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Trellis climbs to heights with sherry dinner pairings

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Love wine dinners, so when a friend recommended one recently that paired Spanish sherries with some creative dishes, I was intrigued. Happily, in spite of its very reasonable price, the event exceeded expectations. Susan Dove, general manager and sommelier at Trellis Restaurant, 2426 N. Racine, put on a unique dinner with sherries from Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana supplied by Classical Wines from Spain, Ltd.

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First course, a generous portion of nicely cooked - happily not chewy - Chilled Octopus & Calamari with a light dressing of preserved lemon and caper berry. It was paired with an exquisitely dry sherry with a hint of burnt aroma called La Gitana Manzanilla.

Next came a plate-sized. nearly paper-thin serving of raw marinated Beef Carpaccio seasoned with dehydrated olives, macron almonds, and anchovy vinaigrette. Moist and tasty, it was served with a small stack of grilled bread and accompanied by Napolean Amontillado. Amontillados are naturally aged versions of the best fino sherries - halfway between fino and oloroso, 6 to 8 years old with a nutty flavor.

And then! We were served a helping of Guinea Hen with seasonal mushroom risotto, aged gruyere, and porcini demi glace. Vaguely reminiscent of your grandmother's cream-of-mushroom-soup rice casserole, it was oh-so-much richer and more complex. The hen meat was meltingly tender and delicious. This was my favorite dish of the whole dinner and went beautifully with the Faraon Oloroso, an intense yet dry, silky-feeling sherry with the elegance, balance and savour I expect from sherry. This was also my favorite sherry of the evening.

Dessert consisted of Cappuccino Pot de Creme, served on a plank with nevaditos cookies (made with shortening and white wine!), sugared almonds, figs, and cabrales cheese (a deeply blue variety). Everything was delicious and paired nicely with two completely different dessert sherries. The winemaker's notes: "Alameda Cream is based on an aged Faraon oloroso with a touch of Triana Pedro Ximenez that gives just the right sweetness for a cream sherry. The Triana Pedro Ximenez that's used to sweeten the Alameda is also bottled on its own in very limited quantities. Satin smooth and intense yet complex."

Trellis has a regular menu of carefully selected small plates (e.g., venison meatballs, prosecco cheese fondue), pizza (e.g., fig jam and bacon, summer squash and goat cheese), sandwiches (e.g., shaved leg of lamb, roast duck) and house specialties. Susan clearly cares very much that you have a positive experience at Trellis. Brunch menu looks very attractive, too.

Come sometime when it's not too crowded as the noise level can get high, but do come. Trellis, part of the Four Corners Tavern Group, is a lovely place with a feeling of elegant European comfort.

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