I think most people can agree that nothing elevates a meal more than a good drink pairing! Different cocktails, spirits, and — of course, my favorite, wine, can totally take a meal from one level to the next. If you keep an eye on your favorite restaurants and wineries, they often put together special events where they can showcase their food and drink with a wine-pairing dinner — and those are worth snagging a reservation to.
Park Tavern is one of North Beach’s gems, situated on Washington Park, serving up exceptional American food. They recently partnered with Cameron Hughes Wines on a wine pairing dinner of four courses of tasty eats each expertly paired with a different vino — all enjoyed in their gold-gilded private dining room.
If you’re not already familiar, Cameron Hughes is based in San Francisco, offering services as a wine négociant (or wine trader), aka they’re focused on finding the best wines and negotiating the best prices for their customers. Prior to this night, I didn’t even know this type of wine company existed. These guys are known for offering exceptional wine at an extraordinary value and it was great to pick up on so much wine knowledge first-hand throughout the evening.
We settled in and started off the night with pours of 2017 Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco, paired with perfectly seared scallops. I’m not usually a big fan of chards, but this wine was light and smooth (like its seafood counterpart) with hints of floral and stone fruit — far from the boring old oaky, buttery chards I like to avoid. Bonus: Wine trader Cameron Hughes himself was on hand to tell us a bit about each wine and course, and what made them ideal complements to the featured dishes.
We moved on to another delightful course: chewy taglioni pasta with a rich mushroom ragu, topped with some shavings of cured egg-yolk and pecorino. Cameron pulled out bottles of his 2015 Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco, a wine marked by a light-medium body mouthfeel that was low on spice and high on fruit flavors like strawberry and cherry — a nice balance for this savory dish.
Each of the wines we enjoyed was discovered by Cameron himself from local vineyards and the world’s best wine-growing regions, then bought up by himself to offer under his own label at an extraordinary value — smart guy!
The main course for the evening was an unreal seared Tajima wagyu steak — that perfect, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Cam explained to us the background of the meat as well as his love for the next wine we were enjoying — pours of a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley that had hints of dark chocolate and berries, making it the perfect sip to enjoy between each bite!
Things ended with a light citrus-focused tarte with strawberries and cream — alongside generous glasses of bubbling 2017 Moscato, Piemonte. So good! Overall, all of the wines helped add depth to the meal at hand and you could tell top-notch grapes and harvesting technique had been used to make each! Walking away from the night each guest received a bottle of wine (almost all of which were under $20 bottles — such a value!), to help make a few more vino-filled memories at home.
Wine dinners like these can be found around the bay, keep an eye out for them and plan a special night out — you won’t be disappointed!