Last month KOM’s Daniel Isberg hosted two dozen wine enthusiasts for the ultimate foodie challenge Pairing the perfect wine with the right dish can be a challenge, but Isberg and sommelier Tomek Prange-Barczyński prove how fun the game of mixing and matching can be.
On a balmy April night, KOM held the signature “Wine and Dine” event under the auspices of California Wine Institute. The customary order of food and wine pairing was reversed, fixing the point of reference eight on Golden State vintages. All eight produced by descendants of immigrants from Europe (5 Italian, 2 German, and 1 Spanish family) who, in the land of new possibilities, attempted to cultivate the old-world approach to wine. The wines were selected by Tomek Prange-Barczyński, and accompanied by light fusion dishes whipped up by Daniel Isberg, a Swedish-born chef who had spent some time in the US cooking for celebrities from Bill Gates to Sharon Stone.
Pairing the right wine with the right dish is a bit like gambling. Roast rack of lamb in textbook fashion goes with Cab or Bordeaux – but the coupling is a no-brainer if the wines are too agey. Beef goes great with Burgundy when prepared as a roast, but a peppered steak longs for a New World Merlot. Game can be washed down with Chateauneuf-du-Pape, pork sausage will enjoy Chianti, Parma ham with melon fancies Pinot Grigio. Muscadet and Chablis will make your plate of oysters sing and caviar is happier in the company of Blanc de Blanc. Goat cheese harmonises with Fume Blanc while Stilton teams up well with a Tawny Port…
“I have a lot of flavours in my food and I like to do some crazy pairings. Often people see the menu and go ‘Wow, will this work?'” As always, Isberg created an atmosphere of curious anticipation and set high expectations for the evening, especially as Tomek had assured us there would be differences of opinion.
“Pairing wine with fusion cuisine is full of imponderables; there’s no room for the obvious, and always a large measure of play – you can only rely on intuition until you’ve put five bottles on the table and test-tried each combination.”
For the overture Daniel served vanilla-spiced lobster bisque cappuccino with a tempura prawn. The crustacean stock reduction carried with it notes of cocoa, and its vanilla aroma was hitched with a palette of grapefruit and lime freshness revealed by Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc 2006. The lively, slender vintage with crisp acidity and a whiff of fresh-cut grass went especially well with the prawn enveloped in salty tempura batter.
Next was a carpaccio of slow-cooked octopus wrapped in rice paper with mung beans, mint and a creamy citrus dressing that was intense with cilantro, making the full-bodied Wente Vineyards San Francisco Bay Morning Fog Chardonnay 2006 from Livermore Valley feel a bit too heavy. Owing to its aromas of baked apple, oak and toast and a refreshing finale, some of the participants suggested switching the first two wines. Slow-poached monkfish in olive oil with lime beurre blanc sauce, broad bean puree and long-baked tomato interlocked perfectly with the subtly jasmine aromas and lemon overtones of the creamy, leesy, golden-coloured Marimar Torres Estate Don Miguel Vineyard Chardonnay 2004.
The list of the reds at the KOM was adequately opened by supple, silky Private Selection Pinot Noir 2006 from Robert Mondavi, very atypical for a European owing to 24% content of other grape varieties (notably Syrah), with berry and cherry jam flavours giving way to a zesty black pepper spiciness in the bright, crisp finish. The varietal, which Daniel normally likes to pair with fresh tuna, went on a blind date with one of his signature best-sellers – flash-fried nori-wrapped salmon on balsamic orange and ginger Teriyaki sauce. The condiment was the key to the matching, but with an accompanying fried jasmine rice cake and the seaweed crust tasting a bit like hash browns, a better duo might have been yielded by a pure Pinot.
Berry and spice
Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, long and superbly structured, with the palate bringing flashy flavours of cassis, mocha and liquorice supported by smoky tannins, was a bit too powerful and expressive for paper-thin truffled tenderloin carpaccio with rocket and artichoke; Diamond Claret 2007 from Francis Ford Coppola with tannins smoother than its predecessor seemed a better choice, but this deep-crimson Bordeaux-style wine was wedded with homemade beef-stuffed ravioli with Dijon mustard sauce. Since the ravioli were relatively bland, the tapestry of blackberry, cherry and spice in the wine suggested as a happier partner a classic boeuf stroganoff.
