My husband and I attended Craftbar’s Winter Wild Game Night Dinner at the end of January on a whim—based on a late afternoon Tweet from owner Tom Colicchio (i.e. his marketing assistant) that there were a few last minute spots available.
I had been settling in for an evening at home on my couch, cuddled with my French Bulldog Winnie, but she would have to spend the evening alone, as I could not conceive of passing up what looked to be a fantastic, chicken-free evening. Not that there is anything wrong with chicken (which I basically live off of during the week), but there is just something so appealing about a dinner dedicated to off-the-beaten-path meats—the WILD kind!
Upon arrival we were greeted with wintery tablescapes and a British Port Cocktail. For me, the highlights of this evening were when the Wine Director introduced each beverage and wine, always providing a little extra color and interest to what we were drinking. He told us the cocktail was inspired by Downton Abbey, and the tradition the British have of enjoying a small glass of Port before a hunting trip. The British Port Cocktail was made with dry white port and allspice.
The First Course was a Rabbit Mortadella, with Frisée and Broken Black Garlic, paired with a natural Vin de France (De toute Beauté (Gamay blend), Anne & Jean Francois Ganevat, 2013). At first sip, the wine had a certain funky, herbal note to it—think fragrant, burning sage. Paired with the luscious, silky Rabbit Mortadella, that funky herbal note brought out the delicious black garlic and cracked pepper notes in the dish.
The Second Course served was a Wild Boar Tortelloni, with Black Trumpet Mushroom and Cured Quail Egg, paired with a Rosso di Montepulciano (Sangiovese, Poderi Sanguineto, 2014). The quail egg was used to create a wonderfully vibrant yellow sauce over the Tortelloni. The Rosso di Montepulciano made an especially fun pairing when the Wine Director pointed out that the vineyards in Tuscany must find ways to keep Wild Boar out of their vineyards, and we all felt we were doing our part by dining on some delicious Wild Boar Tortelloni.
The Third Course was a Smoked Venison Leg with Heirloom Bean Ragu and Gremolata that had been brined in coffee for two days, then smoked one day longer. This was paired with a wonderfully complex Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Domaine du Vieux Lazaret, 2012), from a producer that uses all 13 varietals allowed in the Appellation. The venison was smoky, almost sweet from the coffee brine, with meat so tender and elegant I almost missed the more typical gamey flavor of your average venison (almost).
Dessert was a phyllo nest with egg-shaped whipped cream atop maple custard and wild huckleberries, paired with a 5-year-old Madeira (5 Year Old Medium Sweet, D’Oliveiras). The dessert had the perfect amount of sweetness at the end of the meal. However, the Wine Director was *slightly* disappointed that the maple flavor of the custard did not shine through in the dish to bring out the nuanced flavors of the Madeira. So, he grabbed another plate from the kitchen, drizzled a delightful smoked maple syrup on top, and let us have another take at the pairing. Yum!
The wines of the evening—presented from left to right, First Course to Dessert.
This special dinner was a welcome departure from a typical night out to dinner. Not least because the food and wine were delicious, but the intimate setting in the downstairs private dining room also provided an opportunity to meet other guests, and mingle with the chefs who made the meal.
At $95 per person, including the wine pairings, the price was quite reasonable for the service, special attention, and memorable meal we enjoyed. Rumor has it Craftbar is going to be doing more of these dinners in the future, so keep an eye out on Tom’s Twitter (@tomcolicchio) for an invite (or just checkout Craftbar’s Facebook page or website with more advanced notice)!
Christina lives in New York City, lawyer by day, student of wine by night. Her ideal post-work aperitif pairing would be a biscuity champagne and gougères. Currently pursuing her WSET Advanced qualifications at International Wine School in Chelsea.