Perfect Pairings

April 8, 2011 8:31:51 PM PDT
Behind every celebrity chef is a team of hard-working support staff. That certainly holds true at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. While Rick Bayless is in Mexico now, shooting the eighth season of his TV show, his staff carries on.

Two members of that team in particular show an amazing ability to play off of each other.

Jill Gubesch has plenty to keep track of. As the Wine Director for Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, she is constantly monitoring both menus, coming up with inspired pairings, while being able to communicate her rationale to diners.

"I think it's really fun to show the guests varietals from places they may not seek out on their own," said Gubesch.

And as much fun as it might be to pair wine with mole or tamales, the real challenge comes in dessert pairings. Jennifer Jones is the Pastry Chef. She always has a goat's milk caramel, or cajeta, on her menu.

"We do our own cajeta, which is a great source of pride for us. So we always try to use that as much as possible," said Jones.

At Topolo, she fills crepes with plantain custard and crema ice cream, along with peanut marzipan; topping it with cajeta and chocolate. Gubesch goes for a tawny port from Portugal.

"I thought that dessert was all about the cajeta and the caramel and the toasted peanuts and I think of Tawny Niepoort when I think of caramel nuttiness in a dessert," said Gubesch.

Jones also has a killer masa cake that begins with a date anglaise and corn-coconut-cookie crumble in the bottom of the bowl.

"I love coconuts with dates and we found a wonderful date farm in California that we wanted to feature because it's a small that is doing great work. So we use those dates in with the coconut dessert, which is very traditional in Mexico," she said.

The steamed masa, or corn cake, is paired with coconut sorbet and some coconut "bubbles," giving it some texture.

"I love contrast in textures. So I love like an ice cream sundae with all the toppings that create the crunch and the chew with the candies and all of that," said Jones.

As for wine pairing, Gubesch goes for an Italian sweet wine.

"I really wanted to play off of the different interesting textures and spices and flavors that she went with, with the dates. I think whenever you have an oak-aged wine you get a little bit of coconut from the oak, which I thought really tied in with the coconut," said Gubesch.

Now the menu here at Topolobampo changes every four weeks so items like the masa cake may not be here by the time you get here. However, the crepes are always on the menu. And as for these inspired wine pairings, those will evolve depending on what comes out the kitchen.

Topolobampo is open for lunch as well as dinner.

445 N Clark St