The Cracked Conch restaurant and BlackBeard’s teamed up to bring a little of Europe to Cayman through food and wine.
Europe is fantastic in the late spring and while the Cracked Conch restaurant is in West Bay rather than Europe, guests attending the Euro Trip Wine Dinner on 25 May could have easily believed they were across the ocean if they only considered the food and wine.
The event featured five courses prepared under the direction of Cracked Conch Executive Chef Gilbert Cavallaro, paired with six European wines provided by BlackBeard’s. Each course was tasted with the wines before the event by Chef Gilbert, restaurant Manager Matt Moore and BlackBeard’s Wine Sales Manager Jodie Petts to ensure the pairings were perfect.
Petts knew in advance the dinner would be great.
“I must say, this is going to be one of my favourite wine dinners of the year,” she said beforehand.
She commented about how the idea for the dinner arose out of a conversation with Moore.
“I said ‘let’s put our favourite wines and favourite foods together’, so that’s what we did.”
The wines took guests on a tour through four countries and six wine growing regions in Europe, starting with – and what better way to begin any culinary journey – Champagne at the welcome reception in the bar area. For the occasion, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($79 retail) was served along with a chilled oyster shot in shellfish broth – literally an oyster in shot glass.
Established in 1729, Ruinart is actually the oldest Champagne House of them all. Its Blanc de Blancs – which like all Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made from 100 per cent Chardonnay grapes – comes in a 18th-century-like bottle that makes it look ultra expensive, even though it’s not. Pale yellow in colour, the Champagne has fine persistent bubbles, aromas of brioche and a supple mouth feel with flavours of stone fruits.
The Champagne was flowing freely and the conversations were as lively as the bubbles, and it took some coaxing to get the guests into the private dining room for dinner.
After guests were seated, Chef Gilbert spoke a little about the menu and Petts talked about the Champagne and the first few wines that would be served.
For the first course, Loimer Grüner Veltliner from Kamptal, Austria was served with cobia carpaccio, avocado, fried capers and bouillabaisse caviar pearls.
“Loimer Grüner Veltliner ($18.79) is one of my favourites,” said Petts. “It’s very versatile with food. It will go with lots of different things.”
The wine was aromatic with good acidic flavours of citrus and apple.
“And you’ll notice a little white pepper on the palate,” Petts said.
The pairing was nothing short of fantastic, with the sharp acidity of the wine able to balance the oiliness of the fish and flavours all blending to make both the food and wine better.
The next course, seared scallop with Brandade foam, red pepper jam and white truffle oil also soared, especially when paired with Louis Jadot Puligny Montrachet ($51). Like all white Burgundy, Puligny Montrachet is made from 100 per cent Chardonnay. With firm acidity that gives it the ability to age and improve at least a decade, this medium-bodied wine with flavours of peaches and melons brought out the flavours of the scallop perfectly.
“To me, it’s the classic of classic Chardonnays,” Petts said. “It’s not over-oaked and crisp.”
There were many good wines served over the evening, but this one was the favourite with most guests.
From there, the menu moved to land with braised pork belly and the wine went to red and moved to the Italian region of Sicily. Planeta’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria ($21) is an easy-drinking blend of two mainstay Sicilian grapes – Nero d’Avola and Frappato.
“This wine smells and tastes like cherries,” Petts said.
BlackBeard’s wine specialist Lee Quessy said the wine paired with a lot of dishes.
“To me, it’s like an Italian Pinot Noir,” he said, noting that wouldn’t be an obvious comparison because Nero d’Avola is a full-bodied wine. “But the Frappato makes it light.”
Ending the savoury part of the meal with a flourish, Chef Gilbert served an incredible roasted duck breast topped with seared foie gras along with duck confit potato gratin. Served with it was Marques de Caceres Rioja Reserve 2004 ($26.50) from Spain. This blend of 85 per cent Tempranillo and 15 per cent Garnacha is a medium-to-full-bodied red wine with berry and cherry flavours and good mouth feel that finishes with a bit of vanilla.
“It’s voluptuous and juicy and a really sexy wine,” Petts said. “I love it.”
For dessert, the Cracked Conch served local mango jelly, mango and mint salsa and sour cream ice cream along with Batasiolo Moscato d’ Asti ($15.50) from Piedmonte, Italy. This semi-sweet low-alcohol, slightly effervescent – or ‘frizzante’ – white wine was light enough to pair with the dessert and light enough enjoy after our culinary tour through Europe.
“I love nothing more at the end of a meal than Moscato,” Petts said. “Well … there’s also coffee, and cheese and …”
In the end, Petts said the dinner lived up to her expectations.
“I think it was some of the best pairings I’ve had in a while,” she said.