Monthly international wine dinners at Wine & More, in downtown Sedalia, are created with wine, culture and chef-prepared cuisine in mind.
Owner Turf Martin begins his planning strategy in November. Dinners are planned by country for the coming year. The European countries of France, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Germany are represented, as well as South America, Australia and the United States. Each country is known for its wine-making skills.
“The countries don’t change, but the order changes,” Martin said. “We reshuffle the deck to give everyone an opportunity.”
Martin began serving international dinners on the first Saturday of the month three years ago when he opened Wine & More. He selected Hiedi Diaz, co-owner of Twin Lakes Catering and Scarlett’s Restaurant in Stover, to be his chef.
Diaz, who has trained with seven chefs, said she heard Martin was looking for someone who could think “outside the box.”
“The first thing I looked for was someone who would show international flair,” Martin said. “Creativity and flair for the extraordinary is what separates a chef from a cook, in my mind. What a chef does is they use a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but not a lot — it’s an art.”
When selecting and deciding on a menu, Diaz does her homework.
“I study the history of the region of a country. Basically it’s a lot of reading,” she said.
She also calls a local chef in the area.
“I pick a restaurant that I think has a lot of success and I call one of them and say, ‘What do you think?’ My favorite is the one who owns The Ice Cube (restaurant) in Australia. They usually get a kick out me doing this in Missouri. They say, ‘Where?’ ”
“With the exception of Austria, I give Hiedi full rein to come up with a menu,” Martin said.
Martin and his wife, JoAnn, lived in Austria for eight years while he worked there as a pharmaceutical representative. Together they plan the foods and wines for that particular menu.
When choosing cuisine, Diaz prepares the menu and presents it to Martin. He then makes subtle suggestions and minor changes, all the while summarizing in his mind which wine would pair with each course.
“I sit and interview her about each dish, the spices being used, sauces, butter or not,” Martin said. “How it’s prepared, sautéed, grilled, baked. Then I will pull wines from that country that I think will match. Most of the time it will work, sometimes it doesn’t.
“What we are trying to achieve is a synergistic flavor — the flavor that you are getting is better than the food alone or the wine alone.”
Martin often looks to highlight a certain aspect of a dish such as a spice, a fruit or sweetness. One could choose four diverse wines to pair with one food and each wine would bring forward a different flavor.
“The critical aspect of pairing wine with food is to put the food in your mouth, chew it to break it up, then add the wine while the food is still in your mouth and let it all mingle together, developing all of your taste buds before you swallow,” he said. “Everything your mother told you not to do.”
Martin learned his wine pairing skills while living in Europe, and still practices this style when planning dinners.
“I had an interest in wine before going to Austria, but it was very basic,” he said. “But the whole culture of Europe is based on food and wine.”
While living there, he became friends with wine makers.
“They taught me from vineyard to table,” Martin said.
Suitable for the wine novice or connoisseur, each dinner is fine dining at its best. Guests sit at tables with linen tablecloths and napkins, crystal, Italian china and English flatware.
“I try to create an event, not just a meal,” Martin said.
During the course of the meal, Martin talks about the history about the wine regions and the wine’s tasting notes. He also tells lighthearted stories from his own life experiences.
Dinner begins with an aperitif of sparkling wine such as blanc de noirs; Cremant de Bourgogne was served at a recent French wine dinner.
“I believe that a sparking wine cleanses the palate from the day’s food and drink,” he said.
In all, seven courses are always served, including a dessert, accompanied with a specific wine.
The third course of the French dinner was the roasted root vegetables with honey mustard, paired nicely with a light French red wine, a Louis Tete Le Pot Villages 2009.
If bought by the bottle, this wine costs $16.99. Martin said that wines don’t have to exorbitantly priced to be a quality product.
The main course for the meal — noisettes of lamb, garlic sauce and goat cheese potato custard — was paired with a bolder red, Frederic Magnien Nuits-St.-Georges Longecourts Vieilles Vignas 2005 — a classic Pinot Noir with dry cherry, earthy notes.
Dessert, pithiviers (puff pastry) dipped in chocolate was complemented with Chateau Graves Sauternes 2005, a sweet, white dessert wine.
The upcoming dinner will feature Missouri foods and wines on Aug. 6. Wines from Cooper’s Oak, Adam Puchta and Augusta wineries, plus others, will be paired with venison, catfish, stuffed roasted pork tenderloin and baked Alaska for dessert.
International wine dinners are scheduled for the first Saturday of the month. The cost is $60 per person, plus tax; seating is by reservation only, with seating for 30 people.
Furikake-crusted ahi with spicy mustard drizzle
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
For the tuna:
1 1/2 cups panko (bread crumbs)
1 cup furikake (Japanese rice seasoning)
1 cup flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 8 ounces yellow fin tuna about 2-inches thick
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
For the greens:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
8 cups mesclun greens
1 small beet, peeled and julienned
1 tablespoon sesame seeds toasted
2 tablespoon nori (thin, dried seaweed sheets) shredded
Mustard sauce: Dissolve dry mustard in 1 teaspoon water in small bowl. Add Dijon mustard, vinegar and soy sauce. Stir well.
Tuna: Combine panko and furikake in a large shallow dish. Set up standard breading station. Season tuna with salt and pepper. Dredge one tuna at a time in the flour, coat in egg, then dredge in panko mixture; shake off excess. Heat oil in skillet, lightly brown on all sides to medium rare. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add greens and toss to coat. For presentation, divide greens onto six plates; in neat pile, sprinkle evenly with carrot, beets, sesame seeds and nori. Place tuna next to greens and drizzle with mustard sauce.
Chef’s note: I prefer to use spicy mesclun when it is local, to add depth to this dish.
Recipe created by chef Hiedi Diaz