What do you get when you pair one of my favorite CLE restaurants – Lolita – with one of my favorite things – wine? An absolutely delicious evening! On Monday, CLEguy and I attended An Evening with Hope Family Wines at Lolita. This was a five-course dinner, paired with Hope Family Wines and enhanced with presentations by J.J. Diefenderfer, a winemaker for Hope Family Wines.
Hope Family Wines are made in Paso Robles and there are five different labels under the company’s umbrella: Treana, Liberty School, Austin Hope, Candor, and Troublemaker. Our first course of the evening was hors d’ouevres paired with both the Liberty School Chardonnay and the Troublemaker. The Troublemaker is a blend of Syrah, Mouvedre, and Grenache and was probably my favorite wine of the evening. Winemaker J.J. Diefenderfer told us that The Troublemaker has an interesting story that we could find on YouTube. So, here’s the background on this delicious wine:
Our hors d’ouevres consisted of fabulous meat and cheese boards, dates stuffed with goat cheese, and clams with bread crumbs and pancetta. I got a chance to chat with Lolita’s general manager, and my friend, Matthew Harlan about Lolita’s new executive chef, James Mowcomber. Matt said that the energy and enthusiasm in the kitchen has been great and the restaurant had one of it’s busy weeks last week. If the food we had on Monday is any indication, James is bringing inventive ideas and amazing culinary skills to play in Lolita’s kitchen.
When dinner started, Matt graciously invited CLEguy and me to join him, his wife Melanie, and some other Lolita staff at their table. Great food and wine is even better when shared with fun, engaging people and we could not have had a better time that evening. Our first seated course paired the Austin Hope Rose with tuna crudo with rhubarb-ginger compote, pine nuts, and basil.
First, the wine: I’m not usually a big fan of rose, but this wine was not overly sweet and had bright, clean fruit flavors that paired perfectly with the tuna. The tuna was incredibly fresh and the rhubarb-ginger compote was an inventive way to bring summery flavors into play. This was CLEguy’s favorite dish of the night.
Our next course paired a Treana White wine with crispy pork belly, topped with heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, chili vinaigrette, and feta.
The wine was a blend of Viognier and Marsanne and was my least favorite of the evening. While it was crisp and not overly sweet, it just didn’t blow me away like some of the other selections. The pork belly dish, on the other hand, was my favorite of the night. The rich fattyness of the pork, paired with the sweetness of the watermelon and the acidity of the tomatoes made for a perfect bite. I ended up stealing a bit of CLEguy’s too…this dish lives up to the reputation of Michael Symon restaurants knowing how to serve pork right!
Our next course paired Austin Hope Grenache with a lamb t-bone with fava bean salsa verde and wild mushrooms.
The wine was fantastic – just the kind of big, bold red that I enjoy and it stood up perfectly to the lamb. The lamb was cooked just right and was tender and juicy. Also, the portion, especially for a coursed dinner, was really generous. The play on salsa verde, made with fava beans was a creative way to incorporate a side that pairs so well with lamb.
Our final course was Treana Red served with Valdeone bleu cheese on top of fig puree with prosciutto bread crumbs.
Treana Red is a blend of Cabarnet Sauvignon and Syrah and made me convinced that I would enjoy just about any Hope Family Wines red offering. Now, to the cheese. I love cheese. Love it. But bleu cheese…not so much. So, I was fully prepared to eat the fig compote and bread crumbs and hand my cheese over to CLEguy. That was until he, Matt, and Melanie all instructed me to at least try the cheese. And you know what? I ate the entire piece. Paired with the figs and the wine, the cheese was surprisingly mild (for bleu cheese). So, not just great food, wine, and company, but also expanding my (cheese) horizons!
It was a wonderful evening! I encourage you to check out Hope Family Wines (especially if you like big red wines) and also to stop in to Lolita to say hi to the new chef and his delicious, creative cuisine.