The New Standard and Tim’s Wine Market Rescue Date Night!
Enjoying a memorable date night in quarantine can be a bit challenging. Every day seems like a Groundhog’s Day version of the previous one. And ordering restaurant take out is now part of the routine. As a result, you have to put in a bit of extra effort and creativity to turn another night at home into a “Perfect Date.”
Thankfully, The New Standard and Tim’s Wine Market came to the rescue of 35 Orlando area couples with their first Virtual Wine Dinner. All the work was done for us. The result: a truly epic, dare I say “Perfect Date” night!
But, it was not without interesting challenges. Read on and find out how this perfect date night all came together and why you don’t want to miss the next Virtual Wine Dinner!
Any Night Can Be a Perfect Date Night!
The “Perfect Date” was Friday April 17th, 2020. Not April 25th for Miss Congeniality fans. It was “not too hot, not too cold” in Orlando that night but I didn’t need a light a jacket. In fact we could have worn our PJs. We opted instead to get out of our current daily “uniform” and dress up. The Lord knows we have not done that in weeks! (I even put on makeup!)
And a three course expertly prepared dinner with perfectly paired wines was definitely the way to step up our ho-hum take out and create a special occasion.
Wine dinners are inherently social affairs, where part of the charm is being able to chat with fellow wine lovers, hear from the chef and learn from an expert sommelier or wine maker. However, having a similar restaurant-like experience while in the comfort of your own home, had its own unique charm.
How The Virtual Wine Dinner Works
If you’re wondering how this whole Virtual Wine Dinner thing worked out, you’re not alone. I was quite intrigued how they would pull it off. There’s a lot of moving parts behind the scenes. But we never saw that. The whole process was easy and well organized.
First, RSVP over the phone with Tim’s Wine Market by the order date deadline (a few days prior). Then pick up your food and wine at The New Standard restaurant during the pick up window, the day of event between 4pm-6pm. Some items were finished once we arrived to ensure maximum quality, so plan to have a few minutes wait once you arrive.
The food was nicely packaged to travel. It held up quite well even with a 45 minute drive from the restaurant to our home.
We made an effort and set up our table with white linens and cloth napkins. Pulled out the nice plates and polished our Riedel wine glasses. You certainly don’t need to do that. However, it added to the ambiance and made the night feel more special.
Easy plating and re-heating instructions were provided. The first course simply needed plating. The second course required us to slice the tomatoes and plate. It was fun to attempt our very best restaurant style plating. How do you think we did?
The wine was decanted, as recommended. And we tuned in to Tim’s Wine Market YouTube channel for a short pre-recorded video where Tim Varan, owner of Tim’s Wine Market and Chef Ryan McLaughlin of The New Standard introduced each course and wine pairing.
At 7pm, we tuned in to Facebook and Instagram LIVE to taste along with Tim and Lonnie from Tim’s Wine Market and Chef Ryan and GM Erin Shay from The New Standard. It was a casual way to chat and they shared their thoughts on the pairings and answered our questions.
Dine at Your Own Pace!
One of the nice aspects of the virtual wine dinner experience at home vs. being in the restaurant was being able to dine at our own pace. Due to the distance from the restaurant to our house, we didn’t get the food home until almost 7pm; just in time for the Live broadcast. We watched as we were plating, sipping the first wine (and taking photos.) And didn’t sit down to eat until about 8:30pm.
And, here’s the best part. As you may know from your own take out fails, not all restaurant food travels and reheats well. This is a big challenge right now as all restaurants compete for our take out dollars. Chef Ryan did an outstanding job of preparing a menu that would travel and reheat well. Allowing us to enjoy a restaurant quality hot meal, hours later!
The Chef’s Challenges of a Virtual Wine Dinner During Covid-19
I asked Chef Ryan McLaughlin about the challenges of putting together his first virtual wine dinner. After all, this seems historic from a foodie perspective!
The chef’s first criteria when devising the menu was “what would travel well without compromising the integrity of the food. What could be easily assembled, reheated or keep well for a day, if those ordering wanted to wait until Saturday to enjoy the dinner.” says McLaughlin.
“Packaging was also another thing that we’re always thinking about these days. Prior to the pandemic we weren’t set up for delivery, and take out orders were minimal. That being said, we learned pretty quickly about take out containers and what worked best.” he says.
Giving instructions to diners on how to put the food together once they got home was another challenge. Let’s face it. Not everyone has the affinity or skill in the kitchen. For this reason, the chef put every course together how he would serve it in the restaurant and showcased it in the introduction video. The instructions of what to do for each course were also simple and straightforward.
The last challenge we can all relate to if we’ve been to a grocery store in the past four weeks is the availability of certain ingredients. “It’s becoming slightly more difficult to get certain items each day,” says McLaughlin. “But we’ve been following everything going on and staying informed, so we know what we can get and what may be a little harder to get.”
I say “Kudos!” to Chef Ryan and his team. They managed through these challenges for a successful new kind of event in these challenging times.
