Food, friends and wine by the river

FRESH AND EXCITING: The salad at the Graze by the River food and wine pairing blew guests away. The dish consisted of goat’s cheese, asparagus, sweet pear, water cress and rocket served with a guava reduction dressing finished off with a walnut crumble and parmesan shavings Picture: LOUISE CARTER

GRAZE by the River hosted another superb food and wine evening where an exclusive number of patrons sat down to enjoy a  delectable five-course meal, each paired with a wine from Mountain Ridge wine estate.

The food, the ambience, and the marriage between specific ingredients, tastes and flavours carefully thought out, lent itself towards a feast for the senses.

“We are most known for our salads, and we are passionate about wholesome and fresh ingredients. We source all our greens and such from local farmers,” said owner Nick Howard.

He paired the starter salad of goat’s cheese, fresh asparagus, watercress and rocket, sweet pear, walnut crumble, parmesan shavings and a guava reduction with a slightly dry and crispy 2016 vintage sauvignon blanc.

The unwooded sauvignon blanc paired beautifully with the starter with subtle flavours such as asparagus, ripe figs as well as more tropical flavours. The acidity of the wine was well balanced and complemented the flavours of the dish, especially the guava reduction of the salad and the tropical flavours of the wine.

The next course, a cashew cream of mushroom soup was paired with a 2016 Mountain Ridge shiraz. Surprised at the pairing, the wine merchant told Howard that it couldn’t be done, and there would for certain be a clash in the flavour portfolio of the soup and the wine, but in true Howard style, he conceptualised his soup outside of the norm and rehydrated portabella and shitake mushrooms in the same shiraz for 24 hours.

The rich plum and young berry flavoured shiraz with hints of mixed spice and white pepper tasted velvety smooth together with the creamy and earthy mushroom soup.  The Mountain Ridge shiraz is, uncharacteristically for a shiraz, soft and almost “delicate” and made for the perfect choice for the soup.

The next course was gluten free, marinara sauce pasta with fresh Italian rosa tomatoes and rosemary, thyme and basil. This dish was served with one of the best cabernets I have tasted in a long time.

The full bodied cabernet with red berries and oak spice rounded off the tomato-based pasta perfectly.

Howard’s passion for food is expressed with the careful attention to detail he gives each dish, the presentation and colour palate shows of a vibrant and colourful array of ingredients.

DELECTABLE MEAT: For the fourth course, chef and owner of Graze by the River, Nick Howard, served a pan-seared ostrich fillet on an Italian rosti served with steamed greens and a béarnaise sauce Picture: LOUISE CARTER

For mains, pan seared at medium rare, Howard served ostrich fillet on top of an Italian rosti, steamed greens and a béarnaise sauce.

The wine, a 2014 medium bodied merlot, with a soft tannin structure and complex berry fruit characters, washed down the fillet well.

SINFUL DELIGHT: The dessert enjoyed at the Graze by the River food and wine pairing consisted of fresh strawberries on pavlova with mascarpone cheese, yogurt and cream served with a vanilla and balsamic glaze and an American fudge syrup Picture: LOUISE CARTER

Lastly, just to dazzle the food taste experience even further, was the delicious and attractive looking fresh strawberry pavlova made with yoghurt, mascarpone cheese and cream served with a vanilla and balsamic glaze and an American fudge syrup. An odd choice for a dessert pairing, but Howard, being the brave and adventurous food visionary that he is, paired the pavlova with salmon pink coloured sparkling wine, called De Liefde Smooch. It is a Mountain Ridge entry level wine with strawberry and fynbos flavours, not too dry and not too sweet, and worked well with the desert.

In his mission to create a regular foodie following in Port Alfred, Howard will be hosting another pairing around the first weekend of April. Booking is essential.

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