Sunday, November 5, 2023

Far Niente Chardonnay highlights seafood dinner at Hugo's Frogbar Naperville

Far Niente Chardonnay highlights seafood dinner at Hugo's Frogbar Naperville - Pan Seared Walleye rivals favorite memorable fresh seafood dishes - a retrospective ...

We joined son Ryan and his family for his birthday celebration dinner. at Hugo's Frogbar in Naperville (IL). 

Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House (Chicago) opened its doors in February 1997 in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, next to sister restaurant Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse. Since its founding in 1989 the iconic Gibson's Bar & Steakhouse on Rush Street has been the flagship of what has become the Gibson's Restaurant Group

Over the years the Gibson's Restaurant Group portfolio has grown - today they own and operate several distinguished concept restaurants throughout Chicagoland and beyond: Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House (three locations including downtown and Naperville), LUXBAR, Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar, Gibsons ItaliaThe BOATHOUSE Orlando, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Chop House (on behalf of Rivers Casino), Bazaar Meat Chicago, Bar MarCafé By The River and Chi Sox Bar & Grill (on behalf of the Chicago White Sox).

For over 20 years, owners Hugo Ralli and Steve Lombardo have strived to become the city’s finest seafood restaurant, Hugo’s, as a destination for premier east and west coast oysters, crudos, frog legs, lobster and seasonal fish and shellfish.

Hugo’s seafood is delivered daily, earning The New York Times to praise “the fish could only be fresher if it swam in by itself.” 

Despite being in the middle of the country, it's not only possible, but customary, to get the daily fresh catch seafood here in numerous seafood restaurants. Notably, besides Hugo's, Chinn's in the northwest suburbs, one of the top 25 grossing restaurants in the US, posts the Bills of Lading airbills in the entrance showing all the fresh seafood flown in overnight from a half dozen or more coasts - Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, New England, Atlantic Coast, California, Seattle and so on. His nephew's seafood restaurant Chinn's Fishery Seafood, here in our hometown Lisle, IL did the same thing before closing at the height of the Covid shut-down.  As such, rather than getting the locale fresh catch from any one market, you have a broad selection from the fresh catch from a half dozen or more markets for a broad selection and variety. 

Over the years, I wrote about Chinn's and the daily specials sourced from around the world in numerous blogposts, that last one being Sunday, March 10, 2019 when I wrote, Nickle & Nickle Chardonnay for Chinns Seafood Dinner.

I was hesitant to feature and highlight the seafood at Hugo's, having had a bad experience there with the Hudson Valley scallops last year, but, tonight they redeemed themselves with a surefire winner with four out of four delectable seafood selections.  

Tonight, we had a broad selection of four fresh seafood selections for our entree choices - Walleye, Salmon, Crab and Sea Bass. Mine was a very pleasant surprise, exceeding my lofty expectations. 

I ordered the Pan Seared Walleye with Grilled Asparagus, Lemon Butter & Toasted Almonds.

I chose this dish, hoping it might be in the meunière style that is my favorite preparation. Many of my posts in these pages commemorate memorable dinners with delectable seafood and wine pairings. Forgive me as I obsess here, reliving several dinners featuring this preparation offering.

Notice the recurring theme of pairing these dishes with a full bodied round Napa Valley Chardonnay, an optimal wine and food pairing for enhancement of both.

My absolute favorite seafood selection was always Petrale Sole, or when available, the seasonally limited Sand Dabs, aka Rex Sole, with white wine, lemon butter meunière sauce. This is primarily only found in the San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay central coast of California. 

For several years, I commuted regularly to Silicon Valley, during which time this was my go-to regular meal every trip - the best being from Scott's Seafood, adjacent our offices in Palo Alto. Second, was Scoma's in San Francisco on the wharf and across the bay in Sausalito.

Tonight's preparation reminded me of fond memories of that Petrale Sole served in with white wine, lemon butter meunière sauce, a delight and high praise, indeed.

