THE atmosphere was festive at Graze by the River last Friday and Saturday evening when proprietor and chef, Nick Howard, opened the doors for yet another food and wine pairing.
Howard invited Mount Vernon Estes to the party, and they supplied some excellent wines for him to conjure up food that not just complemented the wine, but also enhanced the flavour of both.
With a full house, Howard introduced the representatives from Mt Vernon, Chantelle Schoonbee and Paul Proctor who, in turn, described the wine we were about to sample.
Howard’s first dish was what I thought was a simple salad but, even without the wine, there was obviously something special going on. Howard had procured a hybrid fruit, grown locally, that is a cross between a fig and a kiwi fruit and they had decided to call it Kif fruit, its sweetness off-setting the earthy vegetable, with apple, and goat cheese as well as a peach and apricot dressing. Even a carnivore like me could probably eat this dish as a main course. And then we tasted the wine.
Three Peaks Sauvignon Blac is a crisp yet tasty wine with notes of apple, grapefruit and a touch of spice. Not being an avid white wine drinker I was surprised at how palatable it was, the food bringing out the lighter wine’s lighter notes.
Next, my absolute favourite dish on the night, glazed and roasted pork belly with grilled tiger prawn in a creamy white wine sauce, Howard’s own version of surf and turf. The pork was done to perfection, the meat soft, the fat well roasted and delicious and that all-time favourite, a touch of crackling. The prawn was short-lived as I devoured that not to so much to taste the prawn (which was, in fact, delicious) but so I could focus in on the pork belly and sauce without distraction. Not too many social pictures were taken until this course was complete. To make the dish even more special, Howard had paired this with the Mount Vernon Chardonnay. Now, as white wines go, I prefer the flavour of a good wooded Chardonnay, and this was all that and more. The sauce seemed to bring out the depth of flavour of the wine.
Next was the meat course, and Howard had decided on game meat, Eland venison fillet with a red wine and plumb reduction and vegetable tarte. Now, you may be familiar with game meat and how it can be tough if not cooked properly. Well, Howard managed to prepare a perfect venison fillet, soft and deliciously rich. My father (who was also a chef) would say that you could eat it with a broken jaw. The plum and wine reduction enhanced rather than disguising the meat, and the Mount Vernon Three Peaks Cantata was superbl, adding a lot more flavour to the experience than could have been achieved by wine or food individually.
Finally it was time for dessert, and the Mount Vernon Malbec with its full-bodied cherry and plumb dark richness was paired with one of the tastiest desserts I’ve eaten; a toffee, cherry and cherry sponge with Belgian chocolate and coffee mouse. Just writing that has made me hungry for another one. With the taste buds still absorbing the flavour of chocolate, cherry and toffee, the Malbec seemed to have found a perfect partner.
Mount Vernon wines are available locally at Prestons at really great prices. Howard will be holding another food and wine pairing in July so book now for a taste treat you won’t forget.