Wine and Dine: A knowledgeable sommelier and a talented chef can unite to create the perfect pairing of vittles and vino
Stage Left's recent renovations have transformed its formerly tiny, semicircular bar area in the middle of the dining room into a separate barroom that feels like an upscale tavern. This is the perfect venue for tonight's pre-wine-dinner festivities, which resembles a raucous cocktail party.
Dinner begins when co-owner Francis Schott taps a knife on his wineglass and describes the theme of tonight's dinner: American Pinot Noir. It will be a tour de force, he assures us. It is indeed, and between courses Schott speaks with ease about both wine and food.
Executive chef Dan Wood's six-course menu begins with fragrant scallops sauteed with truffles, paired with a heady 1993 Brewer-Clifton Blanc de Noirs R.D. 2000 California sparkling wine. Course two matches tender, rare slices of lamb carpaccio with an earthy Pinot Noir, the 1995 Star Hill from Renate's Vineyard. Course three is a fabulous seared rabbit loin with leg confit, paired with a bright, lean 2000 Sean Capiaux Widdoes Vineyard Pinot Noir. The fourth and only weak course is an overly savory mushroom tart, made with girolles, cepes, and black trumpets; it's paired with two beautiful Paul Hobbs Pinot Noirs, though, a 2000 Hyde Vineyard and a 2000 Cuvee Agustina, both of which can handle the tart and its Roquefort cheese punch. Course five, a wonderful grilled breast of squab with foie gras and wild berries, is paired with two wines from Tarius, one a 1999 from the entire estate, the other a 1999 from the Pisoni Vineyard that is poured from magnums.
Coffee in soup-bowl-size mugs accompanies dessert, a roasted-hazelnut parfait with golden currants. "We don't like to refill," quips Schott. That may be true here of the coffee, but certainly not of the wine.
5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick (732828-4444). Lunch: Friday only, noon to 2 p.m. Dinner: Monday, 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.; Tuesdav through Thursday, 5:30 to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. (late night menu till 1 a.m.); Sunday, 4:30 to 9:00 p.m. Wheelchair access easy. All major credit cards. Wine dinners for two average $250.