: views from the Hill

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Simi Wine Dinner at Fior d'Italia that wasn't

Simi Wine Dinner at Fior d'Italia, or the dinner that wasn't.

As I was shifting and sorting books yesterday, I was looking forward to the Simi Wine winemaker's dinner at Fior d'Italia. I'd even gone to the site earlier in the day to doublecheck which winery was being featured. There it was (and still is!): "Simi Vineyards, Sonoma. July 26. Special Guest, Steve Reeder"

I got home from book sorting. His nibs got home soon after. We skinned off our Levis (mine black, his blue) and put on clothes that were more dinner-like and walked down the hill, arriving at Fior d'Italia a little after 6:30 p.m., which is when the dinner was to start.

The front door had a sign on it to use the door to the bar and come in that way, so we did. The bar was PACKED. We found our way to the main dining room, but there was obviously a banquet planned there, not the winemaker dinner. We wandered around trying to find someone to talk to, trying to find something that looked like a winemaker dinner.

We finally grabbed a waiter who knew nothing about a winemaker dinner, who grabbed another waiter who said there wasn't one after all and finally the guy who runs the dining room and banquet rooms showed up and said, "Yes, it's been canceled. We tried to get hold of ... who are you?"

We told him.

"Yes. We left multiple messages for you this afternoon starting after 1 p.m. Didn't you get them?"

Well, no, we said. We'd got in, changed clothes, came straight down without checking the answering machine soze not to be late.

"Well," he said. (The waiter who'd told us the dinner was canceled was in the process of trying to convince us to -- for the same price the winemaker dinner would've been -- try their extravagant multi-course paired-with-wine special dinner.) "Stay for dinner. We'll take 20% off the bill."

So we stayed. Dinner was fine. A deal at 20% off. Some parts of it were excellent, but not so excellent I'd rave to friends that they must try it. Mostly, we agreed between the two of us that it would be a good place to bring friends who weren't adventurous diners. Loads of food.

The antipasti had cured olives, melon and prosciutto, jumbo shrimp with a rustic tomato sauce, crab with a homemade mayonnaise, mozzarella/basil/tomato. Antipasti was followed by Caesar salad, which was followed by tricolor pasta: gnocchi with tomato sauce, tortellini with Alfredo sauce, penne with a not-intense (tourist-version) basil pesto. The main plate was also a medley: fillet mignon with a brown sauce (I'm sure they have a more elegant name for it), veal scallopine and salmon with a dill sauce. Dessert was tiramisu, which was different from any I've ever had. Served in a hot fudge sundae glass, it was a sweetened mascarpone mousse-like dish with the lady finger soaked in coffee liqueur embedded in the mascarpone and mini chocolate chips on top. A different bit of wine came with each course: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Essencia (an orange muscat dessert wine).

Unfortunately, the first courses had been so filling that I left behind some of the salmon and most of the tiramisu. Given my drothers, I would've had all of the tiramisu and skipped the Caesar salad. Better for me, I suppose, to have done what I did.

As I said, the front dining room was packed with the car buff types, there for a banquet, whoever they might have been. The dining room where we were, which is usually, I think, used as banquet rooms, was also pretty full. Obviously, the decision to cancel the winemaker dinner hadn't been made at lunch time. There was no room for a winemaker dinner. Obviously, someone had forgotten to make the call earlier in the week or last week or whenever the decision was made.

We walked home after dinner, uphill, stuffed to the brim. Listened to our phone messages. First, a woman: We are calling from Fior d'Italia. We called to leave you a message a week or two ago and just wanted to remind you that the winemaker dinner tonight has been canceled. Next, our guy who runs the dining rooms: I'm calling from Fior d'Italia to make sure you know that the winemaker dinner tonight has been canceled.

(1) We did get 20% off, but they should've called us earlier than the afternoon of the dinner. (2) Don't go telling us you called a week or two ago and are just calling us to remind us that. ... We aren't stupid. Someone forgot. Just tell us straight up.

Dinner was fine. Filling. Not to die for. We may go back with friends who don't want to have the tasty but unusual things we can find elsewhere. Good place to bring your friends who think that tomato and mozzarella and basil is an exotic dish.

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