story & photo
by Don Church & Tony Schillaci
Who could be luckier than devout foodies and wine lovers at the first of a series of wine-paring dinners in the AAA 4 Diamond award-winning Octagon restaurant in the Mystic Marriott Hotel and Spa? And whose wines could stand up to the glorious food, served in such a smartly casual ambience, than North Stonington’s master winemaker Jonathan Edwards.
Michael Allen, the Marriott’s general manager, joined Jonathan in hosting the evening’s food and wine fest on February 24th. It began with a memorable reception featuring the Jonathan Edwards (JE) 2008 Estate Connecticut Gewurztraminer, along with chef Steve Rosen’s hors d’oeuvres – apple and goat cheese tarts, Thai-spiced scallop seviche, brioche toast with foie gras butter and pear jam and bresaola with marinated grapes on focaccia. Jonathan noted that “Our Connecticut Gewurztraminer is not as sweet as most, and it easily pairs with a great variety of foods.”
The welcoming and expert staff, headed by Lorraine McBride, then served a four-course dinner, each one accompanied by one or two wines made by Jonathan Edwards Winery. Its hill-top location in North Stonington is on of the most scenic places for year-round wine tasting and the many special events.
Throughout the dinner, a brief commentary about each course and wine pairing was offered by Michael, Steve and Jonathan. Michael noted that the Octagon’s exclusive “house red and house white” are, in fact, made by Jonathan Edwards Winery.
After the first course of a warm Porcini mushroom, fried potato and smoked bacon salad in a lobster sauce was presented, guest Joan Gordon noted that the dish was “too pretty to eat,” yet, along with the other guests, she enjoyed it paired with JE 2008 Estate Connecticut Chardonnay and a JE Napa Valley Chardonnay. The vineyard makes wines from grapes that are grown in North Stonington, as well as, from grapes from the Napa Valley of California, both harvests are personally supervised by Jonathan.
Lorraine charmingly quizzed the guests on what they thought the “sprouts” atop the salad could be. After guesses of “lemon grass,” “chives,” and “mild scallions,” Lorraine surprised everyone by revealing they were corn sprouts. These refreshing and tasty morsels could make a welcomed addition to salads – a uniquely New England treat.
Guest Joe Fugere, Mystic, commented on the second course: seared duck breast marinated in grape must with walnut risotto and caramelized green cabbage…”probably some of the best duck that I have ever had….delicious and great with the wine” – a glass of JE Napa Valley Merlot.
While resting between courses, Michael noted that the Octagon is one of the few restaurants to have a Cruvinet. “The Cruvinet unit extracts the [damaging] oxygen from our premium wine bottles, allowing us to offer wines by the glass which are normally unavailable to taste. Up to 24 premium wines can be offered to our diners by the glass, and the life of a bottle of wine can be extended for up to two weeks.”
The entrée, a grilled prime Copper Ridge club steak (grass feed and the best beef we’ve tasted in Connecticut) with a rosemary bordelaise, truffled mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus was paired with a JE 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon… a real treat, because that vintage year is now “sold out,” according to JE’s regional sales manager Mark Scherer. But, not to worry, the winery still offers other Cab vintages that are “just as excellent” as the 2006.
For dessert, Steve’s invention du jour was an Ibarra Mexican chocolate and fig cake with smoked red chile caramel sauce and almond brittle! Chile and caramel? Yes! It works! With the rich chocolate treat was a glass of JE 2006 Sierra Foothills Zinfandel Dark – which is actually a port, but cannot be called “port” due to EU restrictions. Nonetheless, we felt that a port by any other name tastes just as sweet. And the Octagon at the Mystic Marriott is welcome to use that quote if it helps customers to try this exceptional dessert wine.
For upcoming events, wine dinners, getaways, and spa packages, Michael Allen suggests you visit www.marriott.com/gonmm, and read upcoming issues of the Resident.You won’t want to miss any of these special occasions, especially at a restaurant this prestigious. Wine Spectator Magazine says, “Its wine cellar is one of the best in the world.”
Lifting a glass of Jonathan Edwards wine at the Mystic Marriott’s Octagon pairs up well with the finest steaks and freshest seafood. It’s a highly recommended way to welcome Spring. Cheers!