Upon arrival, guests were welcomed by Picador's owner, Ray Rivera, directed to a lovely spread of cheeseboards, and handed a glass of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs. Jana Waite, a representative from Eder Brothers, shared details and tasting notes about each wine throughout the evening, and explained that Schramsberg is served at the White House to international guests. The room buzzed with anticipation and guests mingled happily. As the restaurant filled, we drifted to our seats, and soon the main event was underway.
A delicious glass of Stags Leap Chardonnay set the stage for the first course of the evening, seared diver scallops with butternut squash and borsin au gratin. I was excited to try these from the moment I first saw the menu, as I had experienced some of Chef Barrese's other scallop dishes, and this interpretation lived up to my high expectations. The scallops were tender, delicately sweet, and quickly gone from my plate.
While we ate, Jana explained that the Chardonnay we were drinking was a great choice for this kind of meal, as it goes well with both seafood and meats, as it is crisp and not too sweet. The flavors of the wine, she continued, open up as the wine warms to room temperature, and she was absolutely right. I am a Chardonnay drinker, and this was excellent.
The second course, braised oxtail stew, arrived next. I was impressed by the timing of the courses; often at these kinds of dinners, everything arrives too rapidly, and you feel both rushed and stuffed right away. The leisurely pace of Picador's dinner made for a markedly more pleasurable experience.
Callejo Crianza accompanied the stew, and when Jana stopped by our table, we asked several questions about what it means when wine has "legs" and why you tip the wine to the side of the glass to see the color of the liquid's edge. Jana is a great teacher and is amazingly knowledgeable; she explained that the longer a wine is aged, and the warmer the climate, the more it evaporates and becomes thick, which is why it both clings to the inside of the glass and doesn't have a clear edge when tipped in the glass.
My taste buds, already thrilled, found themselves in heaven upon tasting the third course, a dry brined bone in rib eye with foie gras twice baked potato and rosemary demi glace. This was the best steak I have ever had. It was tender, juicy, and incredibly flavorful. I completely ignored the rest of my group and gave all my attention to this dish, all social graces forgotten. The twice baked potato was equally enticing, and I finished it and then stole some of my date's, too. Paired with a glass of Silverado Cabernet, the flavors came together for a seriously memorable main course.
The man behind the magic, Head Chef Frank Barrese, emerged shyly from the kitchen at the urging of Ray, and accepted his well deserved applause from the room. Everyone was impressed. Barrese is a gifted chef, and I have yet to be anything less than wowed by his creations.
Spanish sherry and a goat cheese custard topped with strawberries and hazelnuts finished off the meal, and Jana shared some final words about the great wines we had experienced, all of which are available at Stewart's Wines in New Canaan. Ray, always a gracious host, continued to mingle with guests, and the beaming smiles on everyone's faces served as further proof that the evening had been a great success.
If you missed this dinner, never fear - there is a beer dinner in the works! Sign up for Picador's newsletter to be alerted when more details are available.
Picador is located at 15 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT
Call 203 972 9999 for reservations, or find them on opentable