Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bern's Fine Wines & Spirits - Prunotto Wine and Truffle Dinner

Fluke Crudo with Grapefruit, Lovage, Pink Peppercorn, and Smoked Marscapone
(served with 2012 Prunotto Roero Arneis)

Venison Tartare with Juniper, Sottocenere, and Black Truffle Mustard
(served with 2009 Prunotto Barbera d'Asti Nizza Superiore "Costamiole")

Duck Raviolo with Hazelnuts and Burgundy Truffle Sauce
(served with 2000 Prunotto Babaresco)

Buffalo Terres Major Loin with Red Wine Polenta, Chanterelles, and Perigord Truffle
(served with 1998 Prunotto Babaresco)

Parisian Gnocchi with Robiolo and Alba White Truffles
(served with 1995 Prunotto Barolo)

Wild Blue Mountain Hare with Gorgonzola Dolce, Autumn Fruits, and Black Truffle Marmalade
(served with 1994 and 1995 Prunotto Barolo "Bussia")

While much of our fine dining focus this year has been out-of-state, it's nice to be occasionally reminded that great gastronomy is also happening here locally.  For example, when Mrs. Hackknife received an email ad from Bern's Fine Wines and Spirits about a special wine and truffle dinner being held at the Epicurian (Bern's new hotel complex), we decided to check it out as our early Christmas present to each other (this, of course, saves me a trip to the mall). I assumed that the dinner would take place in Elevage, the farm-to-table restaurant onsite; however, we were surprised to be directed to the wine shop when we arrived, which had been transformed into a mini-bistro, with tables, chairs, and china nestled among the bottle racks (the shop isn't a big place). The special guest of the evening was Erik Saccomani, a representative from the Prunotto Estate (founded in 1904 and now part of the Antinori wine empire), located in Alba (home of the celebrated white truffle) of Italy's Piedmont region. Signore Saccomani brought with him several Prunotto wines, including Arneis (a white grape similar to Sauvignon Blanc), Barbera (a light red), Barbaresco (made from Nebbiolo grapes), and Barolo (also Nebbiolo-based), the winery's signature product.  All of these rich wines beg to be served with an equally-luscious plate of food, so Elevage's executive chef Chad Johnson (who also helmed the former SideBern's) went to work crafting Mediterranean dishes that played off the strengths of each wine pairing.  Nearly all of the 6 courses were fantastic, starting with two that featured raw proteins (fluke crudo and venison tartare, the latter covered in a thin layer of mild Sottocenere cheese, not unlike the manchego course we'd just had at Next in Chicago), two that were so decadent that eyes rolled back into skulls (duck raviolo and gnocchi covered in a mobster-sized mound of white truffle shavings), a terrific buffalo loin, and a hybrid rabbit-dessert course that was, frankly, a little peculiar.  Of the wines, I most enjoyed the 1998 Prunotto Babaresco, with tannins that had softened up nicely over the 17 years since it had been bottled (I found the barolos to be a little hefty for my liking, more Mrs. Hackknife's speed).  Although the odd dessert course left us wanting a bit at the end of the meal (we swung by Dough Bakery on the way home to obtain a proper sweet), the dinner overall was impressive enough that we'll gladly contemplate returning to Bern's Fine Wines for future events...

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