Monday, November 17, 2014

FoodTrek: Tis the Season... For Dessert!

I know everyone's in the countdown planning stages for Thanksgiving, but I've already got visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. Sorry, Turkeyday -- I'm all about Christmastown! Holidays are equivalent of having dessert first, and there's nothing more fitting than an entire post about --  you got it -- DESSERTS!! And even better, wine paired with desserts, at Seattle's very own Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

Become a Honey Veil devotee -- you won't be sorry - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I need to give a big thanks to my Wine Jedi Master, Jameson Fink, for including me on this magical mystery tour of fine desserts paired with equally fine dessert wines. Along with his blog, Wine Without Worry, the podcast of the same name, author of Melon de Bourgogne: Beginners Guide to Wine,  he has many expertly written tales of wine and the regions they come from. He shared this wine/dessert pairing extravaganza on his blog, which is a delicious summary of all the amazing desserts and wines, beautifully paired by Master Sommelier Joseph Linder, that truly enhanced the experience.

Dessert and dessert wine-tasting -- it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Jameson's descriptions of the dessert wines and why they work with each dessert is perfectly on-point. I'm very much a novice when it comes to dessert wines, mostly because I just never think of having them, and don't take advantage of what a wonderfully complex experience it makes when having something sweet at the end of a meal. Dessert can be as elegantly simple as a bit of sorbet or some fresh fruit and cheese, but it can be elevated to an incredibly layered flavor experience, like a fine meal, when in the hands of Stealthy Dessert Ninjas like Pastry Chef Chloe Lee.

Ports and sherries, caramel magic desserts and Ninja Chefs - Photos by Wasabi Prime
With Executive Chef Gavin Stephenson, Chef Chloe Lee presented several gorgeous, creative desserts in the Fairmont Olympic's lavish Georgian Restaurant. Open year-round and perfect for special dinners and Afternoon Tea, it's especially beautiful during the holidays. My must-do every year is to visit before Thanksgiving, when the Fairmont Olympic plays host to beautifully decorated trees that are auctioned off for charity. They're on display until December, when they're whisked off to their new homes, but until then, get the spirit of the holidays in your heart early, and make it a point to ooh-and-ahh at these beautiful trees! (P.S. - make sure to visit the Fairmont around 5pm on weekdays; they walk around with sample plates of desserts they're working on, offering sweet nibbles to try!)

Last year's holiday tree delights - can't wait to see this year's at the Fairmont Olympic - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I'm all about dining as an experience, and you should make it a point to visit the trees, explore the hotel's holiday decor, and make a reservation for dessert at the Georgian. You have my permission (and don't tell Mom) -- have dessert first! Chef Chloe's desserts aren't a typical sugar rush -- they're like true works of art, crafted from locally sourced fruits and their own honey, harvested from the hotel's apiary. Desserts like the layered yuzu cream and raspberry jelly, topped with cubes of lemon curd and a parsley-mint cake crumble (first photo in the post), are an exploration of natural sweetness, balanced with a savory freshness. Topped with an ingenious lattice of dried honey, it's a dessert that deserves its own spotlight, especially paired with a bright, palate-invigorating Mission Hill Riesling Icewine from 2001. A Treat Yo Self moment, to be sure.

Blackberry mousse with hyssop sorbet - an ode to summer - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Dessert can be a seasonal love letter, especially to the summer we just had -- the blackberry mousse with anise hyssop sorbet, candied hyssop flowers and a drizzle of blackberry sauce is that love letter. Fresh, complex, full of the brightness of summer fruit, a savory complexity of herbal hyssop and anise, the warmth of endless days, and a reminder of why we get so kooky sun-crazy in the Northwest, because it's a treasure worth more than gold. Paired with Chartreuse de Coutet Sauternes 2004, I was reminded that I need to have more Sauternes in my life -- that deeply warm, honey-sweet wine whose taste is emboldened by noble rot is such a treat so often forgotten in lieu of more familiar wines enjoyed at dinner. Skip the coffee -- splurge on Sauternes. 

A chocolate cake like no other, paired with olive oil pudding!! - Photo by Wasabi Prime
For dessert traditionalists, there is chocolate cake, or rather, a dark chocolate cake with rich olive oil pudding, sprinkled with a milk chocolate olive oil crunch, decorated with fresh flowers. It sends all other chocolate cakes crying home to their chocolate cake mamas, especially when paired with Dow's Vintage Port 1994, an equally rich, full-bodied flavor that enhances the bittersweet chocolate of the cake, creating a wonderful banter for your tastebuds -- one moment you experience intense dark chocolate, another moment you pick up the saturated fruit notes of the Port. Incredible. And if you're more of a caramel fan, don't miss out on the toasted almond salted caramel blanketing an almond granite with caramelized honey gelato over chai-pickled cherries (third photo down in the post; upper left corner). Beautiful combination of temperatures, with the warmth of the almond caramel and the chill of the gelato -- a total grown-up ice cream sundae moment, paired with Bodegas Hidalgo Alameda Cream Sherry. Gorgeous pairing -- Sherry, a fortified wine, is as well-suited for dinner as it is dessert. Of all the dessert wines, Sherry is a good one to play around with, since its wide-ranging flavors can be enjoyed with steak, or even sushi -- check out Jameson's handy 10 Fascinating Things I Learned at a Sherry Seminar.

Sweet wines and a beautiful souvenir - put the Georgian's Sambuca Blackberry on your gift list - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Whatever dessert and wine pairing you decide, make it a point to treat yourself for the holidays, especially when Seattle is resplendent in holiday finerie - it's a shot in the arm of Holiday Cheer, something we can always use this time of year. Admiring the Fairmont Olympic's decorations has been an annual tradition for myself for many years, and it should be on your list of to-do's to get yourself in the holiday spirit as a break from the stress of family dinners and shopping lists. And while you're there, make sure to pick up a bottle or twelve of their house made preserves -- perfect stocking stuffer, or just a nice souvenir for yourself. Sambucca Blackberry's label says it all: made with LOTS OF LOVE.

Raise a glass - HOLIDAYS ARE HERE - Photo by Wasabi Prime

1 comment:

  1. Awesome article! Love all the Christmas decorations! What restaurant have you had the best dessert? Remember to add it to your Besty List!


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