This past Tuesday marked the third year of the Red Newt / Taverna Banfi collaboration with the HA3305 student restaurant
management team. Each year, actually twice per year, chef (wife) Debra Whiting works with a team of Cornell students that conceptualize, formulate, and execute and exquisite culinary evening at Taverna Banfi at the Cornell University’s Statler Hotel.
The students and Debra do most of the work, discussing how to incorporate ideas about local food and wine into the menu. I get to talk food and wine and help with the wine pairing ideas. The group of students that we worked with this time around were exceptional, bringing focus, enthusiasm, and inspiration to the table. At the dinner, it really showed.
If you have an opportunity to make one of the Banfi/Red Newt dinners, I suggest that you do. If you weren’t able to make this dinner, an exceptional presentation, here is how it went down…
Arrival at 6:30. All of our party had not arrived, so we passed a bit of time with some 2002 Chateau Franc Brut. Nice.
Our party had all arrived, that’s 17 of the Red Newt crew, and the first course was sauteed pear and fall green salad with hazelnuts, feta and Riesling pear vinaigrette served with 2009 Red Newt Dry Riesling. This course was just outstanding. The pears are delicately poached, a slight crunch while delicately soft. Salad dressing was flavorful, but understated, making it a perfect complement to the wine. The greens were exquisitely flavorful, and the hazelnuts and feta added the bit of robust flavor that set this dish apart. And the
The second course was a a butternut squash sage ravioli with sage-butter sauce served with the 2007 Red Newt Gewurztraminer from Sawmill Creek Vineyard. Ravioli was delicately firm with an ethereal intertwining of sage aromas carried by a rich but delicate butter sauce. The delicate sweetness and earthiness of the ravioli was a perfect match to the delicate but effusive spiciness of the Gewurztraminer – a match made in heaven. My favorite detail of the dish was the garnish of a single fresh sage leaf that had been, essentially, fried in hot butter until it had become crispy, having been releasing its sage aromas and flavors to the butter making up the light but decadent butter sauce.
The students really outdid themselves with the main course. Venison loin stuffed with currants, sausage and pecans. Delicately roasted vegetables and wilted winter greens. Yum. The venison was rich, flavorful and tender enough to cut with my fork. Wine choice with this course was the 2007 Red Newt Caberrnet Franc – Glacier Ridge Vineyards. This Cabernet Franc is one of my favorites, showing supple textures and rich fruit.
We topped off the evening with Maple-Gingerbread layer cake with salted caramel sauce and cinnamon ice cream. Paired with the dessert was a warm apple cider spiked with Finger Lakes Distilling Maple Jack.
Debra and I and the Red Newt crew had a great evening at Taverna Banfi. It was truly a celebration of great food and wine. We’re already looking forward to doing this again with the next group of students from Taverna Banfi and HA 3305, the Restaurant Management Course in the spring. We’ll keep you posted!