In the words of winemaker Mark Neal of Neal Family Vineyards, “You’ve got to start with the best ingredients.” For over 30 years, Virginia Highlands mainstay Murphy’s has been combining wonderful food within warm, homey walls, adding up to the perfect marriage of neighborhood joint and gourmet destination eatery. Along with Neal and his lovely Napa Valley wines, Executive Chef Andy Tran, a recent arrival at Murphy’s, Erica and I were recently part of a wine dinner that celebrated the outgoing winter, the upcoming spring, and good wine.
We began the evening with what would be my favorite dish all night: a perfectly seared scallop with parsnip puree lime, and trout roe. The scallop itself was like butter, tender, but with necessary caramelization; the roe added these lovely flavor bursts of umami; the puree unified the whole dish. The first course also featured what I considered the best wine pairing with a 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, and its green apple and citrus notes make this the perfect wine for seafood and general summer sipping.
The charred cauliflower featured in the second course was a testament to vegetables being prepared simply and well. The presentation, with citrus, sorghum, and raw pecans, was a work of art, and the mint leaves added a fascinating, earthy accent I’d never noticed in the herb before. It was paired with the 2014 Rutherford Dust Vineyard Zinfandel, in my opinion, a bold and unconventional choice for cauliflower.
An homage to the allegedly vanishing winter, our third course featured a lamb stew and baguette that, were I frivolously rich, would be my lunch order every day from November through March. On first glance, the baguette looks over-abundant, but you’ll want every bit of it to soak up the stew’s amazing broth. It was paired with a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon that was a blend of several vineyards, and it had a really interesting tart quality that, to me, was much needed considering how rich the stew was.
It’s no secret I’m a sucker for a great steak and the hangar steak with bok choy and gremolata was surprisingly light, considering how heavy beef can often be. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was rich and easily my second favorite pairing of the evening because there really is nothing more wonderfully timeless than steak and red wine.
We finished the meal with a creamy almond panna cotta with a blood orange syrup, and was served with the 2013 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance. The rich, thick dessert wine was a favorite of Napoleon’s after battles, and was a fun, sophisticated end to a truly stellar meal.
Murphy’s is an Atlanta classic, and with Andy Tran helming the kitchen, its reputation as an Atlanta gem will continue. This summer, it’s also definitely worth investing in some bottles of Neal Family Vineyard wines. Call Murphy’s adjacent wine shop or your favorite local wine purveyors and sample some of these delightful wines.
Rachel Boyd is an Atlanta native, holds degrees from the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University, and is a reformed picky eater (still trying to overcome an irrational shrimp-phobia). Non-cooking-related passions include her Great Dane-Bulldog mix, volunteer work, and half marathons with the Atlanta Track Club, bourbon, binge-watching detective shows, reading all the books, learning French, cute bearded dudes, and spending time on her best friend’s farm.