My next favorite fresh seafood selection would be Dover Sole, prepared in a similar way. I have many great memories, and postings in these pages from Il Postino Ristorante Italiano in New York City and their Dover Sole preparation: June 19, 2018 - Cakebread Cellars Napa Chardonnay with Dover Sole at Il Postino NYC, and again ....  June 27, 2018 - Cakebread Cellars Napa Chardonnay with Dover Sole at Il Postino NYC, and again ... April 15, 2018 - Cakebread Cellars Napa Chardonnay at Il Postino NYC - a trifecta! 

And, Dover Sole here locally in Chicago - January 22, 2020 - Post UGCB Dinner with Dover Sole Rosebud Chicago; and again November 9, 2022 - California 2013 Duo BYOB with Dover Sole at Vistro Hinsdale.

Finally, I would say my near favorite seafood dish is Flounder, and once again one of my favorite and memorable eateries for such is in New York - October 24, 2019 - Eataly NYC Flounder Seafood Dinner, and October 23, 2016 -Eataly New York Wine Dine Options.
And, another favorite local east coast eatery where we were somewhat regulars over the years -January 28, 2020 - Pouilly-Fuisse, Chiles Valley Cabernet with Sautéed Flounder Francaise at Idylwild Grill in Falls Church, VA.

So it was, tonight's Pan Seared Walleye was reminiscent of those earlier memorable dinners.

As a starter we shared the Beet Salad - Golden & Red Beets, Spring Mix, Shaved Fennel, Orange Segments, Goat Cheese, Candied Hazlenuts with Citrus Vinaigrette.

Our other entree selections - 

Jumbo Lump Crab Cake - a small portion as she ordered the appetizer rather than the larger portion entree.

Pan Roasted Miso Marinated Chilean Sea Bass - Wild mushrooms, sweet peas, & soy reduction

Grilled Faroe Island Salmon - Roasted Sweet Potato Hash, Spinach, & Bacon Jam

For our wine pairing we had a premium Napa Valley Chardonnay, from the same producer that we had just the other evening. 

Far Niente Napa Valley Coombsville Estate Chardonnay 2020

Just the other evening we had at home from our cellar, the Nickel & Nickel Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Chardonnay, from their single vineyard designated portfolio of labels. Tonight's selection is the flagship, estate bottled appellation bottling from the 'parent' winery producer Far Niente.

Far Niente is one of Napa Valley’s most historic wineries, founded in 1885 by John Benson. It closed during the Prohibition era in 1919. Sixty years later, the property was bought and restored by Gil Nickle who released the first vintage of Far Niente wine in the modern era in 1979 - this estate-bottled Napa Valley Chardonnay. It has been a namesake to the winery for over four decades ever since.

The grapes are grown in the Coombsville AVA, known for its more temperate climate and volcanic ash soils that give Far Niente’s Chardonnay its signature stone and tropical fruit flavors with a crushed rock minerality. The wine does not go through malolactic fermentation in the production process, which preserves the crisper malic acid, providing extra freshness on the palate and extending the wine’s longevity for years of drinking pleasure.

Far Niente Chardonnay is a blend of several superior Napa Valley estate (producer owned) vineyards located in Coombsville, down at the bottom of the valley, a cooler growing region nestled in the rolling countryside and protected by the hills east of the city of Napa. 

Coombsville offers the characteristic climate of Carneros, with less wind, along with deeper, well-drained gravelly loam and volcanic ash soils. The combination of these spectacular vineyards results in the subtle, tropical flavors, complex aromas and uncommon richness that have long been associated with Far Niente Chardonnay.

This is a marriage of fruit from the cooler, bay-influenced vineyards in southern Napa Valley, crafted to combine fragrant citrus blossom aromatics, rich fruit flavors and a silky finish to every occasion.

Winemaker notes - "Richly aromatic with notes of white fig, and citrus blossom, this captivating Chardonnay slowly builds on the palate, progressing from silky notes of honeydew, nectarine and lemon zest to a full finish supported by elegant, toasted oak. Crisp minerality and juicy acidity lift and support the generous fruit and provide the framework for graceful aging. This wine will continue to gain richness and complexity in the bottle and glass."

Pale straw colored, medium bodied, complex expressive rich sprites of minerality, acidity and hazelnut overshadow the subdued honeydew fruit notes. 

RM 90 points. 

This release was awarded 91 Points by Wine Advocate.

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