by Eric Doksa
With humidity taking a backseat and the fall air coming in, I can't think of a better way to spend an evening than sipping stellar wine and noshing on great food with some fine people in a cozy environment. Ben Berryhill and Charlie Chance provided just that opportunity at Next Door in Mt. Pleasant on Wednesday night.
For the first time since opening, an eight-course wine and food tasting was made available for only $25 a person, or $40 a couple. Take a look at the menu and tell me that's not a steal.
While the sun was still gleaming, guests started rolling in to claim seats in the beautiful patio in front of the restaurant. The weather was mild and Charlie Chance had all hands on deck to assure an amazing evening.
A crisp prosecco was poured upon arrival and soon after came Deep Bay oysters out of Vancouver that were very clean, sweet, and not too briny.
As guests sucked down their oysters, wine glasses were replaced with a small cup of sweet Thai coconut soup. The creaminess of the coconut and the strong presence of ginger made for a delightful pairing with an acidic, earthy Pinot Gris. The soup was so good I found myself setting down the spoon and drinking straight from the cup.
Next we were served crispy shrimp and scallop spring rolls with sweet chili sauce, paired with sparkling wine. What a great presentation.
The pairing of the night came next. A stunning hand-crafted spinach and butternut squash ravioli was complemented with a lush, nutty, and buttery chardonnay. The ravioli was delicious, but a whole new array of flavors were brought out with the wine.
Though I was sad to see my empty plate, it wasn't long before I was staring down the pork cheek with creamy polenta and crispy leeks. The savory dish was paired with a lighter, vibrant Pinot Noir from Germany. A wine with a little more tannins would have gone well with the pork, but the minerality of the wine was complex and offered a completely different flavor profile for a pinot noir, which was refreshing.
At this point guests were chattering about what a great deal it was to have all this food and wine at such a small price. And to think, we still had two more courses to go.
The mini "smothered" burger came out open-face with onions, mushrooms, and 10-month aged white cheddar. Tender, juicy, and piquant. I can see myself eating the bigger version of this dish. It paired beautifully with a spicy malbec.
In the midst of all this food, a couple — Josh and Paisley — were celebrating their recent engagement. Nice party. Congrats.
The night was capped off with a 10-year port from Portugal paired with panna cotta with salted caramel and a silky Saint Nectaire Brie.
There's no question that the tasting was a huge success. It's worth noting that everything at the tasting is available on the full dinner menu, in larger portions of course. If you missed out, don't worry, there will be more events like this in the future. As the main menu changes, tastings will be offered. Will you be at the next wine paired dinner? I know I will be.