jim Severson)
Jumbo Nantucket Shoals Diver Scallop (heirloom tomato salad, lemon tarragon cream)
Markham Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Third (by Kevin Garvin)
Farm-raised Pheasant "Confit-style" (braised savoy cabbage, pearl onions, roasted garlic crostini)
Markham Pinot Noir 2006

Fourth (by David Holben)
Oven-roasted Buffalo Tenderloin (squash risotto, lavender honey-glazed chestnuts, cipollini onions, foie gras butter)
Markham Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Dessert (by Richard Chamberlain)
Warm Espresso Molten Cake
Markham Merlot 2004

Cheese Course (by Amador Mora)
Soumantrain Burgundy Walnut Timbale (brown butter), Marinated Goat's Milk Gouda (warm chimay cherry chutney, toasted crostini)
Markham Petite Sirah 2004

This was the purchasers' final evening in Napa, not only was it memorable, but the guests left with mementos - very large bottles of Markham Merlot, autographed by the host and the chefs. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was just the great time we shared, but after dinner the chefs offered to prepare breakfast for them the next morning. Afterwards we would all be meeting up at Buehler Vineyards for a wine and cheese pairing, then our new-found friends were headed to the airport. Our group, however, had one more evening in Napa - and one more incredible meal to go.

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