WAG Chronicles, Part 1

A few weeks ago, Katherine and I spent the weekend up in Napa Valley at our friends Dan and Stephanie’s place along with four other couples for a long weekend to enjoy our quarterly gathering of our wine and gourmet club, known fondly as WAG. WAG has been gathering since we all met while Katherine was getting her MBA at Stanford in 1998. Initially the event started out as a relatively low-key potluck where each couple brought a dish and a bottle of wine. Over the years, the event has snowballed into an over-the-top feast propelled to new heights by epicurean one-upmanship that sometimes borders on gluttony. As William Blake observed, “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

This weekend was no exception. We had our feast on Saturday night and then on Sunday we went to dine at the French Laundry. We typically choose a theme for each meal. Since we were in Napa we decided to serve Napa-influenced dishes using local ingredients and recipes from nearby restaurants, or, in some cases, each couple simply created a dish they felt was inspired by wine country. Here’s our menu from Saturday night:

Food Courses

Dungeness crab salad with avocado mousse, beets and ruby grapefruit (from the excellent Terra Restaurant Cookbook)

Sonoma Foie Gras and Roasted Chestnut Soup surrounding an island of seared Petaluma rabbit on a bed of green lentils in a crispy bacon cup

Ravioli stuffed with braised Napa Valley lamb shank, Cowgirl Creamery crème fraiche, and wild Napa Valley black trumpet mushroom duxelles with a slaw of green apples and Napa Valley mustard vinaigrette

Sonoma rabbit (from Polarica) two ways: seared loin wrapped in spinach and prosciutto on a carrot puree and braised rabbit paw stew with carrot gelee and roasted red carrots. Accompanied by steamed broccoli with chili garlic oil, solid broccoli jus, and roasted Romanescu broccoli

Crème Brulee of foie gras (from Polarica), Straus Family Creamery unpasteurized cream and Tahitian vanilla, served with butter-poached Peking duck hash and walnut fig compote

Homemade organic Straus Family Creamery ice cream sandwiches: Scharffenberger and Schokinag dark chocolate cookies with peanut butter ice cream complemented by peanut butter cookies with Scharffenberger and Schokinag dark chocolate ice cream

Wine Courses

One mangnum 1997 Viader

Two bottles 1998 La Gomerie from St. Emilion

Two bottles 2001
Viviani Cabernet Sauvignon “2003 Copa de Napa Napa Valley Wine Auction Selection”

Two bottles 1997
Neyers Syrah Hudson Vineyard

Two bottles (one corked, alas) 2002 Echezeaux from Domaine de la Perdix

One bottle 2002
Martinelli Gewurztraminer

One bottle 2001 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon

One bottle 1998 Kongsgaard Chardonnay

One bottle 2002
La Crema Chardonnay

Two bottles 2003
Bella Vineyards Lily Hill Estate late harvest Zinfandel

After this meal, we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves, and decided that Thomas Keller at the French Laundry had his work cut out for him if he wanted to impress us on Sunday evening…