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top pairing

Top Pair: Mediterranean Cuisine, Meet Hawaii

by Jeff Harding with Antoinette Bruno with photos by Antoinette Bruno
Vol. 18
January 2012   

Sometimes a wonderful dish and wine combine into something greater than the sum of its parts. This was the case at our recent tasting at Beach Tree Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii. While the al fresco seating, tropical breezes, and live Hawaiian music of this tropical getaway certainly didn't hurt, it's clear in these knock-out pairings that Chef Nick Mastrascusa and Sommelier Charles Wilson are a duo synced up.

When the hotel closed for renovations after the 2011 tsunami, Mastrascusa and Wilson had the chance to travel to Italy and stayed at the Guado al Tasso Estate, so Antinori wines are some of their current favorites. Also much loved by these two are the wines of Joe Bastianich, who joined the team for a wine event while in Hawaii to compete in the 2011 Iron Man Competition. Just another example of how knowing the vineyard and the winemaker makes the heart grow fonder for the wine.

  • Chef Nick Mastrascusa
  • Chef de Cuisine Nick Mastrascusa currently oversees all culinary aspects of Beach Tree Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Prior to his tenure at the famed 57 restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel New York, he honed his culinary talents at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, and the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, both in Florida. Mastrascusa also opened Hoquart 2000 restaurant in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he grew up and played on the national soccer team.

    A graduate of the Culinary Arts program at Johnson and Wales College, Miami, Florida, Mastrascusa credits his grandparents, who immigrated to Uruguay from Spain and Sicily, for inspiring his passion for cooking. “Both my grandmothers always welcomed friends and family into their homes for casual but delicious meals,” says Mastrascusa. “The new Beach Tree will have that same familiar, warm, and welcoming environment for our resort guests.”

    Mastrascusa uses fresh, artisanal, and for the most part, local ingredients to create dishes that are Italian with California and tropical touches—everything from signature pizzas and pastas to mango gazpacho. “I’m amazed by the high quality and range of produce that is grown on the Big Island,” said Mastrascusa. “I’m just beginning to explore all the possibilities.”

  • Sommelier Charles Wilson
  • Charles “Chuck” Wilson is the restaurant manager and sommelier of Beach Tree Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. A seasoned restaurateur, Wilson has 12 years of experience in the business, between Las Vegas and Hawaii.

    Prior to joining Four Seasons in 2008, Wilson was a restaurant manager at the Hilton Waikaloa Village. His career began in Las Vegas, where he most recently served as general manager of Wynn Resort & Casino’s country club restaurant. During his time in Las Vegas, he also served as general manager at China Grill and assistant general manager at rumjungle, both located at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

    The Raytown, Missouri, native is a graduate of Southwest Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Arts in communications. Wilson enjoys golf, reading, and cheering on his beloved Kansas City Royals and Chiefs.

Vermentino, Marchesi Antinori, Tenuta Guado Al Tasso, Bolgheri, Italy, 2010
Wild Shrimp, Fennel, Avocado, and Citrus Salad
Pairing Note
The rustic elegance of this pairing is a perfect culinary representation of the restaurant: simple, classic, elegant. It’s a great fit for the climate and outdoor setting and calls to mind dining at an Italian sidewalk café. The dish is a classic Sicilian salad with a Hawaiian touch: the radishes are pickled with Maui brown sugar and Kona deep sea salt. Wilson feels the light bodied, crisp Vermentino is a great match for the climate and a perfect match with the shrimp and fennel. The Sicilian citrus bounces off the light acidity of the peach and apricot in the Vermentino, which cuts the mild richness of the shrimp.
Friulano, Bastianich, Friuli, Italy, 2009
Mascarpone, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza
Pairing Note
The mouthwatering zesty bite of a great Friulano is a classic pairing with prosciutto. But Wilson goes one better, matching this medium-bodied white wine to enhance the creaminess of the mascarpone, which in turn highlights the whisper of almonds on the nose. The saltiness of the San Daniele prosciutto and the bitterness of the local arugula are countered by the ripe pear and fresh minerality in the wine. Again, each component is tasted as its own element, but the combination conjures an entirely new palate experience.
Chianti Classico, Antinori, Peppoli, Italy, 2008
Gnocchi with Ox Tail Ragout
Pairing Note
Wilson refers to this dish as “Pillows of Heaven,” and who couldn’t resist that? Mastrascusa uses his grandmother’s recipe, and says that baking the russet potatoes is key to the fluffy gnocchi. The richness of the dish calls for a fairly big red, and the Chianti Classico fits the bill exactly. The sweet tannins in the wine bring out the sweet wine reduction in the ragout, and the vanilla and coffee notes offer a sweet-bitter combo that enhances the herbs and veal stock in the sauce. A little Merlot and Syrah in the blend highlight the fruity tomato and light pepper of the dish, balanced by the creamy lightness of the gnocchi.
Tempranillo, Miguel Torres, “Celeste,” Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2007
Paella with Locally Raised Seafood, Chicken, and Spicy Chorizo
Pairing Note
Paella is a rustic dish, so Wilson's choice here is a rustic wine. In their version of “Spain Meets Hawaii,” Mastrascusa creates an international dish that brings all corners of the world together but adds a Hawaiian touch: baby lobster flown in from Maine and grown to maturity in Hawaii, and the rice, chorizo, and paprika are from Spain. The fruity components of the Tempranillo direct your attention to the mild spices and sweetness of the local seafood. The stronger spices of the chorizo might become too hot, as the alcohol content is 13 percent, but the wet style of rice (learned from Mastrascusa's mother) calms down the alcoholic heat, and lets the food’s spices sing. Again, different styles and ingredient locales blend for a synergistic whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
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