Who knows, but this may become the new normal!
The Wine Connoisseur’s Challenges of hosting a Virtual Wine Dinner during Covid-19
There were challenges as well from a wine pairing perspective. Typically during a wine dinner in a restaurant, you get to sample a different wine with each course. And, that usually involves a smaller pour, which in turn helps keep the cost down. For a virtual three course dinner at home, it was not feasible to include three bottles of wine. Both from a cost perspective as well as over-consumption. Although I bet some would have been up to that challenge! Thus selecting one wine to pair with more than one course was key. Tim did beautifully with the 2016 Chanzy Bouzeron Aligote “Les Trois.”
Another challenge as mentioned above was how to provide the social and educational component of a wine dinner in a virtual environment. “The ability to interact with customers and explain the pairings and what makes them unique.” says Tim Varan, owner of Tim’s Wine Market. Since his first wine store opened on Orange Avenue in 1995, he and his knowledgeable staff have educated thousands of people on the merits of artisan made wines.
His solution to counteract the fact we were not chatting face to face, was engaging the customers through a detailed write up of the wines, an introduction video on YouTube and the live chat on Instagram and Facebook. (you can take a look here to get an idea!)
“Based on the comments we received on Insta and FB I think we really hit. We also had to rush to produce the video. A Herculean task by my nephew Lee Pancake, to deliver in less than 24 hours and make it look professional.”
Technology can be a challenge all on its own, even in the best of times. Doing a live feed for the first time with no idea what you’re doing is nerve-wrecking. Thankfully Tim had his daughter, a PR firm pro, to give him pointers and help out with the video while he was live.
I agree Tim and his “crew” did a fabulous job! We learned a great deal about the wines and enjoyed having him (with his family in the background) discussing the meal along with us.
The Fun Part of the Virtual Wine Dinner. It was genuine!
It wasn’t all challenges though. This current pandemic has also allowed chefs and business owners the opportunity to be creative and innovative. And to learn new skills.
“The most fun part of this whole thing would have to be doing a virtual wine dinner for the first time.”Chef Ryan McLaughlin – The New Standard
McLaughlin adds the importance of doing special events like this to bring in additional sources of revenue at this time is also greater than it’s ever been. “Being able to bring in a few extra employees that we unfortunately haven’t been able to bring in lately as we’ve had to scale back during these times was awesome as well” he says.
Supporting local businesses is not only good for us but good for the community. And that spirit of collaboration and community made it all happen.
“It was fun to be able to collaborate with Tim to do this and we’re honored that he reached out to us, so that we could put this together and prepare some great food that is paired with some great wines!” says McLaughlin.
For Tim Varan, the fun part of this Virtual Wine Dinner was the opportunity to work with both his daughters and his wife. She “really helped with the food and the live feed, despite not wanting to appear on camera.” he says.
He enjoyed chatting with Chef Ryan on the live feed. “I dove into the “interview” with him without any preparation or planned questions, it developed organically.” he says.
“I found myself asking him (Chef Ryan) some weird questions. “what to do with the leftovers? As if there were any….”Tim Varan, Tim’s Wine Market
There were no leftovers! But it was still good to know what to do with them if we did. Chef Ryan “was a trooper and endured the process and I think our customers really liked it.” says Varan.
And that we did! We enjoyed the casual feel to the live feed. It was not polished or timed. It was genuine and authentic. And that, is the key to doing anything successfully on social media.
Let’s Start with Charcuterie & Cheese
A beautiful Charcuterie and Cheese board is always a great way to start a nice dinner. A generous portion of cured meats & artisan cheeses with all the accompaniments. Whole grain mustard, pickled vegetables, house made granola, house made soda crackers & crostini.
The meats included Coppa Creminelli, a dry aged pork with clove, similar to prosciutto; and Lomo Embuchado, dry cured Iberian pork loin, similar to Jamon Serrano. Both were outstanding.
The cheeses included Manchego, a sheep’s milk firm cheese from Spain. And Humboldt Fog, a goat’s milk cheese with an edible ash center line made in California.
The wine pairing for first and second course was 2016 Chanzy Bouzeron Aligote “Les Trois”, Burgundy France. “For the white we needed a wine with good acidity and body, so several options were available, Gruner Veltliner, Italian whites from the Campania region and even a good Rose would have worked. Ultimately we landed on Aligote because it is a pretty unique variety and one with a good story. The “other” wine of Burgundy.” says Varan.
Local Tastes: Waterkist Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad
The second course consisted of the restaurant’s popular Deconstructed Greek Salad with heirloom tomatoes, feta mousse, cucumbers, pickled red onions, kalamata olives, oregano & olive oil. I tasted this dish during my first visit to the restaurant and was hooked. (Read my 9 Reasons to Visit The New Standard. This salad was one of them!)
The freshness of the tomatoes, the creamy feta mousse (which would convince even a non feta lover to love it) the briny olives and pickled red onions were perfect compliment.
