Dr. Joel M. Fisher Ph.D is a renowned wine enthusiast, educator and columnist. He also leads Los Angeles’ biggest and most prestigious wine, brew and spirits festival LA WineFest. This week Dr. Fisher revisits Beverly Hills Italian restaurant Da’ Pasquale with guest Georgina Stassi:
We revisit Da Pasquale. and this becomes Da’ Pasquale Redux, and I am joined by Georgina Stassi, who sat across from me at the fantastic dinner already described on these pages.
After the 6th LA WineFest and her return from Provence, Georgina fulfilled her invitation to have me meet her at this Beverly Hills landmark. We met recently, and plunged into a serious meal and discussions about my event and what turned out to be her immersion in a WSET (wine education/certification) program in Provence.
Without wines this time, we explored the menu and tried some different items. Georgina enjoyed the Tri Colore Insalata, which included raddichio, arugula and parmesan.
I chose, instead, a cup – not a bowl– of soup. My pick was the Cheese Tortellini in Beef Broth, with beef and pasta. Loved this, and mentally picked wines to go with the dish. Good reds ran through my mind, but we sipped our waters comfortably.
Georgina and I both selected the Pasta Special, which was the Seafood Ravioli, with crab and lobster in a pink sauce with zucchini. You by now realize I’m fairly conservative in my food writings, but this was to die for. I loved the flavors wrapped in the pasta of the seafood, but a red wine came to my memories: I thought this would be even more perfect with a Reserva 1999 Brunello di Montalcino from Casanuovadelle Cerbaie given me by Mark Newman for my birthday. I was supposed to drink it last Saturday, while Mark drank the same wine for his birthday. Well, I didn’t drink this bottle then, but will. Memories of the vintage and the wine are fresh in my mind, so that’s ok.
Georgina’s Experience at Da’ Pasquale: After a week of indulgence in Provence with the some of the world’s finest wines chosen by Wine Master Clive Barlow and Nick Demuerge who conducted the WSET Certification course at LaVerriere’s Chene Bleu Vineyard Extreme Wine Course and being spoiled by meals prepared by Michelin Star Chef Jon Chirri, I was ready to embark on my week of diet and detox. Well, obviously, my choice of career prevents these kind of self-indulgent endeavors of self-improvement unfortunately (or fortunately).
My family is Northern Italian and I was raised on traditional Italian fare; not starchy dishes swimming in heavy red sauce and smothered in melted cheese. I believe that is why Da’ Pasquale appeals to me so much; I love the fresh and seasonal approach to DaPasquale. My salad of wild arugula, radicchio and finely shaved parmesan was lightly dressed and tossed in a refreshing house vinaigrette. It was crisp and flavorful and tasted very much like the salad I grew up eating that was served at the end of the meal. The seafood ravioli were generously stuffed with lobster and crab and the pink sauce was tangy but not overpowering – the flavors were all very well-balanced letting the shellfish shine through.
For dessert we had the creamy “house latte” with the most perfectly baked pignoli biscotti. A pignoli is light flowerless, meringue-like cookie made from almond paste that creates a moist, chewy center and sprinkled with pinenuts. These cookies are pleasantly sweet, aromatic and I could easily eat one dozen; without a doubt, one of the most memorable Italian cookies I’ve ever experienced.
Now having just returned from the south of France and reveling in the prospect of a warm California summer, I would have paired my lunch with a lovely Rose that would have taken my meal from start to finish. Fully appreciating pairing foods of certain regions with their wines, I would have chosen a Rose from California, like the Curtis Heritage Rose 2009, Santa Barbara County. It is a California Rhone-style blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah that’s full of summer berries, blossoms and grapefruit with a clean dry, finish perfectly harmonizing with the freshness of salad and richness of shellfish.
My reasons for choosing this wine stems not only from an appreciation of the craftsmanship, artistry and quality of our California wines and for buying local and supporting California business, but also from the goal of pairing food and wine. The same region that grows the produce that is used to prepare meals in California restaurants is the same region that grows the grapes in a Central California Rose.
If you were in Turin would you order a California Zinfandel to go with your grilled meats and polenta instead of a Barolo or Barbaresco? The choice is simply intuitive to me.
I don’t suffer the local partisanship Georgina does. If we are enjoying wonderful food, I want to pair the dishes with the best wine sources, regardless of place of origin.