Roberto Mele of Ruca Malen Vineyards, left, and Mitchell Kaldrovich, executive chef of Inn by the Sea.
The second course: Bacon wrapped scallops with parsnip cream, beet and macadamia quinoa and caper brown butter. Paired with Ruca Malen Chardonnay Reserva
Roberto Mele of Ruca Malen winery in Mendoza, Argentina
The Fourth Course: Slow braised and crispy short ribs duet with crushed root vegetables, grilled bok choy and duxelles sauce. Paired with Ruca Malen Malbec Reserva
Executive Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich of Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth.
Dessert: chocolate and goat cheese gateau — walnut genoise, goat cheese mousse, caramelized fig gelato and red wine syrup. Paired with Ruca Malen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva
All photos by Ted Axelrod/Axelrod Photography
Every February since 2008, Mitchell Kaldrovich, executive chef of Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, gets to celebrate the bounty of his native Argentina at a special wine dinner. It’s almost always a sell-out, with guests a mix of locals and overnight guests from away.
This year, the featured wines were from Ruca Malen, a family owned vineyard at the foot of the Andes mountains in Mendoza, a wine-rich province in northeastern Argentina, about 750 miles due west of Buenos Aires.
In the U.S., Ruca Malen wines are imported by Opici and should be available at local wine shops. The ones we tasted with each course were all quite good; the citrusy torrontes served with the amuse bouche was a standout and as you might expect, the two malbecs were also beautifully balanced.
Roberto Mele from Ruca Malen introduced each wine in charmingly accented, perfect English. He explained that the vineyard, which only got its start in 1999, is located in a high desert with lots of sun, which results in powerful, intense wines with the right sweetness to balance the alcohol. “In Argentina, we think that the best way to drink wines is with food,” he said. In fact, the Ruca Malen dining room, which offers multi-course lunches with a stunning view of the snow-capped Andes, is considered one of the best winery restaurants in the world.
Those of us seated at round tables in the Inn by the Sea’s private dining room agreed that there was no better place to be last night than right there, enjoying chef Kaldrovich’s excellent food and chatting with him a bit when he introduced each course. His pride in the cuisine of Argentina was evident in the flaky pastry of the empanada, the deeply flavorful second course — canelones stuffed with blue cheese, ricotta and kale, with bison ragu — and the main course of tender, meaty short ribs, one of which was enrobed in a crispy coating and deep fried, a nod to the “milanese” style of cooking meats in Argentina.
If you want to experience the Argentine wine dinner, you’ll have to wait until February 2015. But the Inn hosts other special dinners throughout the year, including 3-course menus seasonal produce, starting in June. Sign up for the Inn by the Sea’s mailing list for advance notice of these and other events.