When the Foundry Craft Grillery popped up about a year ago in my neighborhood, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My specific area of Central Pennsylvania (Lebanon County) is a bit lacking in upscale restaurants, so I was mainly hoping for a place with decent food and drinks to give us more options when going out for an evening. Robert and I attended their VIP opening last year and we were pleasantly surprised. Over the past year it has continued to be one of our favorite spots, whether for drinks with friends, a relaxed date night dinner at the bar with their wood-fired pizzas, or a more deluxe and celebratory meal. We are greeted by the owners, waitstaff and bartenders whenever we go, so we’re starting to feel like part of the family. That’s a really fun thing to experience at your neighborhood restaurant.
The Foundry occasionally hosts pairing dinners (with wine or beer, etc.) and I had always wanted to go to one. Finally back in February we had a chance to attend their 5-course wine pairing dinner with local winery Waltz Vineyards. My love for wine has been growing, but it is almost never my first choice when ordering a drink for myself. (I’m more of a cocktail lover.) It might seem odd that someone like myself would attend a dinner centered around wine, but the more I thought about it I realized it would be a perfect opportunity to become more familiar with wine. It would allow me to try several different kinds without having to commit to a full glass of any of them.
It did turn out to be a perfect experience for a shy wine drinker. The meal was eye-opening for me – not only in how delicious different kinds of wine can be, but how they can taste even better when paired with the right food. This meal was SO good; I was honestly blown away by it. But before I babble on about it too much, let me give you a rundown of each course:
Food: Lobster bisque with grilled seafood sausage, sea beans and dill oil
Wine Pairing: Waltz Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Thoughts: They started off with a bang. This bisque was so luxurious; everyone was practically licking their bowl clean by the end. I could have eaten three bowls if they would have let me. I already love Sauvignon Blanc, and this one by Waltz was fantastic. The crispness was perfect against the silky lobster bisque.
Food: Smoked pork belly with cauliflower-sour apple puree, candied pecans and baby greens
Wine Pairing: Waltz Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay
Thoughts: You had me at “pork belly.” I’ve also been falling in love with cauliflower purees lately, so this was a dream. The candied pecans added the perfect crunch. I’ve never been a huge fan of Chardonnays because they’re too buttery for me, but this one was perfect for my tastes. We were sitting with the owners of the winery, and if I remember correctly they said they make this reserve Chardonnay by taking all of the least buttery batches of their Chardonnay and putting them together to make this less buttery version. Perfection!
Food: Farmhouse plate with creamy chicken liver pate, Le Burgond Morbier cheese, mache greens, caper berries and Stiegel Rose berry jam
Wine Pairing: Waltz Vineyards Stiegel Rose
Thoughts: I love a good cheese plate – they’re perfect for a grazer like me. The jam here was made with the wine we were drinking, so that was obviously a great way to tie it all together. Being the first non-white wine of the evening I was a bit nervous, but it was fantastic.
Food: Gremolata sirloin roast with charred kalettes, charred baby carrots and forest mushroom risotto
Wine Pairing: Waltz Vineyards Baron Red
Thoughts: My favorite course!!! All of this together was so good I can hardly stand it. I really want the chef to put this on their fall/winter menu at the restaurant. There’s something about creamy risotto with crispy greens and a piece of perfect meat that just HITS THE SPOT. Ugh! So good. And the Baron Red was my favorite red wine of the evening. I feel like this course really hit the nail on the head for a perfect meal to enjoy with red wine. I’ve seen the light!
Food: “Cherry Tree Jubilee” with house-made Foundry churned vanilla bean ice cream
Wine Pairing: Waltz Vineyards Cherry Tree Merlot
Thoughts: Obviously I loved this one because it’s dessert. The Foundry’s homemade ice cream is delicious and went so well with the cherry compote, which was made with the Cherry Tree Merlot we were drinking. We also had some dinner theatre as the chef did a demo of how he makes the compote. I never would have pictured myself enjoying a glass of red wine with ice cream, but this was another perfect pairing.
This meal was fantastic in every way. It was well-paced; they gave you enough wine to really get a feel for each kind but not so little that it left you wanting more, and not SO MUCH that you got full or wasted halfway through the meal; the food was so well paired with the wines and straight-up delicious, and it was perfectly portioned, leaving you wanting a little more because it was so good, but leaving room for you to keep eating and drinking the other courses.
The main thing I got out of this experience was developing a greater appreciation for red wine. Up to this point I had been more of a red wine hater, but I loved the red wines with this meal and how they went with the food. Fast forward about a week and I joined my parents one evening in drinking some red zinfandel while eating pizza (because it just sounded good to me after going to this pairing dinner), and I loved it so much. I even went so far as to pick up a bottle for myself to keep around for the next time Robert and I have a pizza night. I think I’m turning into a red wine drinker! So that’s definitely been a positive result of attending the pairing dinner.
If there’s a spirit you’d like to explore more in-depth to get to know better, or one you just love and want to learn more about, I’d highly urge you to try a pairing dinner like the one I went to at the Foundry. They’ve done a whiskey one in the past plus several different beer and wine ones. At about $65/person it’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s more of an experience (an educational one, in fact) than your average dinner. Plus I always love meals that let me try multiple items. I’m a grazer and I always have trouble landing on one specific thing on a menu (I’d rather order a bunch of sides, ya know?), so having 5 mini courses is my ultimate situation. If this sounds anything like you, then you should absolutely try it.
In fact, the next pairing dinner they are hosting is on Wednesday, June 29th 2016 at 6:30 pm. It will be a 4-course meal paired with various liquors from local Hidden Still Spirits, a distillery here in Lebanon, PA, just a few blocks from the restaurant. If you’re interested in attending, call the Foundry at 717.639.2055 to reserve your seat.
Have you ever been to a pairing dinner? Did you love it? Did you have a similar experience to mine? Let me know! Also – I need red wine recommendations for a red wine newbie. Happy drinking!
Full disclosure: This post was sponsored by the Foundry Craft Grillery. It’s one of my favorite restaurants and all opinions are my own.
Illustration at top created with Illustrator and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (along with other items with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.