Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gingerman Wine Nights

In about 2004 we started the Gingerman wine club. The idea of this was to organise and run wine dinners for customers at one of our sites. We have been doing wine dinners on and off since we opened in 1998 but they were very infrequent. Since 2005 we have aimed to do about three a year.

The idea is to get a wine maker to come to the restaurant and talk about their wines. We then do a tasting menu to go with the wines on show. We have had producers from Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, England, Italy and France over the years.

I think these dinners are a win, win, for everyone involved and can be a very entertaining evening. The wine supplier gets to show off his wine in an environment that is relaxed. It enables him to meet what is essentially, his target market. Wine producers spend a lot of time meeting wholesalers, distributors and wine press but very little time speaking to the actual people who buy the wine to enjoy over dinner.

Customers who enjoy wine and food find it interesting talking to the person who has made the wine, hearing their philosophy of wine and what they tried to achieve in making the wine. Customers can also taste a six course meal specially designed to go with the wine on show. Wines and courses are carefully matched, with most of the combinations working, or at least working for most people. One of the great things about food is that it is subjective, some people will love a dish and others will not, there is a lot down to personal taste. Either way it gives people a talking point.

For us wine dinners work because it gives us a chance to meet the producers. We try to use wines from only small artisan producers who have a passion for what they do, rather than big brands. The trouble with the big brands is that they try to produce the same flavour year on year in order to satisfy their brand rather than making a wine that has the characteristics of the year in which it is made.

Wine dinners also give us an opportunity to cook something different and maybe experiment a little. On this month’s Burgundy wine dinner we have matched a light red burgundy with an Arancini. Instead of using white wine for the risotto in the Arancini we have used red wine, along with Taleggio cheese and Scottish Girolle mushrooms. We think this combination will work well but will wait for the feedback on the night.

For the cheese course we are matching a 2008 Gevry Chambertin with an English cheese called Oxford Isis. The French wine producer suggested that we use a Burgundian cheese called Epoisses. Now Epoisses is a great cheese but we wanted to promote an English cheese and we think that Oxford Isis will do a good job. I wait to hear what our French friend thinks!

The wine nights usually start between 7 and 7.30pm with canapé and aperitif. This is usually one of the lighter wines on show, wines that are designed to be drunk by the glass and not necessarily with food. We go on to starter, fish course, main course (usually meat unless we are tasting white wines only or Champagne) we finish with cheese sometimes or dessert. Not every vineyard produces dessert wine so we might pick one from another vineyard to compere or use a demi sec Champagne to go with the dessert.

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Here is an example menu of our last Wine Night:

Burgundy wine dinner

English Asparagus with Pink Grapefruit Hollandaise
Macon Villages, Jean Francois Gonon, 2009

Grilled Channel Slip Sole with Vermouth and Sorrel Cream
Chablis, Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Feves, 2008

Pinot Noir and Taleggio Arancini with Sauteed Girolle
Domaine Lucien Boillot, Bourgogne Rouge, 2009

Rack of Sussex Lamb, Grilled Aubergine, Caponata and Lamb Jus
Volnay, Dom L.B. 2007

Oxford Isis Cow’s Milk Cheese
Gevry Chambertin, Dom L.B. 2008

Vanilla Pannacotta with Poached Raspberries and Pistachio Filo Crisp
Muscat de Rivesaltes, Chateau Montesquieu, 2009

£65 per person plus 12.5% service

and a dish for you to try at home:

Radichio Arancini with Pinot Noir and Taleggio

Half head Radichio finely sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
50g butter in a small dice
1 onion finely chopped
300g Risotto rice
250ml Pinot Noir
750g fresh stock (chicken or vegetable)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
100g Taleggio cheese
1 egg
50g plain flour
200g breadcrumbs

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and sweat the onion, add the radicchio and rice and stir for a few minutes so that all the rice is coated with the oil. Add the red wine and stir over a medium heat. Once the wine has evaporated, add the warmed stock a ladle at a time, stirring constantly. As the stock evaporates add more until all the stock is used up.

The rice should be cooked but with a little bite in the centre. Take the risotto off the heat and add the butter cubes and the parmesan, season with salt and pepper and leave to go cold. Once cold portion the rice and roll into balls (90g for a main course and 40g for a starter) insert a small piece of Taleggio in the centre of each ball and roll them in the flour, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs.

Deep fry just before serving until golden brown.
Smaller ones can be made for canape’s