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Elements of (Italian Wine) Style – an Evening with VWWC

bottleandgrapesIt was a great evening at Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar located on the southeast corner of Rainbow and Tropicana, here in (fabulous) Las Vegas.  It was the second time that a few of the Vegas Wineaux Wine Club members had met there for their quarterly wine dinner and this time was as special as the first.

Elements is a pleasant and very eye-appealing small restaurant with a foodie-centric attitude.  Owned by chefs (yes, both of them) Catherine and Jean-Luis Pawelek, it is a tribute to their many years of cooking and experience in the world of hospitality.  It is a yummy formula that works.

This particular wine dinner focused on the wines of Italy with some interesting and delicious accompaniments.  The title was “Elements presents A Tour of Italy Wine Dinner.”  It consisted of an appetizer, five courses, and dessert.  And, rare for a wine dinner, I was full – very full – when I left.

The first item on the menu was an Amuse Bouche of hand-passed Pizettas (little pizzas) topped with duck breast, sundried tomatoes, eggplant, caramelized onion, and smoked mozzarella.  The wine was Caposaldo Prosecco, fresh and sparkly. You will rarely see me do any kind of review on sparkling wine.  It’s sparkly, and therefore I like it.

The first course was Buttnernut squash ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce.  OMG. That was incredibly delicious.  The wine was 2008 Bibi Graetz Casamatta, a light, delightful, and uncomplicated red.

The next course was Pappardelle topped with a Rabbit Ragu, braised pancetta, rosemary, carrots, onions, celery, and plum tomato.  The wine paired with this dish was my wine of the night, a 2005 Masi Campofiorin Ripasso, a rich and earthy red.  Now I will be the first to admit that I know little about Italian reds and can only go with what I like.  This particular wine (I understand) is made in a style similar to Amarone, except with no residual sweetness and food-friendly acidity.  It had fragrances of earth, dark spices, cocoa, and dried fruit, and I could have stopped right there and had that wine only for the rest of the night.

The next course was unusual in that it was a romaine lettuce salad topped with radicchio, endive, black olives, and tomato and tossed with a mandarin citrus vinaigrette. The “unusual” part was the Asian spoon heaping with a Campari-citrus sorbet as a palate cleanser.  Quite unusual and quite tasty.

The next course was Risotto Pesto topped with shaved Parmigiana Reggiano and a single large wood-grilled tiger shrimp.  While I was so-so about the Risotto (I am so-so about every Risotto I’ve ever had), the shrimp was a thing of beauty.

It was served, interestingly enough, with a 2006 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia.  Rich, red, and 100% Sangiovese, I was only surprised because it was served with seafood.  But the seafood was so rich in flavor from being wood-grilled, that it did not fade under the bright flavors of the Chianti.  I’m glad that I didn’t stop at the Ripasso because this Chianti was out of this world; it was one of the best I’ve had in years.

The fifth course was a Veal Chop accompanied with Cipolini, haricots verts, baby carrots, and topped with an aged fig Balsamic glaze.  Now this was the first oops of the night.  I prefer my chops still mooing (or bleating or baa-ing, whatever the case may be).  For my taste, the veal chop was overdone. Now here is an important distinction: it was not overcooked.  It was overdone. That means that it “rested” probably a few minutes too long to catch it at just that right peak of flavor and it lacked a little in juicy texture as well.  The accompaniments were delicious and I was fascinated with the glaze.  I was also rapidly approaching full!

The veal’s wine was Prevostini Sforzato Albareda, a fruity red wine that was loaded with cocoa, dried flowers, cherry and offered light herbaceousness, balanced acidity, and firm tannins.  In other words, a wine for grownups.

By this time I could have been rolled out in a wheelbarrow.  And then Catherine announced dessert. I groaned.

Dessert was Zabaglione made with Spinetta Moscato with fresh strawberries.  There were mini cannolis filled with ricotta, mascarpone, and mini chocolate chips.  There was a dark chocolate and raspberry mousse topped with shaved chocolate and raspberries,with a white chocolate decoration. And I can’t forget the tiny biscottis!  The dessert wines were Spinetta Moscato Bianco, a still white dessert wine, and Brachetto d’Acqui a fizzy red dessert wine.

I was done. There was nothing left. I cried uncle.  Generous servings along with delicious wines had done me in.

You can be sure that I will be there at the next quarterly wine dinner, which will be on July 26.  Look for our table!

Several of the members of Vegas Wineaux Wine Club are regulars at Elements.  They always have seasonal specials; for instance, currently they have three-course dinners on Monday nights for $19.00 through the summer, and until the end of June, Tuesday night is Osso Buco night for $24.00.

The prices are great, and the food is incredibly fresh and very well prepared.  As I mentioned earlier, both of the owners are chefs! The quality shows that, and the flavors tell you that there’s nothing out of a box here!

So next time you’re in Vegas and want to try tasty cuisine, delicious drinks, and the good company that only a local restaurant can provide, consider Elements Kitchen and Martini Bar.

Elements is located at 4950 S. Rainbow Blvd., Las Vegas, NV.  For more information or reservations, call them at (702) 750-2991.

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