Archive for the ‘Food’ Category
A dinner with a Michelin starred Chef is (normally) something of an experience. When you put 12 of them together and add some great wines you prepare yourself for one of the meals of your life. That’s what happened last night and it blew me away.
The mood was set early. The 2nd day dinner of the International Gourmet Festival was going to be held at the Vila Joya’s fantastic restaurant room which sits just on top of a sandy beach and has a great sea view (where you can actually hear the waves).
Vila Joya is a highly respected 2 Michelin star restaurant located in heart of the Algarve in the south of Portugal. A cathedral of fine dining and number 37 in the The World’s 50 Best Restaurant list.
Then, a line up of some of the best Chefs working in Portugal (or being Portuguese and working abroad) was nothing short of remarkable. The host Dieter Koschina and his right-hand men Matteo Ferrantino (in the picture) and a list of names that rarely get together in such an impressive setting: José Avillez, Ricardo Costa, Leonel Pereira, Vitor Matos, Benoît Sinthon, Hans Neuner, Albano Lourenço, Vincent Farges and George Mendes (who travelled all the way from NYC)!
And finally a wine list that included such stars as the fantastic Dom Pérignon Millésime 2004, the 2003 Pelada, the Niepoort Batuta 2010 or the Pintas Vintage Port 2007. The pairings would most probably make each of the night’s courses shine even more.
Expectation was at the highest possible level but what followed simply blew past it.
Cocktail First a premium Olive Oil tasting, with homemade grissini, salty focaccia and Oliveira da Serra’s brand new and truly delicious early harvested Portuguese olive oil. Then it was cocktail time! Grabbed a Port tonic and visited the very busy Vila Joya’s kitchen (with 12 Chefs and and their staff inside) preparing the 10-courses menu. Time for some interesting amuse bouche and we’re off for the dinner.
The Chef’s Table at Vila Joya. Available for sponsors and for those paying 600 € to attend the dinner.
The Portuguese Michelin Stars Dinner For 4 hours we indulged in a sequence of food masterpieces. Each of them paired with a specific wine and enjoyed with good conversation and even better company.
1. Fresh Gillardeau oysters. A great start to an amazing Michelin-starred dinner. Prepared by Chef Benoît Sinthon and produced since 1898 by the Gillardeau family and their small company near La Rochelle and the (gorgeous) Île d’Oléron in France. Brilliantly paired with a crispy and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Cortes de Cima.
3. Tuna Chūtoro, the tastiest fatty part of the tuna. Here cooked masterfully by Hans Neuner (Restaurant Ocean, Algarve). I’ve been transported to another dimension. Absolutely amazing!
4. Marinated Scottish salmon with Imperial Caviar by Henrique Leis. Paired very well with an oaky white from Herdade da Calada Reserva.
5. Red mullet, scallops and carpaccio by Ricardo Costa, the Michelin-starred Chef from @Theyeatman. A superb mix of amazing flavours.
6. Wild turbot & White truffles, a match made in heaven by Vincent Farge of Fortaleza do Guincho. Plus hazelnuts and Jerusalém artichokes (not really artichokes!). Totally blown away by the pairing with the Dom Pérignon Vintage 2004
7. Black Truffle Cappuccino with chicken sot-l’y-laisse. Exciting textures and flavours in a dish created by Albano Lourenço. Also a great pairing for the Dom Pérignon. (no picture, sorry)
8. Roe Deer Back and Horseradish. Served early than what was listed one the menu because (they said) Chef Dieter Koschina thought the meat was perfectly cooked and ready to be served. A timely decision. The Roe Deer Back was one of the best meats I’ve had this year. Amazing balance in amazing dish. Dieter and Matteo (Ferrantino) rock as a team. Again a perfect pairing. The Niepoort Batuta 2010 is showing beautifully and together they are a match in heaven. Great stuff! (no picture, sorry).
9. Fois gras with onions and cauliflower. Beautifully presented but unfortunately the only uninteresting course of this otherwise great meal. After a set of quite amazing course this one lost its place. I’m sure that wasn’t intended. Maybe have it sooner next time?
10. Slow cooked hare, goose liver, white beans and mushrooms. A heavier but oh-so-delicious slow cooked dish. The sauce added extra thickness. Perfect pairing with the 100% Baga from Campolargo served in a Magnum bottle and also with the fantastic Álvaro de Castro Pelada 2003. Two great Portuguese red wines. Two of the best pairings of the night!
11. Wild berries, violets and grand cru chocolate. A surprisingly fresh dessert and actually the only way a dessert would fit in after 10 courses. The balance of ingredients was just perfect. The Wine & Soul Pintas Vintage Port from 2007 was fruity but elegant and powerful enough to pair with the last item on the menu. I was too busy with my Port to take a photo. After all a superb food night simply cannot end without a great Port Wine!
