Wine Dinner at Union Standard
A 6-course food and wine pairing curated by Chef Derek Stevens of Union Standard? Yes, say no more, I don't need to know anything else. I'm in.
Chef Stevens has proven from his time spent as executive chef of Eleven and now as the owner of Union Standard that he can be trusted with anything, especially the End of Summer Wine Dinner. Located in the historic Union Trust building in Downtown Pittsburgh, Union Standard affords a comfortable contemporary atmosphere complete with plush red leather booths, that make you want to casually cock your pinky. This warm space provides the perfect backdrop to gorge yourself in a decadent 6-course food and wine pairing, so naturally, I did.
AMUSE: Wood grilled and chilled Katama Bay oyster, smoked bay mignonette, watermelon, pink pepper
Olianas Vermentino / 2016 / Sardegna, Italy
If you're like me, you do two things when an oyster this beautiful arrives at your table: first, you immediately take a photo and second, you pretend that you know exactly what a mignonette is and how much you've always loved it. After a secret google search under the table you now know that a mignonette is simply a condiment made from minced shallots, vinegar, and pepper, whew! This smokey mignonette adds the perfect amount of acid to balance the fresh saltwater from the oyster, while the crisp watermelon contributes a burst of summer sweetness. Forget a box of chocolates on Valentine's Day, just send me a dozen of these beauties and I'll be happy as an...oyster.
The oyster paired well with this light and floral Vermentino, only heightening my anticipation for the following courses.
CHILLED MUSK MELON SOUP: Goat's milk yogurt, Benton's country ham crumble, peach, banana pepper
Cline Viongier / 2015 / North Coast, California
This soup was an explosion of flavors! It was sweet and tangy, with the melon coming through strongly. The bacon added a subtle crunch, while the goat's milk yogurt brought grassy and earthy flavors to this cool melon soup. Sadly, I was enjoying the soup so much that I failed to photograph the wine. (Chef Stevens is to blame for making this soup so dang delicious.) The wine itself was also a flavor blast with its unmistakable aromas of pears and apricots. Course two can now be re-named as "Flavor Blast."
NASTURTIUM & SORGHUM CURED RAINBOW TROUT: Corn & cucumber salad, corn bread croutons, arugula
Cline Mourvèdre Rose / 2017 / Contra Costa County, California
Rainbow Fish was one of my favorite childhood books and Rainbow Trout is one of my favorite adulthood eats. This dish focuses on locally sourced ingredients and not only does it include cornbread, but it includes cornbread CROUTONS, talk about childhood fantasies. The delicate fish paired perfectly with this beautiful medium-bodied rosé and I'm still wishing I had two to three glasses (bottles) more.
WILD ALASKAN HALIBUT: Mushroom Man's wild mushrooms, charred sweet onion coulis, zucchini puree, benne
Cline Estate Grown Chardonnay / 2017 / Sonoma Coast, California
Course number four arrives and I'm googling terms under the table again. A coulis is a thin vegetable puree and benne is just a fancy word for sesame. This dish truly made my jaw drop, partially because I was hungry, and mostly because Chef Stevens is a true artist! Look at those zucchini puree strokes! Every bite of flaky benne-crusted halibut was accompanied by flavorful wild mushrooms, sweet onion coulis, and refreshing zucchini puree. I assure you that my plate was absolutely spotless afterwards.
I'm not always a huge fan of Chardonnay but this one wasn't oaky, instead it focused on vanilla and citrus aromas. This was a nice dry accompaniment to the light halibut! Above on the right you can see our wine representatives Rob and Britnee, they did a great job pouring and explaining each wine.
FAMILY STYLE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN: Roasted sweet carmen peppers, sweet corn polenta, blistered summer beans, roasted chicken jus
Olianas Cannonau / 2016 / Sardegna, Italy
Chef Stevens chose to shake it up by serving the fifth course family-style. Even though I come across as a friendly person, I don't like to share, especially any of the delicious fare from Union Standard. I would have enjoyed this course more if I had my own individual portion just because I wasn't able to transport it to my own dish very well. However, after fighting for my serving of the meal I very much enjoyed the juicy rotisserie chicken and creamy polenta! The blistered summer beans were also a standout as they were sweet and still had a nice snap to them.
And at last, a red! I truly appreciate whites and rosés in the summer, but I'm glad that they snuck a red into the mix. Smelling of herbs and strawberries, the Cannonau had a subtle tannic finish, but nothing that lingered too long.
PEACH SHORTCAKE: Lavender biscuit, blueberry, watermelon jelly, vanilla & goat cheese chantilly
Cline Farmhouse White / 2017 / Petaluma, California
Last but certainly not least, the peach shortcake. This dessert was one of the best desserts I've ever had. If I were a rapper I'd write poetic verses about the fluffy lavender biscuits and heavenly whipped chantilly, then I'd go on tour and Chef Stevens would ride in the tour bus and make this dessert for every meal. It was THAT good! Not only were the biscuits fluffy on the inside, but they had a sugary crunch on the outside. Someone had clearly been tending to the peaches (secretly fondling them in the back) to check the ripeness because they were perfect! We could re-name this dessert G.O.A.T. because the goat cheese was delightful and it was truly the Greatest Of All Time.
Again, I missed my opportunity to photograph the last wine because I unapologetically inhaled the crisp white wine with my decadent peach dessert. Sorry not sorry.
It's hard to believe that this was Union Standard's first wine dinner because they hosted a spectacular event! The staff was friendly and helpful, Chef Stevens and his kitchen staff were the modest heros, the wine was perfectly paired with each course, and the food was deliciously creative. Bravo Chef Stevens and his talented staff!
(Feel free to save me a bottle of that rosé...)
*This post was sponsored by Union Standard. All thoughts and opinions are my own.