Already generating the kind of buzz reserved for the best of fine dining restaurants in chic sophisticated metro areas, Chef Brian Ayers' Mountain Restaurant in Idyllwild hosted the first Winemaker's Dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 6:30. Internationally pedigreed Chilean winemaker Cristobal Undurraga of Koyle Vineyards, whose family has been making wine in Chile for over 100 years, presented the evenings' wines, delightfully detailing the process of making them and highlighting their unique qualities.
Ayers, wife Courtney, wait staff and assisting chefs Carl and Shannon, generated applause and approving murmurs of digestive approval with each of the five courses of the degustation size plates presented to a capacity crowd of expectant diners. It felt like theater - the anticipation, the first taste of each entree, the looks of amazement after that first bite, the excited communication to your tablemates of what you were experiencing, and the mental reminder to slow down and savor each moment, made the 2 and a half hour dining experience the consummate expression of what "slow food" is all about.
For it is not just the food, exquisite as it was, or the wines, as excellently as they complimented the courses, it is the idea of relishing the food, your tablemates, the conversation, and the delight of sharing a meal - a quintessentially civilizing experience - that makes "slow food", an international movement to counter fast food, so important. Experiencing "slow food" takes those of us old enough to remember back to a time when we as families sat together around a table, ate together, talked together, and spent meaningful time together. Maybe then it was not cuisine of the excellence that Mountain serves, but it was a time of sharing that we, as a culture, are losing.
So it was that Becky and Jack Clark, Ray and Corrine Brown, Vanessa Rivera Del Rio and her husband Jason Hlebakos, Grace Reed and I sat together, laughed togther, ate and drank together, and, importantly, shared an experience that we will savor for some time to come.
Here is the menu:
Rosemary marinated swordfish medallions over spaghetti squash with arugula pesto sauce accompanied by a sophisticated Savignon Blanc.
Game hen cooked two ways with sauteed spinach , fresh summer peach and tarragon chutney and a distinctive Chardonnay.
Lamb loin slow roasted with olives served over potato (the most amazing potato puree) with a sherry and marjoram vinaigrette. The wine, a red, was a Carmeniere.
Char-grilled beef tenderloin with Jerusalem artichoke puree and traditional Bordelaise sauce, graced by a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon.
A chocolate and coconut creme brulle accompanied by french press Batdorf and Bronson coffee.
At the beginning of the evening, Brian, Courtney, Cristobal, Brandon Lee of Quintessential Wines in Napa, and the wait staff greeted diners as they came in. At the end of the evening, Brian, Carl and Shannon circulated among the diners to pay their respects and say good evening.
Was it a hit? Oh yes!
Something to note - Brian and Courtney want this restaurant to be local-friendly. The portions on the regular menu are large and reasonably priced. Each Thursday there is a locals' special, at a feature price of around $16. Although this was my first time at the Mountain, many locals at the Winemaker's Dinner had already been there 3 or 4 times.
May Brian, Courtney, Justin and all who work to provide this venue its gracious, unpretentious, and warmly welcoming atmosphere, with some of the best food in the Southland, succeed beyond their wildest expectations. They deserve it. And what an honor to have this restaurant in Idyllwild.