After determining what would travel well, the next most important criteria driving the menu for the chef was for it to be seasonal and local. “Spring has always been one of my favorite seasons to cook in, with all the great ingredients that are typically available. For the second course we have beautiful heirloom tomatoes from Waterkist farms. This is traditionally their busiest time of the year at the farm, where production is at its highest.” says McLaughlin.
It’s noteworthy for The New Standard to remain true to their commitment to support local farmers and source locally, as well as prepare all items from scratch during a time like this.
We lingered on these first two courses – which we actually enjoyed simultaneously as we were drinking the wine. We watched the live feed, chatted about the wines and even talked about our dream to visit Spain and France once again. We’d love to explore the Burgundy and Bordeaux wine regions. Food always has a way to inspire travel in our house. We look forward to the days when we can freely travel about the world once again.
And since The New Standard is also a live music venue, they’ve been supporting local music acts by featuring them on Facebook Live. After our dinner, we tuned in to watch the band performing live at the restaurant. Although the video quality wasn’t great, the sound was awesome. It certainly provided a fun way to continue “the restaurant experience.” A unique option compared to the typical “let’s see what’s on TV!”
Braised Short Ribs and a guaranteed clean plate!
The main course consisted of Braised Short Ribs with Sunchoke purée, spring peas, grilled spring onion chimichurri, demi glacé and herbs. It was chosen primarily for its fat content and how it would travel.
“Proteins with higher fat content are easier to reheat and keep because they don’t dry out or overcook as quickly as a steak would.” says McLaughlin.
Although braised meats are more predominant on menus in the fall and winter, McLaughlin lightened up the dish with a taste of spring. The sunchoke purée, spring peas and spring onion and scallion chimichurri gave it a pop of flavor and brightness.
These plates were practically licked clean!
The Wine pairing: 2017 Chateau Laplagnotte Bellevue, St Emilion. “For the red we could have chosen just about anything, short ribs are easy.” says Varan. “I chose a Merlot based Bordeaux because it shows the “Cabernet is king” crowd that Merlot is not just relevant, but still a noble variety, especially from the right bank of Bordeaux.“
Discovering New Wines!
Wine dinners have always been a great opportunity for wine lovers to discover new wines. Wines that we would not have ordinarily picked up off the shelf. We enjoyed them both immensely and will be buying additional bottles to add to our (quickly dwindling) wine stock.
“My goal with all wine dinners is to expose customers to new wines, trying to push out of their comfort zone.” says Varan.
The wine pairings for this dinner also showcased how one wine can pair with multiple dishes as long as you focus on the acidity and structure of the wines. “For the white, acidity and minerality create the frame and focus. For the red it was minerality and tannin so the obvious choice was Bordeaux.” says Varan.
Don’t Miss The Next Virtual Wine Dinner: Italy!
A trip to the Veneto region of Italy is on my bucket list! Since we can’t travel right now, I’m excited to let my taste buds lead the way. For the second Virtual Wine Dinner on Friday May 8th, Dexter’s New Standard in partnership with Tim’s Wine Market will take us on a virtual journey to Italy! It’s a perfect way to kick off Mother’s Day weekend.
The wines will be sourced from Inama, a vineyard in Veneto. The white wine will be a Soave Classico from their single-grape vineyard in Foscarino to pair with the first two courses. The red wine will be the Bradisismo Veneto Rosso from the Berici hills. For an added bonus, winemaker Alessio Inama will join the event via live stream! How cool is that?
Take a look at the menu and the great value!
- First Course: Antipasto of Olives, anchovies, cured meats and cheeses
- Second Course: Build-Your-Own Bruschetta with Crostini with various savory toppings
- Third Course: Pork Ossobuco, served with polenta, sautéed greens and pan jus
- Dessert: Tiramisu
- Price: $135 per couple, additional meals $40. (Includes four courses, plus two 750 mL bottles of wine)
The New Standard during Covid-19
If you have not checked out The New Standard, now is the time to do so! They’re currently offering a “Market & Bakeshop” menu with a large variety of items including fresh produce from local Waterkist Farms, Living Hydroponic Lettuce, and Nearby Naturals Mushrooms. Fresh made pastas and breads, sauces, spreads and dips. Sandwich kits, charcuterie, cheeses, house made crackers, soups, a variety of baked goods (their pastry chef is a rock star!) and pre-made cocktails, wine and beer to go. Order by 1pm on Monday for Wednesday pickup or delivery and by 1pm on Wednesday for Friday delivery.
For more info, follow on social media and visit their website.
I hope you’re inspired to celebrate at home and keep your travel dreams alive. #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time. If you do make this recipe, please share on social media and tag @goepicurista #GoEpicRecipes. I would love to virtually clink glasses with you.
Disclosure: I was a hosted media guest for this event for promotional purposes. I am under no obligation to share this post. As always, all opinions are my own. I only share with you products and experiences I love to inspire you to safely get together with family and friends, celebrate life and go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time! You can read more about my guidelines in my disclosure policy. Cheers!