Saturday, October 16, 2010

An Interesting (and Delicious) Scotch-Pairing Dinner

I headed over to Gordon's with Joe on Thursday to check out their Compass Box Whiskey-Pairing Dinner.The chef was Antonio Bennencourt from 62 Restaurant (along with a sous chef), and the entire meal was well-prepared and quite delicious.
The ambassador from Compass Box was some dude. He had a lot of good information, but apparently also had an intense fear of silence... or maybe I was just cranky.
Things started off with the cocktail pictured above, which combined an orange-infused whiskey with apple cider, cranberry juice, and lime (with a cinnamon-sugar rim). It was sort of like the best mulled cider ever. Yummy. The first (quite generous) course was the Cider-Braised Pork Belly with Seckel Pear Mostarda, Cinnamon, and Clove.
The pork belly was fantastic. I loved the braising liquid (which included mustard as well as cider) and I will totally try to replicate it at home. The dish was paired with Asyla, which was a light, easy-drinking 10 year old blend. As with all of the pairings in this meal, my reaction was basically, "Huh. That actually pairs pretty well..." No pairing was spectacular and none particularly clashed... Anyway. Next up was the Cinghiale al Dolce Forte (Hand-Rolled Garganelli Pasta with Wild Boar Ragu, Currants, and Pine Nuts).
This dish was really nice, and I particularly enjoyed the way the pine nuts contrasted with the rich meat and al dente hand-made pasta. This was paired with a whiskey called Hedonism, a beautiful 12-year-old blended grain whiskey. The third course was a "Grilled" Tuscan Sirloin with Roasted Fennel, Rosemary, and Sea Salt. This was a slow-roasted sirloin (thus the ability to keep the meat medium-rare throughout) that was seared off and then paired with The Peat Monster, which was intended to add some smokiness to call to mind the taste of a grilled steak.
I appreciate when people cook my meat perfectly, and the caramelized fennel was perfect with the steak. The Peat Monster was a bit more peaty than is my style, but it went well with the food and did indeed bring in a nice smokiness. Finally, dessert was something that I wasn't looking forward to at all but that ended up being my second-favorite course of the night (behind the pork belly): Sticky Toffee Pudding.
I had obviously never had good sticky toffee pudding before, because this was better than I ever could have dreamed possible. Mmm... The dessert was paired with a whiskey called "The Spice Tree," which worked quite well with it. In the end, I wasn't blown away by the whiskeys but I really enjoyed the chef and his food, and I'm now tempted to drive out to Salem and try his restaurant. All in all, a fun night with awesome food and good company... Hard to complain...

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