Tess on the Town: Italian dinner and wine

QUICKREAD

WHAT: Wine tasting and four-course food pairing.

WHERE: Carino’s Italian Restaurant, 2480 U.S. Highway 6&50.

WHEN: Last Tuesday of each month.

COST: $39.95 per person, tax and tip not included.

CONTACT: 255-0560.



I was all set to go to a wine-pairing dinner at Carino’s on Tuesday. I was dolled up (well, in a slap-dash way) and getting jazzed about a romantic night out.

Then my date called from work.

“I’m tied up, I don’t know if I can make it,” he said. Ten minutes later he called to say he definitely could not make it.

Great. I’m going to have to sit by myself for two hours and get that poor-you look from the waiter, a look reserved for people who get stood up.

But, I’m going to be served Italian food and wine, so, who cares?

The diners at the wine dinner were seated in a smaller, more intimate dining room. Parties of two and four sat around the white-linen tables with high anticipation. It was a convivial atmosphere, with talk between the tables.

After a few minutes, a lovely couple asked me to join them at their table. Thank you, Tami and Bob.

The menu for our evening was created especially for the wine dinner and the wines were from Grande River Vineyards in Palisade. Carino’s usually selects local vitners for its wine dinners.

Our first course was a walnut and gala apple winter salad with roasted garlic ranch dressing and shaved asiago cheese. It was nicely paired with a 2009 sauvignon blanc. The salad, not out-of-the-ordinary, was taken to the next level by the dressing. It was delicious.

The next dish was by far my favorite. Others in the room, too, gushed a bit over the Italian sausage and crawfish pasta. The perfectly cooked linguine was tossed in a cayenne cream sauce.

The touch of cayenne was just enough to permeate the sauce with a mouth-tease of the South American pepper, without over-spicing the dish. The small bites of crawfish, sausage and caramelized onions put it over the top. Paired with the pasta was a fruity, brisk 2010 Viognier.

With each course, Tami Walter from Grande River, described the wine we were tasting and answered questions. She was the Tami who welcomed me at her table. Lucky for me, I was with a wine expert.

The third course was a Florentine strip steak and a 2008 Syrah. While flavorful and pink inside, with a taste of rosemary, garlic and lemon, the steak was not as tender or marbled as it should have been. The powerful Syrah and sautéed spinach helped save the course.

Last on the menu was a cannoli with a twist and a late harvest Viognier. The Sicilian pastry, said by some food historians to be a fertility symbol, can often be a daunting big bite of sugary cheese. But the chef at Carino’s used less sugar in the ricotta and cut it with candied fruits and chopped pistachios. Even with the sweet Viognier, which, by itself had a lovely sip, the finale course was light and refreshing.

Everyone in the dining room was feeling pretty happy at this point, and we had a few moments to relish what we had just consumed. This, to me, is one of the beauties of course dinners. You have a little time between courses to live the moment, clear your palate and have conversations.

Instead of being rushed through your dinner in some sort of eating contest, the evening becomes an occasion.

QUOTE: “A tavola non si invecchia.” Translation: “At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.” — Italian proverb

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