A step away from the typical dining for geeks, I had the privilege of attending Carrabba’s attempt at the world’s largest wine dinner/pairing event last night (March 21st) that was held simultaneously at 244 locations across the nation. They served up a four-course meal with wines paired with each.
The location that I attended was packed, leaving room for error when it comes to getting the food out for that many people, yet they were able to deliver despite this challenge.
The atmosphere of the restaurant and the quality of service provided by the staff were extraordinary variables in the experience as they catered to the smallest needs for every guest. Their personalities and professionalism was perfect, which added to the experience so well.
The menu itself was filled with a selection of great course and you even had the opportunity to customize your entree.
They started everyone off with a salad mixed (Insalata Fiorucci) with roasted red bell peppers, artichoke hearts, romano cheese, eggplant and topped it with a warm patty-shaped portion of goat cheese, crusted with hazelnut. Everything combined well together, allowing you to truly enjoy the salad. Originally, I thought a warm portion of cheese atop of a cold salad may be a little clashing, but surprisingly it blended right in. The hazelnut crust however took this slightly away for me (it should be noted, that I am not really a fan of including any form of nuts on other foods, which creates a biased opinion for this).
The salad was paired with a Chloe Pinot Grigio that combined quite well together. It had a little bite to it with a cooling flavor of fruits.
The second course (Calabrian Cavatappi) featured a cavatappi pasta that was both favorable and had a slight spicy kick to it that really allowed it to pop. The portion wasn’t too much, allowing room for the upcoming courses, while still providing plenty to satisfy your stomach and tastebuds with.
This was paired with a Pieropan Soave. Another white wine with a fruity profile but a lighter body to it than the Pinot Grigio. It also paired quite well with the pasta.
The third course was a selection of either veal marsala or tuscan-grilled sirloin. As a steak lover myself, I chose to go with the sirloin. It was topped with mushrooms and their Lombardo Marsala wine sauce with grilled asparagus sat to the side. Not a big fan of mushrooms myself, I scooted by then quite a bit. However, I found myself to quite enjoy the sirloin. It was thick and plentiful, as well as, tender and flavorful. In order to cater to such a large crowd of people, every steak was cooked to medium, although it came out slightly more towards medium rare, which was perfect. I am a firm believer that anyone who prefers a steak anywhere close to well or well done, should order from the kids menu. A steak truly shines when it is pink in the middle, and shine it did.
It was paired with a Sequoia Grove cab. I was worried slightly about this as it takes a lot at times for me to enjoy a cab, as I find most of them to be a little too dry for my tastes. This leads me to rely on certain merlots or sangiovese wines as an alternative when it comes to pairing. However, this one paired very well to the steak and I even found myself craving more. The juggling of flavors between the meat and wine were fantastic. The fact that my palate was softened up slightly by the previous two lighter wines may have also had an effect.
Speaking of fantastic, the final course was dessert (Sogno Di Cioccolata). This featured a brownie with chocolate mousse, whipped cream, chocolate flakes and sauce. The dessert by itself was absolutely fantastic. The flavor was perfect for ending the dinner with you couldn’t leave without finishing the final bite.
The paired wine was a Joel Gott Zinfandel. This was the only wine that didn’t seem to pair well with its course. The wine itself was good, but it clashed when combined with the course, which seems to have been caused either by the mousse or the cream (we leaned more towards the mousse). If you scraped everything from atop and went for just the bare brownie, it then paired nicely with the wine.
All-in-all, it proved to be a great experience. The food was terrific, the wine was great and the service was to brag about. If the service and experience was equal across the 244 restaurant locations, I would say that Carrabba’s has succeeded at creating a wonderful wine dinner event worthy of calling the world’s largest.
If you find yourself interested in attending one of these dinners, Carrabba’s has another pairing planned next month. Simply call your local location for more information.