While slowly sipping through my glass of Port I remember thinking to myself that this was an one of the best food and wine experiences I’ve ever had. How wonderful of an opportunity to enjoy in one night the amazing food masterpieces created by some of the best food artists in the World. Thank you gentlemen. We’ll certainly meet again in the near future!
The 7th edition of the International Gourmet Festival continues this week with a fantastic programme that includes the likes of Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca), Nuno Mendes (Viajante), Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta) and many more Chefs.
The first ever Umbria is for #winelovers event happened last week in Umbria in the green heart of Italy. With an exciting programme planned for the week this was a great opportunity to discover the region’s wines and their connection to the local food culture.
To make it even more interesting the #winelover group organized a Food & Wine Pairing Competition to better understand the richness of Umbria’s food and wine pairing. Here’s the competition menu with the different Italian dishes and the wines that better worked for each of them:
1. Frittatina Morbida al Tartufo della Valnerina
We started with a Frittatina Morbida al Tartufo della Valnerina, an egg-based dish, similar to an omelette or quiche, enriched with black truffles from the Valnerina valley in Umbria. A rich combination of flavors where the black truffle definitely stood out.
Best wines for this dish:
- FiorFiore 2010 Roccafiore (White) – 100% Grechetto
- Lamborghini (La Firorita) Trescone Umbria 2009 (Red) – Sangiovese, Merlot, Ciliegiolo
2. Risotto Allo Zafferano di Cascia e Guanciale Croccante
As a first course the Chef planned a Risotto with saffron and crisp Italian bacon. The crispy bacon added a different dimension to this simple dish and made it extra enjoyable. I could spend a whole day eating this crispy bacon.
Best wines for this dish:
- Colli Perugini Chiorri Rosato 2011 (Red) – Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon
- Adanti Arquata Montefalco Riserva 2008 (Red) – Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Barbera, Merlot, Cabernet
- Montefalco Rosso Scacciadiavoli 2009 (Red) – Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Merlot
3. Porchetta di Maialino Aromatica Bardata al Prosciutto
The main course was the highlight of the food and wine competition and one of the best foods I’ve had in Italy. A fabulous savoury, fatty and juicy boneless piglet roast covered with slices of bacon. Simply outstanding.
Best wines for this dish:
- Re del Sole LS08 Leonucci (Red) – Sagrantino
- Marchesi Antinori Cervaro della Sala Antinori 2011 (White) – Chardonnay, Grechetto
- La Palazzola Vin Santo Stefano Grilli 2005 (Sweet)
4. Crostata di Mele e Crema Cotta and Cheesecake
Finally dessert time. An Apple Custard Pie and a Ricotta, Chocolate, Raisins and Rhum Cake. A happy overdose of sugar created specifically to match the Umbrian Vin Santo (a style of italian sweet wine).
Best wine for the Crostata di Mele e Crema Cotta:
- Poggio Forno Cantina Neri 2011 – (Sweet) Grechetto, Sauvignon
Best wines for the Torta di Ricotta, Cioccolato, Uvetta e Rhum
- Sperello VinSanto Colli del Trasimeno Berioli 2011 (Sweet) – Trebbiano, Malvasia
- Grappa di Sagrantino Romanelli (Spirit)
Fabien Lainé (a French Sommelier working in Norway) was in charge of coordinating the food and wine competition. With the help of Luciana Braz and other #winelovers they’ve pre-selected 70 wines (from a pool of around 200), organized the tasters in teams and collected the competition results. A great job, explained in more detail in Fabien’s blog.
Umbrian Chef, Matteo Barbarossa was in charge of creating four different dishes for the competition. With this mission, Matteo created a dynamic menu of local and delicious Umbrian food to match the region’s diverse array of wines.
Overall this a fantastic wine and food discovery experience in the heart of Italy. Umbria is definitely a fantastic food and wine destination and I can’t wait to go back and discover more.
I’m in the beautiful region of Umbria in Italy preparing for the first Umbria for #winelovers event that will take place in the next few days in Terni. It’s a great opportunity to discover the local food and wine culture of one of the most exciting Italian wine regions.
Today I had the opportunity to visit Castello delle Regine, a local winery making good to excellent Umbrian wines. All proven by the very good (and consistent) level of quality at the 2 comprehensive 2001 to 2006 vertical tastings of the 100% Sangiovese and the 100% Merlot. My favorite vintages were the 2001, 2002 and 2004 for the Sangiovese and the 2001 and 2005 for the Merlot. All showing great potential for a good pairing with food.
To test this we headed to the winery’s own Restaurant Podernovo for lunch. A meal with lots of different dishes (see below) where all the meat which came from the winery’s cow farm. Simply delicious ingredients and fantastic wine lunch that has again confirmed how amazing Italy can be when it comes to fantastic food and wine experiences.
