Corks+Forks: Terra Plata’s Morels and Barolo

Photo by Angie Norwood Browne

Chef Tamara Murphy cooks, writes and shows love to local grub and rustic European wines.

If there is ever an excuse to drink Barolo, take it. Although many and most Italian winemakers will debate they produce the greatest juice to ever have been bestowed upon their country, there is only one rightful king to the throne — Barolo. Affectionately dubbed as “the wine of kings and the king of wines,” DOCG Barolo is about as real deal as the meal can get. The grape behind the crown is Nebbiolo, the Piemontese variety that’s name means fog and is derived from the alabaster cloud that appears during its October harvest where many of the vineyards are planted, providing the grapes with a unique climate and badass appeal.

Renato Ratti Winery and Vineyard.

The finished wine is one of royal nobility. Sporting a nose for days of floral tones, dark dried fruits, tar and oak spice, Barolos are exquisite, elegant and refined. Barolo is also a wine that requires royally obnoxious patience — because of the fruit’s intensely tannic demeanor (and its time spent in copious oak contact), Barolo can take up to 10 years in the bottle before it really starts to showcase its true regal colors.

Likewise to the wine, Seattle has its own queen of the (food) court — Tamara Murphy, chef, cookbook author and restauranteur of two decades who launched the recently shuttered Campagne to its highest points as its executive chef in the 1990s, brought Belltown the defunct Brasa, Elliot Bay Cafes and now Terra Plata in the triangularly fetching Melrose Market.

Murphy’s elaborate and storied resume boasts several nods from the James Beard Foundation, including the title of the Best Chef of the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii in 1995 and flagrant fan love from Food and Wine Magazine (listed her as one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America), Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Food Arts and The New York Times as well as adoration from her loyal local publications.

Photo by Angie Norwood Browne

According to Seattle Weekly, Murphy had a hell of a time opening her new joint on Capitol Hill — an anticipated three month build-out of the restaurant ended up costing her two years all because of a squabble over a fuse box location with developers.

Seemingly intrigued by wood and an air for the rustic once finally built, Murphy’s “earth to plate” restaurant idea really is a love song to the earth and its nourishing gifts. “[The] concept is the result of my love for creative and delicious plates inspired by the seasons and made possible by our local growers and artisan producers,” Murphy states on the restaurant’s website. Her wine list and signature cocktails equally complement the same sentiment – wines focused on earth and dusty fruit with libations acting as harbingers for the season’s freshest ingredients.

The Dish: The Morels ($19) — If you are new to this shroom, it ain’t cheap. Even dried, which requires at-home cooks to rehydrate them at their own risk, these stocking cap resembling puppies are pricey. That should reveal how generous Ms. Murphy actually is. Put on display with brandied currants, creme fraiche, wild watercress and a scattering of pecorino cheese, this is an entree-portion size of mushrooms and set up as the main attraction to savor bite after deliciously earthy and meaty bite.

The Variety: Barolo — I promise you can pair red wine with something other than a meat protein. I know! It’s true! Nebbiolo (be it Langhe Rosso, Barbaresco or Barolo) is the signature on that guarantee, it almost goes best with mushrooms, or dishes accompanied by shrooms, courtesy to its earth-driven, floral, dried dark fruits and cinnamon spice.

Why It Works: Rule of thumb is to keep kindred spirits together by matching the earthier mushrooms (chanterelle or trumpets) with earthier wines (like Pinot Noir or Merlot) and the meatier mushrooms (portobello or porcinis) with meatier wines, like Barolo.

The Recommended Match: Renato Ratti 2006 Marcenasco DOCG Barolo ($45) — Renato Ratti is a demi-god in respect to Barolo. For as esteemed/bloated/controversial in style and self-proclaimed title of the best, Barolo hasn’t been around long and it didn’t really hit its stride until the 1980’s. With a significant amount of experience under their belt, Renato Ratti has been producing this particular Barolo since 1965. Strong, sturdy yet stealthily poised and sophisticated, the 2006 is starting to come into its true form (through only six years of age). The 2005 got much love from the critics too but be prepared to throw down an extra Jackson for that one.

Wooly and meaty in texture and flavor profile, the nose takes the cake with a myriad of aromas ranging from earth, tobacco and clay to bramble fruit, dark cherry and roses. All of which should draw the drinker more into the allure and temptation of pairing Barolo and mushrooms all the time.

Terra Plata | 1501 Melrose Avenue, Seattle | (206) 325-1501