Event - Fleming's "Small Plates, Big Pours"

If you haven't been around yet to Fleming's for their Small Plates, Big Pours special, time is running out! You can enjoy for yourself this annual deal until June 30th of this year which is an order off the steakhouse's Small Plates menu paired with a Big Pour of a paired wine (approximately 1 1/2 the size of a normal pour) for only $24.95. I'd say that's a steal if you ask me (please note that this is an "at the bar only" type of special). We got the opportunity to take a look at the menu and learn more about both the upcoming Wine Country Brunch to be released and the WiNEPAD technology.

The tasting took place in the former wine cellar of Fleming's which has now become a handsome room, decorated along the walls with very unique art pieces. This change was just one part of the million-dollar renovation that took place not long ago. The portraits on the walls were of famous winemakers as well as Fleming's influencers but done by the skillful hand of a mosaic artist who pieced together (literally) the paintings with tiles that included the names of each winemaker's bottles. It truly was a remarkable undertaking and very impressive.

Additionally, there were several WiNEPADs along the table where we sat. These nifty iPads covered with the signature Fleming's gold texture had the custom app loaded on them and were ready to wow us. Released at the beginning of May 2013 at this particular location, the WiNEPAD helps diners choose wines for their meal in an interactive way. I liked the little note at the bottom right hand corner to "Drink Responsibly. Drive Responsibly" on the home screen which also gave the user the ability to choose wines through the following options: Varietals, Mood, Maeve's Raves, Spin the Bottle, Perfect Pairings, and Tonight's Features. With 218 wines on their list, it's easy to see why you would need help. "Mood" helped users pick what they were feeling and match a wine to it ("rich & voluptuous"? "sweet & powerful"? "fragrant & fruity"?). In a fun randomizing way, the Spin the Bottle option chooses one by chance so is definitely for the more daring. As you go through the wine list, you also receive additional information such as varietal, vintage, eco/green rating, and full written description. If you're aching to play with one (I would too!), don't worry because every restaurant has 40 on hand so you will get your chance. At the very least, pick one up to enter their Napa Valley getaway sweepstakes! Also, one neat way to let others know what you're drinking (or to remember after you've had a few glasses yourself) is to utilize their "Share with Friends" option that lets you email someone with the details of your choice(s).

We started off with champagne flutes in hand as we learned more about the wine collection there. At 70% reds in the list, Fleming's has a distinct personality they want to achieve with their choices. Also, if you are looking forward to seeing what the 2013 release of their 46 Diamonds bottle is, it will be a sparkling wine! If you ever find yourself admiring the stemware here as well, you should know that it is all handblown in Virginia from the same company that supplies the stemware to The White House. How's that for special?

The amuse bouche for the evening was a sampling of something they have on their "5 for $6 'til 7" menu: pork belly. It's almost faux pas not to include this item on a menu nowadays it seems, and Fleming's takes its food seriously. We had two small pieces (the menu item has three larger pieces when ordered) paired with smooth goat cheese polenta, tangy cherry-onion chutney, and microgreens of Bull's Blood beet. There was a satisfied silence in the room once everyone put a piece in their mouth and then an overwhelming, agreeing "mmm" as the tastiness continued to linger per bite. Brilliant.

With so many tempting choices, Duc and I finally opted to have (he) the Seared Ahi Tuna with A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir, Oregon and (me) the New Bedford Scallops with Hanna Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley. The seared ahi tuna came in a spicy mustard sauce next to shredded fresh vegetables that gave a light feeling to the plate, much desired with the lesser-bodied Pinot Noir pairing. The seared sides had a subtle crunch alongside the tenderness of the interior meat. As for my plate of scallops, they were generously sized, well-seasoned, and perfectly juicy inside. These came with a Meyer lemon-honey glaze accented by the crispness of the asparagus and green bean accompaniment. I found the paired wine delightfully fruity and once again bringing out a feeling of lightness to the meal so that I didn't finish my evening with an unpleasant heaviness in my stomach.

Other items on this Small Plates, Big Pours menu include the Lobster Tempura with Franciscan Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley (with soy-ginger dipping sauce next to a jicama arugula salad); Sliced Filet Mignon with Esk Valley Merlot, Gimblett Gravels, New Zealand (on Shiitake risotto with chili oil and a Porcini butter drizzle); and Colossal Shrimp Skewers with Villa Wolf Pinot Gris. Pfalz, Germanky (with chimichurri dipping sauce accompanied by a fennel citrus salad) as pictured above. Not pictured are also the applicable plates of New Zealand Petite Lamb Chops with Parducci Petite Sirah, True Grit (with pistachio-mint pesto and F17 sauce next to polenta fries) and Braised Boneless Short Ribs of Beef with B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cabernet, North Coast (with savory arugula and spinach in natural au jus). The petite Sirah from True Grit really was a hit amongst the attendees that night.

We certainly had an enjoyable evening with the food from the talented chefs at Fleming's as well as the information provided by Managing Partner Jose Jimenez. They are looking very forward to their Wine Country Brunch coming up at the end of the month to take place every Sunday from 10am-2pm featuring a menu that has the likes of Filet Mignon Eggs Benedict, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, Baked Brioche French Toast with a Walnut Crisp, and The Prime Burger with Fried Egg along with The Fleming's Cocktail Cart. I would be eager too as should you. If you are looking to give them a try, make sure to visit them at 455 Newport Center Dr (Fashion Island), Newport Beach; reservations are highly recommended. Thanks to everyone for having us!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.