2012 was a year full of great moments. I visited many countries, cities and places. Discovered new wines and wineries. Tasted some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. Met some exciting new people and learned about their stories. Made new friends. It was an incredibly exciting year! These are the 10 best moments.
1. Joining the Port Wine Brotherhood was easily The Best Moment of 2012.
An almost surreal experience that culminated with me wearing a bow tie and receiving a Tombaladeira (a traditional Port Wine tasting cup from the XVII century) in a ceremony with over 300 guests. It’s an incredible honor to be knighted and get recognition for my dedication and service to Port Wine. What a great moment.
That same weekend I enjoyed a full day visit to Quinta do Azevedo (Sogrape‘s Vinho Verde property) which included a relaxed lunch and conversation with Luís Sottomayor (Barca Velha winemaker, Director of Enology for Casa Ferreirinha and Sogrape’s Port Wines) and Joana Pais (Sogrape’s Head of PR). Great people. Great lunch. Great moment.
Still had time to participate in the traditional Rabelo Boat Regatta. The regatta is an exciting boat race where old Rabelo boats (that used to transport Port Wine from the Douro to Gaia) sail upriver trying to be the first to reach the finishing line. What an excitement! My Rabelo boat (from Ferreira) was 2nd! The whole mood is very festive and the regatta ended with a dinner at the Sandeman’s Port Cellars in Gaia.
As you might imagine it took me a few days to cool down from all this excitement!
The other 9 best moments of 2012
Joining the Port Wine Brotherhood was great but I had other special moments, each of which with its own story. It was a tough choice but here are my favorite moments of 2012:
- Launch of the new Barca Velha 2004. A great launch event for a great new wine. The wild boar cooked in Barca Velha sediment was also a delicious next day meal.
- Judging wines from across the globe at the 2012 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Great learning experience in Guimarães. A great opportunity to meet new people from the wine world.
- Visiting Quinta do Noval and tasting the exceptional 1994 Vintage Nacional. An out-of-this-world Port wine experience shared with good friend Luiz Alberto.
- An epic tasting at Graham’s. The occasion was the launch of the new 10, 20, 30 and 40 Years Old Tawny Ports. The tasting included a magnum of the magnificent Graham’s 1966 Vintage, the ultra-exclusive 1952 and 1969 Single Harvest Tawny Ports and the very old 1882 (!!).
- Organizing & hosting the first ever Summer Wine Market where 650 people tasted some of the best Portuguese white and red wines on the market and paired them with some delicious sushi.
- Sharing a tasting session on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily with a very special group of wine lovers who were participating in a Wine Bloggers trip to discover Etna Wines. The sun was setting and the moment was perfect.
- Visiting the top of Mount Etna and feeling literally on top of the world. Unforgettable.
- Organizing the first ever #wineloverweek together with Luiz Alberto (a very good friend, travel partner and fellow #winelover). It was a week full of exciting activities visiting wineries, tasting wines and attending #winelover Hangouts around Portugal (Lisboa, Porto, Vinho Verde, Alentejo and Douro). A great opportunity to show some of the best of what Portugal has to offer.
- Organizing & hosting the Adegga Wine Market 2012, the 4th edition of an award-wining 800-people wine event which includes some of the best wines and producers from Portugal and a very special Premium Room with some rare and old Port Wines. A huge success.
During the last 12 months I had other great experiences that made of 2012 a great year. I visited many other beautiful places, tasted some great wines and met exciting new people. Here’s a short photographic list of the other 15 great moments of 2012. Looking forward to a great 2013!
In September I visited Donnafugata in Sicily. Included in the two-day visit was a trip to Pantelleria, a satellite island of Sicily where Donnafugata makes one of its most precious treasures, a sweet Passito di Pantelleria. This treasure is the result of a strong local culture that is imposed by the challenges of the extremely difficult growing (and living) conditions of Pantelleria.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Cantina da Estrela restaurant twice before, attending wine related events. This time I came here wanting to have lunch as a normal client and discovered that the experience is well worth the visit.
In one sentence
Go to this restaurant if you love good comfort food, if you’re interested in eating in a calm place that looks like an classic old school and if you don’t mind being served by restaurant students (that actually do a pretty good job!). Nice wine list. Price per person varies (based on on your opinion, really!) but should be between 20 to 25 euros per person (without wine).
One of the first interesting things about Cantina da Estrela is the fact that you can decide how much the food and the service are worth and (sorf of) pay the bill based on that. In reality you actually have a lower and a upper limit between which you can choose to pay based on your appreciation. Since all of the restaurant employees come from the Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo de Lisboa (Lisbon’s School of Hospitality), this gives you (and them) a way to continuously evaluate their work. It’s a clever (and attention grabbing) idea that I think should be applied in other restaurants.