The American Culinary Federation (ACF) is an organization of almost 20,000 culinary professionals in close to 150 chapters nationally. ACF offers a number of opportunities to foster the growth of professional chefs and food industry professionals.
In Southwest Florida, The Caxambas Chapter of Naples and Marco Island is the local chapter rebranded under the moniker of ACF Naples Chefs (ACF Naples).
ACF Naples has the distinction of being awarded a number of national ACF accolades from best local chapter nationally to prestigious individual recognitions very much an honor in the kitchen. ACF Naples has a number of meetings and dinners annually. One of these, their annual wine dinner, is one of the chapter’s premier functions combining exceptionally crafted food with a very well thought out wine pairing.
As with most ACF Naples meetings, they are held at country clubs as the majority of member chefs work in this setting. The 2017 wine dinner was no different, being held at Collier’s Reserve Country Club.
For the dinner each table was set to accommodate both the food and wine pairings and as such was a work of art in itself in table preparation.
As attendees gathered for the meal they were poured two sparkling wines, a lambrusco from Clerto Chiarli winery and a brut prosecco from the producer Zardetto. Both were excellent.
These were served with a compressed melon, brown fig, basil and Prosciutto appetizer in addition to passed treats of burrata-filled cannoli and pork belly with salmon crudo appetizer spoons. What is compressed fruit anyway? Fruit normally has air pockets in it and when placed under vacuum, the fruit becomes more dense, colorful and much more flavorful.
After social hour, everyone was seated and addressed by incoming ACF Naples President, Richard Crisanti, a two time chef of the year awardee by the ACF Naples chapter and a president’s awardee from the ACF national chapter.
Before the start of each of the five food and wine pairings awaiting us, Brian Lord, Executive Chef of Collier’s Reserve Country Club, gave a brief description of what to expect from each course.
The first course was a traditional French fish stew, Bourride, which is thickened with saffron aioli, a flavored mayonnaise. Blue Point (Long Island sound) Oysters, mussels, preserved lemon, peppadew pepper and oyster crackers all combined to make an outstanding starter. This was paired with a “Domaine St. Clair” Chablis from the producer Jean-Marc Brocard.
What really added some savoir faire to the evening was the synchronized service for each course. For every table, it was one server and diner with each diner served simultaneously. Due to labor constraints, this is rarely seen and was a really nice touch probably mesmerizing diners that much more.
The second course was caramelized grouper atop ravioli filled with spinach mousse. The grouper is caramelized by coating in a sugar/salt mixture and sauteing and/or broiling. Chorizo, leeks, fresh corn kernels and English peas in a creamy vermouth broth finished the dish. The wine pairing here was a gruner veltliner from Stadt Krems winery. Both the spinach mousse and chorizo added incredible depth and flavor to this again, outstanding course.
The next two courses were meat dishes, the first of which was a crisped (presumably fried) terrine of lamb neck. This was served on top of stone ground Red Mule grits, a delicious polenta substitute. Caramelized “black garlic”, Rainier cherries and a Madeira lamb gastrique finished this remarkable 3rd course. A gastrique is sort of a reduction of sugar and vinegar and infused, in this case, with Madeira wine and lamb drippings. A Zenato Valpolicella superiore, a blended Italian red wine aged at least one year with an alcohol content of at least 12% was a delicious accompaniment to the food. I think this was my favorite wine of all that evening.
The last of the meat courses was a cast iron beef tenderloin. Cast iron meats are first seared at high heat in a cast iron skillet, then finished at lower temperatures in an oven. Rosti potatoes (essentially a large potato latke), veggies, mushroom, a Shiitake moussseline (sort of a hollandaise sauce infused with mushrooms) were plated with a variation on Bordelaise sauce. Bordelaise is a classic French brown sauce incorporating bone marrow and red wine. A malbec from El Enemigo in Argentina was served with this course. Low in tannins and very rich, I think this wine could stand up to anything you would pair it with. More perfection from Chef Lord and crew.
Dessert was also excellent with grilled peaches, lemon basil sorbet, white chocolate mousse, meringues and vanilla peach coulis, a sweetened and strained fruit puree. The final wine pairing was with a sweet dessert wine, sauternes from Fleur d’Or in the Bordeaux region of France. The winemaker at Fleur d’Or is a negociant, or one that buys others grapes or juice to craft their own wine. Even though grapes are not grown at Fleur d’Or, their wine was excellent and a nice end to an extraordinary meal.
The wine dinners are one of the highlights of ACF Naples functions and are well worth attending. This dinner is open to the public, but only upon invite from an ACF Naples member. As always, it is chefs cooking for chefs. Sponsors of this meal really put their best foot forward, and as in most of these functions, food of this caliber cannot be found locally at any price. It’s just another plus of local ACF membership.
It’s a wrap for another post on forks.
ACF Caxambas Chapter of Naples & Marco Island (ACF Naples)
President Richard Crisanti
PO Box 855
Naples, FL 34106