I knew that wines had special reserves, but I had no idea that tomatoes had reserves. Thanks to Muir Glen for enlightening me to these special tomatoes. I was one of a lucky few that was invited to a special Tasting Dinner of reserve Muir Glen tomatoes. The event, the Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour, had stops in select cities: Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle, with a special tasting dinner. For Atlanta, the selection was Chef Gerry Klaskala’s Aria Restaurant in Buckhead.
The selection of Chef Klaskala and Aria for the Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour as they call it, wasn’t random. Chef Klaskala is one of five award-winning chefs from around the country who actually traveled to Yolo County, California, in August to participate in the hand-harvesting of the special tomatoes. The 2010 Reserve Tomatoes were grown exclusively for Muir Glen under certified organic practices. The tomatoes are hand-harvested at the peak of ripeness to guarantee exceptional quality and taste, going from vine to can in eight hours.
Our intimate group was treated to three appetizers (tomato-beef sliders, grilled cheese and bruschetta) while we were waiting for all the guests to arrive. Remember EVERYTHING on the menu had some of these rare tomatoes in them. The tomatoes were in a jammy consistency in the bruschetta, which was absolutely delightful. The grilled cheese with tomatoes was lovely, but it was the sliders that stole the show. The tomatoes added an overall sweet juiciness that was unlike any slider I’ve ever had before. I couldn’t resist having two – bear in mind, we still had a five course meal ahead of us.
Once seated, we started things off with a Tomato and Shrimp Bisque. Velvety and creamy, with the perfect amount of tomato, I was in heaven. The next two courses were a sort of tomato ragout – one with pasta and one with polenta. Fourth course was a perfectly cooked (and by perfectly cooked I mean medium) lamb chop served alongside a tomato and Eggplant ragout. I truly believe Eggplant and lamb were meant to go with one another and this dish upholds that theory, not to mention how perfectly it paired with the Sangiovese it was paired with.
So after tasting one each of the hors d’oeuvres, plus one extra slider, plus four courses, who would have room for dessert, right? But, oh, how this dessert was worth waiting for and saving room for. Now, when one thinks of dessert, tomato is not the first thought that comes to mind. Surprisingly, this was the highlight of the meal for me. This tomato dessert was panna cotta served with some sort of jam-like topping made from tomatoes, and served with it was a tomato sorbet. We were also treated to a shortbread cookie filled with tomato jam. If organic tomatoes are always this tasty, sweet and versatile, sign me up!
Many thanks to Muir Glen, Aria Restaurant and Chef Gerry Klaskala for allowing me to participate in this exceptional, one-of-a-kind, experience. Chef Klaskala’s passion for organics and farm-to-table foods is contagious. I felt like I was a judge on Iron Chef: Battle Tomato!