Sierra Mar Serves Up 3 Spring Food and Wine Pairings at Post Ranch, which is arguably one of the most romantic of all earthly destinations. No matter what the weather, it’s always magical here on the edge of reality, gazing at the blue green waters, watching butterflies waft and raptors throw winged shadows on the briny white-capped surface far below.
Fittingly, the springtime menu at Sierra Mar is printed on redwood bark. It informs you forthwith that the fixe prixe lunches are $50 per person, and wine pairings for three courses are an additional $29. For sure, not your average lunch, but for sure, in no way possible, an average lunch, unless you are lucky enough to eat here every day. The servers all seem serenely happy and genuinely glad to be here. Can you blame them?
Executive Chef John Cox, who began his culinary career here back in 2001 and who returned in 2012 after a whirlwind world tour that took him to New England New Mexico and Hawaii, has a magical touch with the bounty of spring: whether you are in the mood for surf, turf or middle earth, you will succumb to his divinely inspired culinary alchemy. You’ll be hard-pressed to make decisions, so don’t come alone. Bring friends, preferably the kind who insist it’s their treat. And as long as you’re splurging, you simply must do the wine pairings, selected by Wine Director, Dominique DaCruz, because they are as spot on as any I’ve ever enjoyed. Each one is a match thoughtfully made for an afternoon poised ever so delicately on the edge of heaven.
If you forgo the food and wine pairings, don’t forgo a glass of something from the Champagne list, perhaps the Jean Vesselle Reserve Brut, as sparkling pairs with the glittering water unlike anything else. Our sparkling was divine paired with the sunchoke chip amuse, stuffed with sunchoke puree and flecked with microflowers.
Then it was time to get down to business.
From the first course food and wine pairing: choose from the especially fresh warm Charlie Cascio goat cheese and greens salad with champagne vinaigrette, Morro Bay oysters with hibiscus, shallot and Balinese long pepper, an exquisite olive oil smoked steelhead trout dish with fingerling potatoes and Meyer lemon, smoked beet tartar with squid ink toast, beet microgreens and horseradish crème fraiche, Fijian carrot soup with green apple, coconut and Kaffir lime and a spring onion tart with wild onions, watercress and thyme. Pretty much every dish is delicately decked with edible spring flora fresh from the Post Ranch garden.
The beet tartare, served on a white marble slab, was paired with a saucy rose from Provence, a 2013 Comanderie de la Bargemone, made primarily of Rhone varietals, while the merry Meyer lemon of the steelhead trout was complimented beautifully by the crisp clean, grapefruit-infused 2012 Brander Sauvignon Blanc.
For the second course food and wine pairing, fish lovers will find it impossible to resist the sautéed black cod with local artichokes, spring vegetables and white beans, while carnivores will swoon over the steak bavette served atop fava bean purée, fava greens with smoky bacon and grain mustard pan jus. This was served quite deliciously paired with a smoky-edged syrah from Condrieu in the northern Rhone, a 2012 Fleurs de Mai, exploding with alpine flowers, white pepper, herbs, bacon fat and a good pinch of gunpowder. It was racy and kept good pace with the galloping flavors of the rich, muscular steak. And it was 12.5% alcohol: my kind of wine. Too bad you have to turn to France for wines like this, and thank the sommelier for having choices like this for people who like to drink their wine, rather than be hit over the head by it.
My husband enjoyed the black-skinned pan seared cod, which was handsomely framed by the 2012 Cercius, a white blend from the southern edge of the Rhone, possessed of the perfect body to underpin moist fish and tender beans.
Lovers of fowl will flock to the Fogline chicken, served with grilled asparagus, fresh egg and tarragon gribiche, while those who crave lamb will want to settle into the harissa braised lamb, Israeli cous cous, Meyer lemon, mint and pistachios. I was sorely tempted by the kelp cured abalone mushrooms with carrot puree, red shiso and crispy rice, but the steak bellowed louder: plus I’m a sucker for fava bean anything.
Fear not, burger lovers will be well sated by the Wagyu burger with smoked bacon, Schoch farmstead cheese and tomato jam, served on a housemade bun.
Gee, I forgot to tell you about the bread! You can choose the fresh country style rustica, divinely crusty with just the right amount of air, and the decadent cheese, bacon and herb focaccia that is frankly a meal in itself with the fresh butter and a glass of that fabulous Champagne.
For the dessert course food and wine pairing, even though you will be too full at this point to care, you must choose between the vanilla crème caramel with seasonal fruits, sweetened crème fraiche and Florentine cookies, the whipped chocolate cheesecake with cocoa streusel, chocolate cake, carmelia and chocolate tuile, and the Gabilan, which is a wonderful Schoch Dairy farmstead raw cow’s milk cheese served with multi-seeded crackers and the most delicious Big Sur citrus marmalade ever. It’s housemade from the garden with cara cara oranges and goodness knows what else. They should sell the stuff to go. You will lick the plate.
This was served with a stunning late harvest chenin blanc from the Loire Valley, a 2003 Close de Sainte Catherine: eccentric, exciting stuff with wildflower honey and apricot jam, electrified by a core of acidity that literally cut the cheese like a lancet, yet lingered on the palate like the memory of a golden Pacific sunset.
BY: LAURA NESS, WINE JUDGE & WINE WRITER
Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.