I have a fairly rough and ready approach to food and wine pairing. The main standard I apply is something along the lines of the Hippocratic Oath – “do no harm”, which implies that the food should not make the wine taste bad. I avoid food that is overly sweet, and I am careful of dishes carrying strong fruit or acidic overtones.
I’m generally more inclined to go for dishes that I would describe as being “wine friendly”. While I’m sure this colours me as bit of a conservative when it comes to these things, it’s probably along the lines of the decision whether the shirt and tie will have primacy, or the suit. In my world the wine is the equivalent of the colourful shirt or tie, and the food is the beautiful, but neutral suit (i.e. charcoal, navy blue, or something along those lines) that sets it off.
That’s the very vague background to the wine dinner I took part in last night. The menu was created (and cooked) by Arno Janse van Rensburg, the head chef at Andrea’s catering business, Dish Food & Social (www.dishfood.co.za). I have to admit to having been more than a little sceptical before the time; the menu was interesting to read (see below), but how would it taste? More importantly, how would the accompanying Cloof wines taste.
I needn’t have given those concerns a moment’s thought. Arno was absolutely spot-on with not only the flavour profiles, but also the intensity of flavours. The outcome was thoughtful and carefully judged.
I could never have imagined how good an apple and olive sorbet could have tasted with the tempura fish, nor how well it would complement the Daisy Darling. The soy sauce in the kimchi dressing allowed the seared tuna to shine alongside Inkspot, and the ostrich terrine was fabulous with Duckitt. The terrine was fairly straightforward, classic flavour, but Arno had deep-fried it in a batter so that it was crispy on the outside, but unctuous on the inside.
Lamb belly, slow-roasted for 24 hours was beyond delicious. What surprised me was not only how well the banana and red onion salsa complemented the dish, but also that The Very Sexy Shiraz was not in the slightest bit intimidated by the medley of flavours on the plate (there was also a butternut croquette and a lentil curry). Actually, I did think that Sexy Shiraz was up the challenge; I just didn’t know realise to what extent.
The combination of the dessert wine and dessert was magnificent. Not only was he exactly on the mark with the fruit flavours he’d chosen, but the dessert was the perfect level of sweetness.
The food shone, but it wasn’t at the expense of the wines. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, which makes me think that I have perhaps been unnecessarily curmudgeonly about wine and food pairing.
Perhaps it’s time to insert a rule before the current first rule – “keep an open mind”.
to begin at the table…
Served with Daisy Darling Sauvignon/Chenin Blanc 2009
Crispy tempura linefish on black sushi rice with apple and olive sorbet and an umeboshi dressing
Served with Inkspot Vin Noir 2005
Miso marinated tuna served with a red cabbage kimchi and pickled cucumber ribbons
Served with Duckitt Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Szechuan peppered ostrich terrine served with herbed aioli drenched sauteed potatoes, crisp mange tout and a
Served with The Very Sexy Shiraz 2006
24-Hour lamb belly on a bed of bobotie spiced lentils with a butternut croquettes and a banana and red onion salsa
Served with Cloof Natural Sweet Chenin Blanc 2006
Sous vide pineapple disk served with pineapple sorbet, gooseberry leather, berry marshmallows and a white
chocolate and strawberry froth