When my friend The Scarlett, from Blogging Project Runway, invited me to attend the Torbreck Wine Dinner at 10 Arts by Eric Ripert, I jumped at the chance. For one thing, I hadn't seen Scar in about a year, and for another, Jennifer Carroll from Top Chef Las Vegas is still the restaurant's chef de cuisine. After watching her nearly win the competition, of course I was curious to taste her culinary wares.
Before dinner we had the opportunity to try one or more glasses of Australian winery Torbreck's "Woodcutter's Semillion," which would later accompany the first course of New Jersey dayboat scallops, apricot honey jus, spheres of pineapple caviar, micro cilantro, and thin slices of jalapeno. I wasn't particularly impressed with the wine. What I was impressed with is the fact that edible scallops come from New Jersey. They were served raw, sliced thinly, and garnished with the sundry sweet things mentioned above. Sad to say I couldn't really pick out flavors of pineapple or apricot, although I will say the jalapeno lent a nice zing to the dish.
For our second course we were served Chatham cod with carrot, maiitake mushrooms, smoked steelhead caviar, and a black peppercorn bourbon sauce. With the cod came a shiraz that was extremely sweet at first taste. While I don't think the wine worked with the cod exactly, it did mesh nicely with the bourbon sauce which had quite a bit of pepper flavor. The caviar was interesting - a bit like eating smoked salmon in gelcap form. And the maiitake had been roasted so that the feathery outer edges were crisp, a nice contrast to the slight chewiness of the rest of the mushroom.
The third course was foie gras, a treat that always makes me very happy. The dish comprised a very generous slice of foie in a little pool of dashi, with some fennel and wine-soaked dried cherries. While the foie was perfectly cooked - tender and pink on the inside - I would have liked it to have a little bit of sear on the outside. Maybe that was hard to do for a thin slice without overcooking it, or perhaps having to serve the dish to 40 people simultaneously was more the problem. The wine accompanying this dish was another red, "The Steading," which was very aromatic with notes of leather and framboise, and paired very nicely with the cherries and foie.
The final savory course was a pork belly ravioli with scallion, morels, and a fragrant wine emulsion, served with another shiraz, called "RunRig." I will admit that shiraz is not my favorite category of wine, but I did enjoy this one quite a lot. And the ravioli - plump pillows of dough overstuffed with porky goodness - were quite satisfying. I was able to get my first taste of morels with this dish, and while they were good, I can't see paying $32 a pint for them (as seen at the Reading Terminal Market).
Finally, we had a dessert called passion fruit "parfait" (originally meaning a kind of frozen dessert, and not necessarily the layered version with which we are familiar) with white chocolate, caramelized pistachios, and white chocolate orange sorbet. While the passion fruit cream was nice, the sorbet stole the spotlight. It was like a grownup creamsicle and I would have been quite pleased to have a whole bowl of the stuff by itself. With dessert we sipped a nice Torbreck muscat called "the Bothie."
But wait, there's more - we were also served a plate of tiny mignardises including a puffy bit of pastry, a tiny brownie, and a square of gelée that may have been fig. Ok, now we're done.
While the food was all pretty good, I have to say it was not quite up to the level on which I had mentally placed Chef Carroll's abilities. The flavors in the scallop dish were a bit sweet and muddled, and the foie was not pretty. And the cod - which to me is such a distinctively-flavored fish - was more competition than complement to the shiraz. God, I'm picky. But I know what I like.
I'd really love to go back and try the regular menu, particularly the buffalo sweetbreads, the smoked corn chowder, the Pennsylvania brook trout with brown butter, and the red velvet cake with cream cheese ice cream.
10 Arts by Eric Ripert
Ritz Carlton Philadelphia
10 Avenue of the Arts
Philadelphia, PA 19102