Last Sunday I organised a petite soiree with a lovely Scottish couple, two gorgeous kids and my mentor, to whom I feel indebted in many ways. We all have one thing in common: love for food, wine and natural life.
I hadn’t decided what to make up until the very day of the soiree. I used to make a big fuss with dinner parties in the days when my culinary obsession was starting, making several big grocery shopping trips and thinking up recipes for days, to impress people . A dinner party was a perfect occasion where I could test new recipes on people. Over 4 years have pasted since then and now I am more relaxed in a way or I don’t care as much as I used to about the success and failure of gastronomic evenings. Now my evening revolves more around wines and chats rather than geeky recipes.
My mentor pulled out two good bottles from his cellar to go with the dinner. Taking this opportunity, he also made an inventory of his wine cellar and I got to see the secret underground cave of his apartment.
Wine caves are really exciting. Quite a lot of French people have a few hundreds of bottles in their cellar as they keep buying and storing them every year, and consumption can’t catch up with supply and sometimes they just give away old bottles to make room for new bottles. It almost sounds like a dream!Let’s peep at what another Bordelais has in his cellar. Some labels are illegible, but it seems Pessac Leognon is dominent with some Pomerol.
I wish I had a proper cave like this. Maybe one day!
The menu was finalised after some discussions and thinking.
Entree & Aperitif
Filo Parcel Stuffed with Endiv, Caramelised Apple, Roasted Walnuts and Venacco (Strong Goat Cheese)
Canape with Prawn, Avocado, Anchovy and Mint
Spiced Duck Cutlet with Caramelised Carrot in Orange Fennel Cumin Sauce
Drink: Château Mirebeau, Pessac Léognan 2002 / Château Labegorce, Margaux, 1998
Cheese Platter: Feuille du Limousin / Lingot Teoski / Livarot
Strawberry Cream Cake with Rum
My improvised Endive Filo Parcel was a big hit. Cooking endive was a very new thing when I first had it in France. Endives, white and pink, were only used for salad or as a decorative serving leaf for entree, but when I first had a risotto dish made of Radicchio Treviso in Tuscany, I was very surprised; cooked endives! However, this time I learned how common it was to cook this bitter tasting lettuce leaves. Endives (chicory) were, like brussels sprouts, something that one loves or hates.
I was going to use Roquefort but didn’t want to buy the cheese just for a little entree so I decided to use the strongest cheese from the cheese stock, which was Venacco, pretty powerful goat cheese.
The second entree, Prawn Anchovy Cocktail Canape, was also a hit despite my concern that the taste might be too strong, but surprisingly it pleased the delicate palate of my critical chef mentor.
The canape consists of cooked prawns, 4 anchovy fillets, 1 avocado, 2 teaspoons of capers, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and lemon juice, and any kind of extra personal touch.
For the main, as is often the case after aperitif, I was feeling relaxed and lazy to bother with caramelising carrots and pureeing them. So I took an alternative and just served the carrots as they were cooked in ginger and thyme, and then drizzle the reduction sauce made with orange, pineau and a sprinkle of cumin.
I had so much of the carrots that I worried I might turn orange the next day!
Finally, the moment of revelation….WINES! I am so excited, going over the notes I took that evening on the development of the flavours in each wine over 3 hours. As the talk of the wines would take a whole post, I think it is better to continue in the next post, if you can excuse me. I’m not trying to tease you, but it WAS a significant moment in my year-long endeavour to dissect the mystery of wine.
Château Mirebeau, Pessac Léognan, 2002 / Château Labegorce, Margaux, 1998
I was really impressed how the Margaux 1998 was still as powerful as young wine after over a decade. I will save more for later….
It’s time for a cheesy talk. Oop, I was not paying attention to the cheese and when I remembered to take a photo the cheeses had already lost their shapes. They were Feuille du Limousin, Lingot Teoski and Livarot.
Limousin is raw goat milk cheese in the shape of a chestnut leaf and is very dense and creamy with a slight pungent flavour from the rind as its ripening time is 510 days. I quite liked it. Additionally, Limousin is one of 5 oak barrel production regions and is regarded the best for cognac ageing. Lingot Teoski has a funny name and is too fresh pour moi! Livarot is the second purchase, but funnily this one tasted totally different. Apparently, whether it’s made with summer or winter milk affects the taste, and the previous one had a stronger taste.
So…I will be back shortly with the wine notes.