Every time Tom and I visit the Alexandria waterfront, we ask ourselves why we don’t go more often. We recently had a fabulous date night at Blackwall Hitch for their new monthly wine dinner series that has us vowing to spend a lot more time with our charming neighbor to the south.
It was our first time visiting this lovely restaurant. Even though it was dark and stormy outside and we couldn’t take advantage of what I imagine are beautiful views, we eagerly cozied up to the bar for a very special meal. We loved that we could see directly into the kitchen as all the magic happened, but lamented that the backlight it created interfered with our photography (the weird things that food bloggers notice).
Blackwall Hitch is a Chesapeake-inspired restaurant that sources most of its food from the mid Atlantic region. So it made sense that their first wine dinner’s theme would be Virginia is for Lovers. We were treated to a four-course dinner specially created by Executive Chef Mente Lawson, paired with some of Barboursville Vineyards most notable wines.
We got the locally inspired party started with a refreshing French 75 made with Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin.
While we sipped, Chef Mente came out to give us the rundown on all the delicious food we were about to eat, along with a little bit about his impressive background, combining his southern roots with classic French training under renowned Chef Jean-Louis Palladin.
I always love meeting local chefs and hearing about their passion for cooking, it makes the food taste that much better. Pretty soon, the wine started flowing. We started out with a lovely 2015 Barboursville Vermintino Reserve.
This wine was crisp and acidic with a nice minerality, and the perfect pairing for our first course – a local oyster flight trio, served by Chef Mente himself.
This beautiful plate featured (from left to right) Chincoteague, Stingray and Rappahanock oysters, each paired with their own pipetted mignonette – cucumber, white cocktail and hot pepper sauce respectively.
This was such a perfect way to start off a Virginia-inspired dinner. Each oyster was fresh and delicious, but we were especially fond of the Stingray on an edible sunchoke “shell”.
Up next, a stunning board of gnocchi and wild mushrooms that looked like it could have come from the set of Chef’s Table.
Delicate herb-buttered ricotta dumplings and hearty, earthy local foraged mushrooms created a simple, yet satisfying flavor profile. Tom felt that the peas were unnecessary, but I happen to love peas and didn’t mind their inclusion at all.
This dish was paired with a 2015 Barboursville Chardonnay Reserve, aged French and American oak but not taken through malolactic fermentation. This will not taste like the Chardonnay you are used to, but it still had a nice body to stand up to the creamy texture of the pasta. Another great pairing!
Our third course was my favorite of the night, a perfectly roasted poulet rouge, or heritage breed chicken, served with Chesapeake baby clams, sweetbreads and country smoked ham.
I have never had chicken that tasted this hearty and rich before, which attests to both its high quality and Chef Mente’s craft. Everyone at the bar agreed that it tasted like Thanksgiving, with the sweetbreads taking on the texture and flavor of an incredibly decadent stuffing. The clams weren’t as memorable as the rest of the dish, but did offer a nice salty element to the dish. We would love to see a version of this dish added to the regular menu.
The chicken was paired with a 2013 Barboursville Nebbiolo, which if I’m being honest, I didn’t love at first sip. However, thanks to the magic of food and wine pairing, I did really enjoy it with the dish. The lighter to medium-bodied red was a great complement to the rich flavor of the chicken. This is exactly the reason wine dinners are so fun, they expose you to different combinations of flavors and wine pairings that you never would think to try on your own.
We finished the meal with gusto. Dessert was a cheeky “peanut gallery” with honeycomb cake, peanut bacon crumble, sea salt peanut brittle and housemade peanut butter ice cream.
The crumble and brittle were both a tad sweet for my liking, but I couldn’t keep quiet about the not at all cloying honeycomb cake, delicious when eaten with the peanut butter ice cream.
This dish had two drink pairings – a 2012 Barboursville Malvaxia Paxxito dessert wine and a finger of Catoctin Creek 1757 Virginia brandy.
The dessert wine was dangerously tasty. It reminded me a bit of an ice wine. And you can’t go wrong with a meal that ends with a sip or two of brandy, if you have a Lyft home anyway.
We’re very excited about this new wine dinner series and would definitely recommend checking it out. It’s a pretty good deal at $75 for four delicious courses and a rather generous amount of wine and spirits. In fact, if we had one suggestion to improve the experience it would be to add a bread board at the beginning of the meal to soak up those generous pours.
The next dinner will be held March 29th with a special meal from Chef Mente to honor his mentor Jean-Louis Palladin. Cheers!
We were treated to a complimentary wine dinner courtesy of Blackwall Hitch. As always, all honest opinions are our own.