Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stefania Wines Tasting - The Backyard Bistro! September 11th, 2010

It’s not very often that I get an e-mail from a great California winemaker asking us how the first two weeks of September sound to do a tasting with us in New Jersey. So when Paul and Stefania Romero of Stefania Wine e-mailed us back in May asking if we were available, you bet your bottom dollar that we made sure we were wide open.

At first, we were looking for somewhere we could host this tasting. We have a wide array of BYO’s in the area, but they were looking for an intimate setting, and somewhere we could hang out all night and just have a good time. The first place that came to mind was our “Backyard Bistro.” So in talking with Zelda, we both agreed we could make it work, and once again, we had another amazing event at our home!

We worked hard planning this event for a solid month, and as always, Zelda’s brains made this yet another outstanding event. We both came up with ideas, and she put her spin on the ideas to perfect them. Once again, this was the party of the summer, and an incredible evening.

The planning really got into full swing in the last two weeks before the event. The Evites went out, and the RSVP’s started coming in! We worked on the menu, we worked on how we wanted to prepare the space, came up with shopping lists, to do lists, invitation lists, and lists about things to put on other lists. We had list after list after list…and a few others lists too!

Once Labor Day weekend came and went, it was go time. We took the week off, and went into planning mode on Wednesday. Thursday we did all the shopping for menu items, got the house cleaned, the yard cleaned, and started prep work. Zelda is a genius when it comes to planning a party, and we really should start a firm that does parties. Every single detail was conquered, all t’s were crossed, and all I’s were dotted!

The real prep work started on Friday getting the menu prepared, and the briskets went into the Bradley Smoker at 10PM on Friday night! We got a good night’s sleep, and woke up Saturday morning to finish prepping the food. Everything from slicing the cheese and vegetables, to putting everything on the skewers, to finishing the salads, dips, etc. It was all figured out, and she had it down to a science.

The first brisket came out of the smoker around 1PM after a 15 hour smoke. It was at 15 hours that the internal temperature hit 185 degrees, and it was then wrapped in foil, wrapped in a towel, and put into an empty cooler. After this, I continued helping Zelda wherever she needed it, then hopped in the shower before heading to Trenton Station to pick up Paul and Stefania as they were arriving from Washington, DC.

It is actually a bit on the funny side that they arrived, and I told them to come upstairs, and I would be parked right out front in front of the station. Paul sent me an e-mail asking what kind of car I drove, and when I told him, he said that he did not see me. When I asked him what street they were on, he e-mailed me back saying Market Street. My heart immediately sunk, and I had thought that I misunderstood them, and that they had gone to Philadelphia opposed to Trenton. He reassured me they were in Trenton, and when I took a drive, I found the other entrance that was on the opposite side of the tracks. Who knew?

From here, I took Paul and Stef to their hotel, and headed back home to help Zelda with any last minute details. Needless to say, there wasn’t much to do, and we were good to go! I ran back to the hotel to pick them up just before 5PM, as that was the start time for the tasting. When we arrived back at the house, I introduced them to Zelda, and gave them a little tour of the space where we would be tonight, and then a quick tour of our little home. Needless to say, but the time the tour was over, our first guests had arrived.

We grabbed their wines and brought them outside. The wines had actually arrived on Wednesday, and I had them in one of our very cold climate controlled bedrooms. This was the perfect place to store the wines! In asking Paul and Stef how he wanted to do the tasting, he said that we should just put them out on the table, and let people have at it! Now this is my kind of guy! He didn’t want to make a big deal out of anything, and just wanted people to drink his wines and have a good time.

In our few minutes thus far with Paul and Stef, I see some really proud yet very humble people! They are some of the nicest, most down to earth friends you will ever meet. I am actually starting to wonder if Paul really knows just how good his wines are. I’m not sure that he knows! ;-)

An hour into the event, the wine was flowing and the food was being eaten. Anything from antipasto skewers, to cheeses, crackers, chips, dips, and anything that people had brought was getting devoured. Some notable items that guests brought were Tom and Denise’s guacamole topped with jumbo lump crab meat, the crab puffs, a crab salad, and some great chips and salsa. There was quite a bit, and thanks to everyone who brought something. We had a ton of food, and it made for a great night!

At this point, it was time to throw some sliders on the grill, and I had ordered 8 pounds of a special ground from Bryan Flannery of Bryan’s Fine Foods.   I used Bryan’s Burger Builder and used a blend of 25% Wagyu Chuck, 25% Wagyu Short Ribs, 25% Prime Sirloin, and 25% Rib Cap Fat Blend.

The beef arrived cold packed on Thursday, and was neatly ground and packed in one pound packages. This is actually really convenient, and makes freezing it a cinch. I think I will actually be ordering another 8 pounds so I can freeze some of this and use it at will. I ended up seasoning the meat with just a bit of salt and pepper, gently mixed it all together with a fork, and divided the meat into 6 similar sized portions per pound, and this worked out perfectly!

Per Bryan’s and some other oenophiles suggestions, I placed a cast iron griddle over the grill to cook the burger on to catch the grease and to keep the grill from flaring up. My griddle of choice is the Lodge Logic Pro Grid/Iron Griddle Part # LPGI3. Let me tell you that it worked beautifully, and the burgers were magnificent as many will attest to. They were ever so tasty, moist, and just plain old delicious. I wish I could explain just how good these burgers were, but even these might put Rossi’s to shame! WOW!

