Since the departure of opening chef Yehuda Sichel and consulting chef, Michael Solomonov, Citron and Rose, the kosher restaurant in Merion owned by David Magerman, has been busy redefining itself. A new chef, Karen Nicolas, was brought in from the critically acclaimed Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Brunch and lunch services have begun. And on the evening of July 24, the restaurant hosted its very first winemaker’s dinner.
A sold-out crowd of 20 diners — an impressive number, considering it was the inaugural event in the series and that it was taking place on a Wednesday night at the end of July — was shoehorned into Citron and Rose’s private dining room, where they were introduced to Joe Hurliman, the winemaker for California's Herzog Wine Cellars.
Hurliman, an energetically affable presence in the packed room, was making his first visit to the Philadelphia area. Judging by the wines he brought with him, he definitely wanted to make a good first impression.
The five wines he paired with Nicolas’ eclectic cuisine were chosen during the course of two months’ worth of conversations and preparations between the two.
The collaboration was evident from the first pairing, an amuse of buckwheat blinis with chive custard and tomato caviar and a Dappier brut NV. A surprisingly high alcohol-content 2010 Russian River chardonnay revealed its creamier melon aspects when imbibed after a bite of fluke crudo with summer melon, radish and mustard curd. A duo of cabernet sauvignons played off against each other when sampled with duck two ways (spiced breast and confit leg).
A 2009 Mount Veeder iteration had peppery, slightly conserve notes that sang after a bite of the spiced breast, while the more subtle, well-mannered finish of a 2009 Chalk Hill made a perfect foil for the richness of the confit. And a refreshingly just-sweet-enough late-harvest orange muscat was an ideal companion for the citrus and tropical summer swirls surrounding a (kosher, remember!) almond panna cotta.
Sadly, none of the five dishes prepared for the meal — the aforementioned items, as well as a mushroom pierogi with deliciously salty/crispy sweetbreads and generously sliced discs of summer truffle — are on the restaurant’s regular menu, but they certainly made for an impressive introduction to what Nicolas is doing on Montgomery Avenue.
One final note: None of the Herzog wines are available in the state stores — shocker, I know. That said, they are available at Rosenberg Judaica and Wine, just down the street at 144 Montgomery Avenue.