This weekend, my wife and I made dinner to celebrate the visit of two close friends, now living in Turks & Caicos, where they run one of the world’s best resorts (yah, tough life!). Four other friends joined us. At the suggestion of N—one half of the couple being celebrated—each couple brought along a bottle of wine, wrapped in foil or otherwise disguised. Each couple would test the other diners’ knowledge of wine through a series of multiple choice questions, things like, “Is this wine from Australia, France, or Chile?” or "Is this a Cabernet Sauvignon, a GSM, or a Merlot?"
S (my wife) and I came up with a 4-course menu and emailed it out to each couple, assigning a white wine for the first course, a red or white for the second, a red for the third and a dessert wine for the last. While we were up happy to host a blind tasting, we also wanted some assurances that the wines would match our food.
Our first course was something from Kimiko Barber’s book The Japanese Kitchen. It was a Beef Tataki rolled around cucumber julienne, topped with ginger, garlic and kaiware. With the beef, we served the white, which despite most of us thinking it was a French Sauvignon Blanc, turned out to be a Pouilly-Fume (Chardonnay) from the Loire valley (well, at least we got France right). It was the Chateau Favray 2003 Pouilly-Fume, and was excellent.
Our second course was Mac & Cheese. I’ve been enjoying tweaking Joel Robuchon’s truffled macaroni & cheese recipe over the past couple weeks, and have come up with a variation that I really like. I use mozzarella, comte, and gruyere in the sauce and then a sprinkle of parmesan (which I blowtorch) on top. Instead of fresh truffles, I mix Tetsuya Wakuda’s Truffle Salsa (available jarred at Culina here in Singapore) into the sauce. I also add a bit of bacon, which M Robuchon does not. With this, N had brought along a real surprise, a 2000 Moulin A Vent Beaujoulais by Georges Dubeouf (I later found out that M Dubeouf himself had introduced N to this wine). This is a premium Beaujoulais that actually takes to aging, but is already drinking well. As someone who hates Beaujoulias Nouveau, this was a treat.
The third course was a combination of a slow braised Belly Pork recipe by Tom Colicchio and a Lentils recipe from the Balthazar cookbook. The Pork is oven roasted in broth, first at a higher temperature for one and half hours, and then at very, very low heat for 3-4 hours. It was truly fork tender! We paired this with one of my favourite wines from a vineyard S and I had visited a few years ago in Margaret River, Western Australia, and fell in love with. Cape Grace
makes incredible wines, especially, in my opinion, its Cabernet Sauvignon. We opened a 2002 (which, remarkably, was only the vineyard’s 3rd vintage) and floored everyone with just how soft, fruity, but full it was. (James Halliday rated it a 93/100.) If you have not tried this wine, I encourage you to find a way to get your hands on a bottle (unfortunately, the one we opened was the last from the case we brought back with us from our last visit).
For dessert, we had a Sticky Date Pudding with Orange Brandy Butter Sauce and a Seville Orange Marmalade Ice Cream (home-made of course). This was paired with a Torbreck’s The Bothie 2003, a deceptive but yummy Muscat. Most of us had no idea what to make of this wine, especially because it was clear in color. Of course, it didn’t help that P, who had brought the wine, was at this point of the dinner, too drunk to ask his questions properly.