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15 December, 2010

Jujube’s Bubbly Recession Wine Dinner

Posted in : Cava, Cava Rose, Dining in Chapel Hill - NC, Events, Moscato d’Asti, Prosecco, Restaurants, Rose Wine, Sparkling Wine on by : The Gourmez

Jujube, Chapel Hill
$40 per plate

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending another Jujube wine dinner—it had been a while! These dinners are kept affordable by profiling wines in the $10 to $20 range from the Hope Valley Bottle Shop crew, of which Drew did the sommelier honors this evening. Alas, I was cameraless for this meal, but I did take notes! I was also lucky to be joined by great friends who don’t mind picking apart their meals, either.

First wine of the evening was Adami Prosecco Garbel 13. I’d call it a simple crowd-pleaser—excellent if you’ve got a large group of sparkling wine imbibers to keep happy. It paired well with the first course, house-made mozzarella wrapped around talegio—a soft, Italian cheese. That little ball of goodness was served with a thin sourdough crostini with olive oil, lemon, and chili flakes. As another patron put it, “Cheese wrapped in cheese! The best invention ever!” I wouldn’t go quite that far. It was an interesting experiment, but the two cheeses didn’t contrast enough in flavor to be a big win, though the talegio got gooier after a bite into it, making the texture more fun. Some liked the lemon (me!) in the sauce, many did not. I could easily have eaten another, as long as I ate it with the crostini—cheese does have its limits.

The second course was grilled calamari with tempura kumquats and cucumber puree. My word, that dish smelled of summer, which was almost cruel with the winter we’re having so far. I thought it was fantastic, and most everyone agreed. Grilling calamari will make you wonder why you’ve ever had it fried, and the kumquats were fun bursts of flavor along for the ride. It had very contrasting flavors that I enjoyed with the Segura Viudas Cava Brut, the first of three wines from that estate. It was my favorite wine of the evening and tasted of whipped cream or perhaps angel food cake, but it wasn’t crazy sweet. The nose held the fruit for me, maraschino cherry and peach.

Next up was the pan-fried pork and cabbage dumplings, a Jujube staple, with pear coulis and duck cracklings. Another success! There’s a reason those dumplings are always on the menu, and that’s because they’re fantastic. The duck cracklings were a great addition to them, though the pear flavor from the coulis was lacking. I wasn’t a fan of the paired wine, Segura Viudas Cava Aria. I found it rather dry in contrast to the last wine, though others thought it sweet, and it didn’t do much for me.

Wine #4 was Segura Viudas Cava Rose, which had a sharp smell of cranberries and a softer taste of straw- and raspberries.  It was definitely intended to match with the duck breast served, as berries and duck often go together. However, I don’t think the wine could stand up to the flavors of this dish. The duck breast came with a cinnamon-pomegranate sauce and squash-fennel-potato mash. I loved the mash, easily the most delicious part of the dish for me. The flavor of the sauce was great for me, too, though some friends complained of too much cinnamon and others thought they couldn’t taste the cinnamon at all. The duck itself was too rare, though. My husband disagreed, but the rest of us struggled with the meat being too jiggly and chewy for our likings. If it had been cooked longer, this dish would have contended with the calamari for best of the night.

Last but never least was dessert: rosewater flan with lime confiture. This one needed some work. The flan was very eggy in flavor, though the rosewater element was great. The lime portion was actually lightly candied rind chunks. If the chunks were thinner, like zest, I think it would have been all right, but they were too bitter at that size. The nearly ice-wine-sweet Vietti Moscato d’Asti was essential for cutting through that bitterness.  Don’t get me wrong, I ate my dessert happily, but there was much room for improvement. The wine was fab!

It was another lovely dinner out at Jujube, and I always look forward to seeing what Charlie will come up with next. If that grilled calamari isn’t on the summer menu, I’m going to be sad.

3 stars

Reviewed 7 Dec 10.

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