The champagne is popped as the guests begin to arrive. Leisurely, they make their way to the lounge where caviar and cheese await. Meanwhile, the waiters prepare for service, and behind the kitchen doors Executive Chef Jim Schumann and his seasoned staff are calmly performing final touches before plating the first course of Cuvée Wine & Bistro’s inaugural wine dinner—eight elegant and inspiring courses of food and wine. Owner Marie Kim is thrilled by the excitement in the air.
“This is a great way to showcase great wine and great food,” she says. “It’s an art and an experience.“
General Manager David Lewis gently taps a knife against a wine glass to get the attention of Cuvee’s nearly 50 guests and officially welcomes them to this special night. The anticipation is palpable as everyone takes their seat at either the single, long, black linen-covered table running down the length of the dining room or the comfortable, private booths parallel to it.
The mood is fun and relaxed. Sipping wine has a way of turning strangers into friends. David hand-selected these wines from the Wagner Family Vineyards in California, and special guest Ed Murray—the company’s Southeast Division Manager—offers background on each as the first course is served. It’s the 2008 Conundrum paired with Pacific Sea Urchin, an instant success with the guests.
When the first course is finished, the silver and glasses are cleared—as they are after every course—to make room for the Mer Soleil Chardonnay 2007 and the Wild Mushroom Bisque, poured individually from white teapots. A surprisingly delicious 2009 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc is served next, accompanied by a Tied Baby Green Salad with fresh figs, Stilton bleu cheese, and candied walnuts. The fourth course is a dark, rich 2008 Las Alturas Pinot Noir paired with a plate of Baked Dungeness Crab. The combination of flavors over the first half of the dinner is magical.
“Both the wine and the food are great by themselves,” Marie adds, “but when you combine them together, it’s so much better.”
The fifth course offers a chance to cleanse the palate. The waiters bring out miniature martini glasses filled with shaved mango lime ice. One guest enjoyed this intermezzo so much, she asked for another.
For the sixth course, the 2008 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon is classically paired with the Chateaubriand, which is drizzled with a reduction made from the wine itself. For the seventh course the 2007 Caymus Special Select arrives as a course unto itself, a proper finale to the main courses of the evening. The night concludes with a sinfully sweet Mer Soleil Late Harvest Voigner served with grilled pineapple and strawberry kabobs and a Chocolate Fondue for dipping.
Their senses and palates completely indulged, the guests erupt into applause when Chef Jim, his team, and the waiters gather at the head of the table for a moment of recognition. The evening proves such a success, guests personally thank David and Marie as they leave and inquire about the next dinner date.
“September 23,” David tells them, “a South American wine dinner.” The restaurant has also planned a French wine dinner for November and a Champagne dinner for December. Judging by the guests’ mood as they depart, September can’t come soon enough.
Want To Go?
Cuvée Wine & Bistro
2237 SW 19th Avenue Road, Ste. 102
Ocala, Florida 34471