Mezza in Neptune Beach has been making a splash in recent years as a go to restaurant for a nice meal or celebration. Executive Chef Justin Schreiber has recently been flexing his culinary muscles creating monthly tasting menus based on specific regions of the world. We enjoyed the tasting menu for May, A Taste of Alsace. Alsace is a region in the eastern part of France, very near the German border. Not knowing much about Alsace or what to expect, we were surprised to see what we would consider German influences on the menu – sauerkraut, sausage, strudel, oh my!
The tasting menu at Mezza is four courses, the fourth being a dessert, for $40 with a wine pairing option for $10. What a great value. None of our courses were particularly small, with the middle two courses being nearly a full meal each on their own. The wine pairings were probably just over a glass and a half in total volume, which is a remarkable value considering they have been especially chosen for each dish.
So what does Alsace taste like? When Chef Schreiber is cooking, Alsace is absolutely delicious. Having tasted his talents at Mezza in the past, we can attest that when he’s cooking, almost anywhere could be delicious. Our first course was a Tarte Flambee (Nueske’s bacon, onion, fromage blanc). The story behind this dish is that chefs used to put a thin piece of dough in the oven to see if the fires were hot enough. If the dough flamed up they knew the ovens were ready. Tarte Flambee was born out of a practical measure to check oven temperatures. The Tarte Flambee was a nearly paper thin flatbread with cheese, chunks of bacon, and onion. There was a lot of flavor in that small package. The accompanying wine was Domaine Ostertag Pinto Blanc, Alsace 2014. This is a single vineyard wine, almost German in taste, fruit forward with hints of green apple and pear, had a minerality to it.
The second course was rainbow trout (pommes e crassee, mushroom, soubise, buerre noisette). In English it was a generous filet of trout over smashed potatoes with oyster mushrooms and veal jus. These flavors were perfect together. It could easily become a heavy dish, but it wasn’t with the trout as the star. Oyster mushrooms are often more expensive than meat, so it is always a delight to see a restaurant perfecting a dish with oyster mushrooms rather than using a cheaper mushroom to skimp on costs. Oyster mushrooms can be found locally and compared to many of the mushroom varieties used more frequently in restaurants they’re a “next level” delight. When we saw oyster mushrooms we knew the folks at Mezza were truly celebrating the food. The accompanying wine was Domaine Robert-Denoget Macon-Fuisse Les Taches, Burgundy, 2014. Another old world wine, this was 100% chardonnay as a traditional Burgundian chardonnay. The tasting notes were limestone and apricot with a little oak on the finish and some minerality to it. This was the first wine I sipped and then looked back and forth from my wine glass to the trout dish several times. You don’t have to know anything about wine to be able to taste that this wine was a perfect compliment to all the flavors happening in the trout dish.
The third course was the most German in influence. It was Choucroute Garnie (Riesling sauerkraut, Strasburg sausage, pork belly, finished with mustard greens and stone ground mustard). The sauerkraut was made in house with cabbage and apple and was aged four and a half weeks. It was the best sauerkraut of our lives, and some of us don’t even like sauerkraut. We all ate it. The pork belly was remarkable. It was crispy on the outside the way God intended and full of flavor. The sausage was anything but average. Eating it any other way than with housemade sauerkraut and pork belly would be an offense to the sausage. The accompanying wine for this dish was Paul Blanck Riesling “Rosenbourg” Alsace, 2014. Typically Riesling is a sweeter wine, but this was dry and acidic wine with lemon and citrus notes. Rosenbourg means it is a single vineyard wine as well.
The final course was Alsace Strudel, which was apples, walnuts, and raisins wrapped in phyllo dough, baked, and topped with powdered sugar. It was a delight and a rather neat way of eating strudel, compared to the typical bowl or plate of gloppy goodness. All the flavors were there for a great strudel. The accompanying wine was Chateau De Caladroy Muscat de Riversaltes, Roussillon, 2013. This wine differed from the rest in that it was sweet, not dry, and made with muscadine grapes. The vineyards are in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains and the late harvest gives the wine its signature sweetness. This dessert wine is definitely for sipping. But again, it was perfect with its dish.
All in all we had a fabulous time at Mezza for a Taste of Alsace. This new monthly epicurean adventure is a complete package with a great price for the value. The exciting part is the opportunity to expand one’s palate and try something different, knowing it will be done well enough to enjoy, regardless of taste preferences. There were several items on the Taste of Alsace menu that we might never have ordered if left to our own devices, simply because they are not high on our list of preferred foods. But every single thing was cooked perfectly and enhanced by the components of each dish. At the end of the meal we agreed that this had to be one of the 10 best meals we’ve ever had in Jacksonville. Given how often we dine out, that is truly saying something.
Additionally, the optional wine pairings for $10 were a total home run. So often wine pairings are expensive to the point of being prohibitive. The experience of having wines specially selected to compliment a dish truly brings a meal to a new level. It is fun and exciting, and indulgent in the right way. If you have never had the experience of wine pairings with a meal, Mezza is the place to try. They get it right and it’s a very accessible price. This was our 4th visit to Mezza. Every single one has been a memorable meal where the service was top notch. Whether you need a date night spot on you’re just looking for a great meal, Mezza should be near the top of your list.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.