Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Perfect Pair: Dessert at Bibiana

Capital Cooking Contributor

It has been just months since the arrival of Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca's new pastry chef, Jemil Gadea. But already he's allowing his creativity to flow into the restaurant's dessert menu. Going seasonal, and often whimsical, Gadea is loosening up from the ultra-fine dining atmosphere that he was used to back in his old Vegas stomping grounds, and guests will find that in his work.

There's no shortage of fantastic indulgence at this restaurant. Once you're past that popular-for-a-reason black spaghetti with crab entree, move on to a dessert and wine pairing to round out your meal.

At times, there are preconceived notions that rules apply in choosing a wine in a pairing, but the key is striking a balance. I found that one wine could hold its own to two very different desserts.

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2008
Take the Donnafugata Ben Ryé. The wine is made in southern Italy from 100% Zabibbo grapes, which are dried after harvest to attain a raisin-like quality . The result is a dessert wine that takes its sweetness in subtlety. It's just syrupy enough to coat the tongue with flavors of dried fruit and honey, yet it also carries a certain crispness.

It pairs well with Bibiana's Budino, a creamy ricotta custard. The light vanilla dessert is complimented by crunchy carrot tuile, toasted pistachios, pineapple sauce, and beet gelato. The Ben Ryé's fruity qualities match well with this dessert, enhancing the fruit flavors and balancing the light plate in its mildly syrupy and crisp nature.

Chef Gadea's chocolate Crispelle with walnut gelato
By the same token, the same wine can hold its own to a plate of rich chocolate. The Crespelle is a dessert for the chocolate lover. A soft crepe is covered with chocolate creme, rolled and placed inside a chocolate tuile. The crispy exterior reveals a spongy surprise inside. Fans of the familiar hazelnut-chocolate combination will love the walnut gelato, which is sitting atop crunchy candied walnut pieces. It's a texturally complete dish--from crispy to soft to crunchy and creamy--and the Ben Ryé's caramel undertone and sweet finish are able to hold up individually while serving as a compliment to the dessert. If the goal is balance, the sweet wine achieves this with the bitterness of the dark chocolate.

Wines can pair with very different desserts to become great duos.
There's a great balance in each of the dessert plates at Bibiana, from luscious chocolate to fruit-forward plates, and each has a great wine pairing to match. And there's much more to look forward to on Bibiana's dessert menu. When asked what his go-to dessert is, Chef Gadea replies, "The panna cotta. It's really light. Like jello. There's always room for jello!"

Acclaimed restauranteur and Bibiana's owner, Ashok Bajaj, dropped in for an impromptu moment while making his nightly rounds. "This is the best pastry chef in the city!" he said with a smile, gripping Gadea's shoulders. "Write that down!" You know, the man has a point. Chef Gadea is certainly bringing his best to D.C., and it's apparent. But don't take Bajaj's word for it. Go and taste for yourself.

Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca on Urbanspoon

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