The Generous Pour at the Capital Grille, Providence, RI

The Bedfellow and I took a trip to Newport this weekend to check out the folk festival. While we were watching Beth Orton and Shovels and Rope, and not watching Beck play ‘Sexx Laws’ because he was too busy exploring his emotions, we were invited to take a side trip to the Capital Grille in Providence to check out this year’s Generous Pour event.
As you know from last year’s event, seven to nine wines are selected, generally around a theme or specific region, and are offered at an upcharge of $25 per person to be paired alongside a three or four-course meal so diners can sample the entire selection without opening full bottles. This year centered around California wines above 90 points, playfully named ’90 in the Shade.’ We started our meal with a few appetizers, and the first three wines.
One of the appetizer specials sounded too good to pass up, the chilled Maryland crab cocktail with a spicy mustard sauce—and no, not just because of the sauce on the side. Eight hours in the sun at a music festival had me craving savory, cold protein, so with that and the Wagyu carpaccio with wasabi arugula, we were set to start a wonderful meal. The crab was perfect, with a light, savory chew and tender bite. It almost didn’t need the sauce on the side, for a drizzle of tart lemon enhanced the natural salinity of the meat.
Both meats were delicious on a whole, but could have benefitted from a reduction of extra enhancements on the side. The carpaccio was served with a wasabi arugula salad and shavings of fresh, nutty parmesan. Both delicious, but the melty, fatty flavor of the meat was overshadowed by the sharpness of the cheese. It paired well alongside the arugula, though, and may have been the only salad I’d have asked for seconds of.
With these appetizers and the classic Capital Grille breadbasket, filled with flatbread, poppy rolls, and raisin brown bread, were the three whites- a 2012 La Crema Pinot Gris, 2011 Matanzas Creek Sauvignon blanc, and 2011 Freemark Abbey Chardonnay. My favorite was the sauvignon blanc, which had a curious varietal flair to it, almost musky and caramely, with a highly perfumed nose and snappy, bright finish. The Freemark and La Crema were also tasty, neither oaky nor overly dry, but not as memorable in terms of their uniqueness and pairing alongside the food.
For entrees, we were both craving steak after a day of sandwiches and smoothies at the beach, so I ordered the 24-ounce Porterhouse and the Bedfellow went for some surf and turf with a filet mignon. To eat alongside, we requested half orders of the creamed corn with bacon, Parmesan and truffle fries, and lobster macaroni and cheese. We may have gone completely overboard, as the side portions were absolutely enormous. The steaks were served with four reds, starting with the two lighter wines, a 2005 Kendall Jackson Highland Estate Merlot, and the 2011 Hartford Court Pinot Noir, and the heavier-bodied following them, the 2009 Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Arrowood Syrah. I enjoyed them, but on a whole, did not find the selection as diverse as last year's world tour of wines. The merlot stood out the most for me, with a rich, chocolatey flavor and velvety finish, and could have easily stood its own against the syrah, which personally had less bottle age and depth to it, despite being the heavier of the choices.  
I asked for my steak to be cooked a shade to the left of medium rare, as I still wanted some crisp but also wanted to relish the joy of stabbing it dead with my fork on it . It was perfectly cooked, albeit a hair more done at the edges, as it was thinner on the sides. I could barely make a dent in it, as it turns out that two pounds of steak are reserved for the metabolistic superhumans of this world. My sangfroid dissolved with each warm-blooded bite. But what I did have was delicious, and I tucked into it with gusto. Simple, clean in flavor, and cooked as I pleased.
The filet was cooked perfectly, plenty rare in the middle and juicy pink on the outside, but had a few technical flaws that detracted from the simple flavor of the meat. For one, the entire plate was swimming in a flavorful parmesan, garlic, and butter sauce better suited to a plate of pasta than to two delicate and expensive proteins. While I’m hardly objecting to butter on steak, one of life’s greatest pairings, the amount was downright excessive and coated each bite. The lobster was enhanced by this, as it was slightly overcooked, but the steak just felt overly heavy alongside such a decadent sauce.
The Bedfellow isn’t crazy about Parmesan, so I alternated between bites of steak and fries throughout the meal. The fries were excellent and very crispy, and loaded with cheese and just the slightest hint of truffle oil and cilantro. The cheese made it difficult to get one fry without tearing a few others off it, as it melted them into one large metafry, but was still delicious alongside the meat.
Our other sides were massive, the creamed corn being the Cinderella story of the night, perfectly balancing the gap between overly rich, dairy-heavy corn and plain vegetables with the bacon and, presumably, the bacon fat melting into the corn. It was fresh and served rustically with some larger segments of corn as if it had been recently shucked. Smoky and very summery.
And of course, I couldn't take the Bedfellow here without having her try the famous lobster macaroni and cheese. This one was particularly heavy on the mascarpone, which I loved, and the pasta cooked exceptionally well, cradling the cheeses in its horn-shaped pieces. This is my favorite usage of campanelle. Oddly enough, the lobster was perfectly cooked in this, leading me to wonder if two different people had been cooking the lobster tails and the claw pieces in the pasta.
After that part of the feast, we'd saved just enough room for dessert. Our sweet server, who had been doubling both as a sommelier and dutiful waiter all evening, brought us a slice of flourless espresso chocolate cake from the chef, and we ordered some of their coconut creme pie alongside our coffees to finish off the meal before we went back to our tent. The cake was light, fluffy, and deeply infused with all the flavonoid glory to go with the dessert wine, a non-porty Zinfandel port from Sonoma County.
The coconut pie was the perfect way to finish the meal, and I'm unashamed to say that I'd been waiting all year for it- the fluffy cream, the boozy caramel, and the thick, salted crust complemented it all so well. I missed the crispy cookie on top, though! 
It was a wonderful meal and honestly, an even better breakfast when we woke up the next morning for the second day of the folk  festival. A special, big thanks to the team at the Providence location and the PR folks for the Capital Grille for having us for dinner.

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