Coastal North Carolina is a special place that is synonymous with lazy beach days and quality seafood. Executive chef Bud Taylor is the owner of the Bistro at Topsail, located in Surf City, North Carolina. I was recently lucky enough to sit down for a special wine dinner at his restaurant, which was quite exciting as they recently won an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Although the coast of North Carolina might be a bit of drive for you, Chef Bud and his staff have some amazing wine and food pairings that you can try at home just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Upon arriving at the Bistro I was delighted to see that the restaurant is located on the waterfront. The water was enchanting and the windows allowed for a clean view of the horizon and approaching sunset. Talk about the perfect place for a date night! Chef Bud Taylor introduced himself, and his humble demeanor and hospitable mood were quite refreshing. The first course he prepared included a Bistro Farm Board featuring housemade sweet potato biscuits, North Carolina country ham and honey, and a delicious boiled peanut and wild mushroom pate paired with Biltmore Estate’s Chateau Reserve, Blanc de Blanc, 2011. The bright tropical and citrus notes of this sparkling wine balanced the sweet, salty and savory flavors of the other elements on the board. The wine and the ingredients are both from the Carolinas. When trying this pairing at home, pair your favorite, regional sparkling wine with foods that you can find locally.
The second course was a coastal North Carolina classic, Shrimp and Grits. This dish was paired with Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc, 2015. Seafood paired with a rosé wine is a classic pairing. It works in Provence and it certainly worked at the Bistro! When creating this pairing at home, remember to search for a rosé that isn’t too sweet. Another fantastic seafood dish from the evening included Pan Roasted Local Grouper served over leeks that had been braised in orange juice, baby herbs and a vadouvan jus, which reminded me of curry. The grouper paired nicely with Colene Clemens Pinot Noir, 2013. You may be thinking fish with red wine? Totally! Pinot Noir is a lighter red wine and grouper is a fatty, oily fish with a firm texture. Good Pinot Noir (like the Colene Clemens) also has high acidity, which cuts through fat and keeps the palate sharp. If you’re planning a special Valentine’s Day dinner at home, attempt to surprise your date by pairing a fatty fish like grouper with a red wine.
Another entrée that you’ll likely see on a Valentine’s Day menu is duck. At the Bistro, Chef Bud prepared a slow roasted duck leg with roasted brussels, a parsnip puree and a country ham gastrique. This dish was paired with Perrin Et Fils Gigondas, 2013. Once again, many of you might be thinking why would duck be paired with a red? Duck is an exception when it comes to the poultry rule of thumb. Because duck has a more gamey flavor compared to other birds, it actually pairs very well with this Gigondas. Gigondas is known for producing powerhouse red blends based on Grenache and Syrah. High acid, medium tannins and some delicious dark berry and meaty flavors won me over when paired with the delicious, fatty and gamey duck leg. This was definitely the star of the show.
Lastly, you cannot go without dessert this Valentine’s Day! Fun fact: North Carolina is the number one sweet potato producing state. Chef Bud created a deconstructed sweet potato pie that included a whipped eggnog and sage infused honey, and was paired with a Perrier Jouet Grand Brut Champagne. This creamy, sweet potato dessert paired with the bubbly, refreshing champagne was an incredible way to end the meal. Besides the fact that Champagne is incredible on it’s own, it pairs well with cream based desserts because of the high milk fat content of those desserts. Keep this in mind if you’re preparing a meal at home this Valentine’s Day or heading to your favorite restaurant.