The flowing king of the evening was Old Vine Zinfandel 2004 from Seghesio Vineyards in Sonoma County – noble in character, silky in structure, intense with ripe black raspberries, hints of earth and round, balanced tannins, luxtaposed with pistachio-crusted lamb rack marinated in anchovies and mustard served on toffee-tasting fig and and gras sauce with blue potato puree and crisp leek julienne, the wine exposed vibrant acidity and tangy character with loads of peppery notes longing for a more spicy partner.
While the Zin revealed a higher-toned personality than its significant other, with the dessert the situation was reversed. Chocolate is generally considered a very finicky candidate, requiring a technically dry “beefcake” red normally too powerful to be drunk on its own. Otherwise the resulting impression is too oily. Daniel’s melting dark chocolate gateau with sour cherry and a dash of chilli compote defeated the structure of Montevina Terra d’Oro Zinfandel 2005, which, despite its powerfully built high alcohol content giving the wine a sweet scent, felt too macilent with its fine-grain tannins.
According to Tomasz Prange-Barczyński, good wine doesn’t have to require a thick wallet. “Simple varieties such as Portugieser, Dolcetto, Beaujolais or Schiava, despised for years and today relatively cheapest, in the hands of a good winemaker turn into wines at once quite noble and light and simple, an antidote to strong, concentrated, expensive wines,” he maintains. And don’t let rules intimidate, you and spoil the pleasure. “Your palate is the ultimate judge. Besides, after the fifth glass, everything will begin to harmonise with everything.”
The sommelier’s suggestion for spring? The Polish classic pork chop with new cabbage, phenomenal with a simple Gruner Veltliner or young stuffed cabbage fantastic with white Hungarian wines from volcanic soils over the Balaton.
Tratoria Wine Workshops
Wine expert Tomasz Prange-Barczyński also hosts wine workshops for individual and corporate groups in English. In cooperation with the Tratoria company, Prange-Barczyński shows the tricks of the trade for small groups of newbies or the more advanced. Participants can expect to spend close to three hours learning about every aspect of genus, cultivation, climate and the impact of subtle nuances on colour, flavour and texture. It’s a great opportunity to get beyond the basics and finally get a grip on the art of wine while sampling a range of wines from the Old and New worlds. Most of all, you learn to trust your own judgement and get to know which particular wines are the ones for you based on tastes and textures, along with tips on how to locate those qualities in any time and place.
The introductory course is zł.189 per person (groups count up to 20 people) and the advanced courses range from zł.270-320. Trattoria also offers food pairing courses, with a full course served for every featured wine (zł.350 per person).
Vintrips is a brilliant oenotourism program for those eager to learn the secrets of cultivation and degustation. By bringing together sightseeing with Europe’s finest wines, Vintrips provides quick escapes from the everyday into the heart of French and Italian wine country, from Bourgogne to Barolo. A specialized itinerary is prepared, featuring charter flights to and from Warsaw, accomodation at some of the best hotels and castles, a touring and tasting agenda, as well as comprehensive menus designed to optimize the wine tasting experience.
Horseback riding, hunting and hot air balloon flights can also be included in the program, hosted by trilingual wine guides expert in both the particular region and the art of winemaking. Flights depart Thursday and return Sunday evening.
Afew days after the gargantuan gourmet experience at KOM, Sakana Sushi hosted a small Moet&Chandon sushi pairing and tasting party. We opted for the Saturday afternoon window, thinking a bit of bubbly in the afternoon would be a great start to the weekend. The end result was a bit of a stumble to get back home and a luxurious three-hour nap. We started off the meal with a refreshing scallop ceviche, paired with the Brut Imperial, followed by tuna tataki pairet with the delicate Rose Imperial, which brought out the juiciness of the meat and hint of ginger. For dessert, the Nectar Imperial served with mango, lychee and basil on ice was an absolute dream. Light, fresh and fruity. The point of the event wa: to prove that champagne goes perfectly well with a variety of Japanese dishes… A point well-made and brilliantly deliverec
Sakana Sushi Bar
ul. Moliera4/6 tel. 022 826-5958