The cost of the beef was worth every penny, and I look forward to ordering these again in the future. Bryan’s customer service is second to none, and his products are as good as they get! If you are looking for a clean, healthy burger, this is not the blend for you! The rib cap fat makes it very greasy, but that was not a bad thing in the least, and again, let me reiterate that this may have been the best burger I have ever had!

Needless to say, once all 48 sliders were gone, I threw on some of Zelda’s famous BBQ chicken, made with her top secret BBQ sauce recipe, that I still do not have the recipe for. Around this time, I also brought out the first brisket for slicing, and both were gorgeous! So the wine was flowing, the food was being devoured, and all the grilling was done, so it was time to enjoy some vino, as well as a good cigar. But more importantly, it was time to mingle with our guests.

I never really did get a final head count on how many people we had, but I have got to guess that it was between 30-40 people. As always, it was great to see our local friends and neighbors, and it was also great to meet some new acquaintances who we have gotten to know, yet have never actually met!

First and foremost, Paul and Stefania! Thanks so much again for taking time to come to New Jersey to visit us, as well as some of your other customers! Thanks so much for your generosity in sending us so many wines as well!

Next, it was a pleasure to meet the man behind the keyboard of South Jersey Wine & Dine.  We’ve had so many great e-mail, and frequented so many of the same restaurants and blogged about them, so it was a joy to finally raise a glass with you! Keep up the great work on your blog, and I look forward to our next gathering together. Next, it was also our pleasure to have invited John and Lisa of Eating in South Jersey.  My exact same sediments go out to you and John that I said to Frank, and I am thinking that eventually we’ll all get together at Talula’s Table for an awesome night of great food and wine! We’ll have to get Tom and Denise to join us as well.

All in all, I wish I could say something nice about everyone who came, but that could take days! The gathering started at 5PM, and the last of our guests finally left around 2:30PM. For the most part, we grabbed anything that needed to go into the house, and our heads finally hit the pillow as the clock struck 2:38AM! It was a great evening, and there will be much more on the wines to come as I post the notes individually above!

To the left is Stefania, Paul, Zelda, and myself towards the end of the night!  Look at the great smiles and happy faces!  What a great night with great friends!  We can't wait for their East Coast tour to happen again, and we sure hope they take the time to visit NJ again!

In short, thanks to everyone of you who came, and we hope that you enjoyed yourselves as much as we did! More details to come soon! 
Cheers! -F. Scott!

PS: here is a quick list of the wines that were opened over the course of the evening:
2005 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch
2006 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch
2006 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Uvas Creek
2006 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains
2007 Stefania Haut Tubee
2007 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch
2007 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Uvas Creek x 2
2007 Stefania Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountain x 2
2008 Stefania Haut Tubee
2008 Stefania Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch
2008 Stefania Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains x 2
2009 Stefania Chardonnay Chaine d’Or

2006 Sea Smoke Chardonnay Magnum
2005 Andrew Murray Syrah Oak Savanna Vineyard
2005 Lillian Winery Syrah
2006 Sine Qua Non Syrah Raven Series
2006 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Tobin James Lagrein Silver Reserve
2004 Vigna Vecchia Chianti Classico
2005 Duca di Saragnano Chianti Riserva
2007 Domaine de la Buissonne Côtes du Rhône Villages Beaumes-de-Venise
2007 Donna Laura Ali Toscana IGT
2007 Thompson Street Pinot Noir “Posse”
2006 Pure Love Wines Shiraz Layer Cake
2007 Tobin James Primitivo James Gang Reserve

2006 Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah
2006 Kongsgaard Chardonnay
2006 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
2007 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon
N.V. Alvear Pedro Ximénez Montilla-Moriles Solera 1927
N.V. LaMarca Prosecco
2007 DuMOL Chardonnay Isobel
2006 Latium Morini Valpolicella Superiore Prognai
2006 Rusina Syrah Monte Rosso
2007 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling
2005 Laetitia Late Harvest Riesling – Arroyo Grande Valley – Block Z
2008 Lafond Pinot Noir Lafond Vineyard
2008 Tolosa Winery Viognier Edna Ranch
2009 Santa Marina Provincia di Pavia IGT White Table Pinot Grigio Magnum
2006 Sanford Pinot Noir
2007 Chappellet Napa Valley Chardonnay

Picture credit for any pictures that I didn't take goes to goes to Frank Nerney! Thanks for taking all the pics Frank!


John and Lisa Howard-Fusco said...

Thanks again for inviting us to your little shindig. It was great to meet the two of you as well as Frank from SJ Wine and Dine. Those sliders were ridiculously good. And, of course, all of the wine served. A very enjoyable night out. - John

John and Lisa Howard-Fusco said...

Again, I felt obligated to thank you for such an incredible eavening. It's funny-before kids we used to be the givers of such foodie soirees,but it was SO NICE to be the guest for a change with like-minded folks. We appreciated all the attention to detail in all of the food and wine (and I'm still so happy about the opportunity to enjoy a good cigar,lol).BTW, those burgers were perfection. Not greasy, but juicy...thank you so much for a memorable evening. Hope you're getting some much needed R&R! Looking forward to getting together soon!-Lisa