Sage Elevates Pairings with Artistry and Accessibility

Good Bite

Photo taken by Andrew Fabian

Chef Chris Covelli just cannot sit still. The accomplished world traveler and chef always seems to have something new stewing in a stockpot, some obscure cookbook dog-eared on an old folk dish or a jar of veggies pickling in an experimental blend of herbs and spices. And even as he and Sage’s ownership seek to expand their fine dining empire with the acquisition of Bijou Café in Downtown, Chef Covelli and sidekick Brett Wagner found time to create a summer menu of dishes both swanky and thoughtful, and even win a “Wine Spectator” award of excellence along the way.

The first standout is the seared foie gras first course. An appetizing grid of sear marks line the foie gras, which comes atop an apricot compote, itself spread upon a parmesan polenta cake. The arrangement on its own is a decadent and inspired bit of culinary freestyle as it blends sweet, savory and richness in a way that honors traditional platings of foie gras while going beyond them. But then the blackberries that adorn the edge of the artfully plated stack are themselves a statement, pickled as they are in kimchi liquid.

An ideal wine pairing from Sage’s cellar is the 2017 Eldorado Gold from Ferrari-Carano, a Sauternes-style dessert wine made with Botrytised Semillon grapes. Similar in complex sweetness to a Hungarian Tokaj aszu wine on the higher end of the puttonyos rating system, the liquid candy’s notes of apricot in the bouquet and honey or crème brulee on the palate pairs perfectly with the silky savoriness of the foie gras.

From the main course menu, an annatto-crusted pork belly offers a similarly luxurious experience. Braised for over four hours, the fat in the pork belly is rendered expertly to melt in the mouth rather than pose a challenge in chewing. Topped with a garlicky charred gremolata, Covelli found a unique accompaniment in the form of sunchokes, similar to Jerusalem artichokes, and these he chops and roasts into something that looks like roasted fingerling potatoes but taste more vegetal. Finally, it all sits on a thin layer of fennel tomatillo puree that rounds out the look and flavor profile of the plate with its bright green hue and hint of sweet-and-sour.

In typical Covelli fashion, wine pairings at Sage never mean breaking the bank. “I was always taught to go low-to-medium in cost,” says Covelli, “and that the expensive stuff is just to show off.” In this spirit, a smooth 2019 Rioja Tempranillo from Honoro Vera has a fruit-forward flavor with a savory cocoa finish that’s low in acidity.

Sage’s summer menu runs through September 5, at which point Sage closes for renovations for the month of September and reopens October 5.

Photo taken by Andrew Fabian

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