Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 23, 2014

Nutrition and Vegetarian with Chef Alaina Barron

The inspiration for this evening derived from all the vegetables that we receive from friends gardens at this time of year.

What to do, needing ideas and Chef Alaina's life journey has focused on cooking and serving vegetarian dishes with a strong focus on nutrition.  Who doesn't need a little lesson on nutrition while eating great food paired with wonderful wines?

The three courses served with three wines to compare:

1) Lettuce wrap
2) Quinoa stuffed avocados
3) Cauliflower Burgers

1) 2013 Rose' of Pinot Noir
2) 2011 Chardonnay
3) 2012 RRV Pinot

With a full group of partakers in this evening, we delved into each course tasting all three wines one course at a time.
The start was amazing. So much flavor in the dish and each wine enhanced a different ingredient. The group was evenly divided into thirds. Devotees of Pinot will rarely budge and so, 30% of the group liked Pinot best. A third of the table were thrilled at the chardonnay pairing and Mat and I alongside the remaining 30% felt the Rose' won hands down. The citrus bounced with the walnut ingredient.
What a fun dish to eat with so many flavors and apparently easy to prepare. A very social course and obviously versatile with the wine pairing response. Could easily be served family style.

Next up, the avocado with quinoa. This very colorful dish could be served as a side dish to Chicken or Fish. The group was divided in two for the best wine pairing, 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot.
My thought was there are so many flavor combinations that it didn't really work perfect with any wine. I would classically put Chardonnay or Viognier with avocado but the quinao's nutty character could be thought of as perfect for light reds. I would like to try this dish again with Sparkling wine, vermentino or many other wines, just a thought.

The third course was an impressive Cauliflower cake that resembled a crab cake and could easily be transformed into a Cauliflower and crab cake. There was a clear wine pairing winner with this wonderfully textured dish, Chardonnay. With an ingredient of capers, Chardonnay was the most successful collaborating profile. Pinot came in second with the Rose' last. One guest commented that the Chardonnay pairing tied them up and held them hostage. This dish won many hearts for the presentation and impressive flavors. Who thought cauliflower could be so good.

We did discuss the amazing benefits of eating many of the ingredients. Quinoa being a "super food" Gluten free and high protein. Walnuts being a brain food that assists with keeping our mind sharp. Mushrooms have selenium that help prevent cancer. Cauliflower has Vitamin C. This is just an example of the benefits from adding these ingredients into your diet. Of course wine in moderation after you discover the perfect pairing after several samplings.

The consensus of this fun evening of nutrition and vegetarian cuisine, we didn't feel the need for meat as each dish was so fulfilling and flavorful. None of us are vegetarians but happy to include more meals that omit meat for the health benefits.

Chef Alaina is available and happy to do private dinner parties and share her passion and knowledge of vegetarian cuisine. "Inspired food to inspire health "  chefalaina@gmail.com