By Aimee Hartley
On a sunny Monday, 40 chefs came together to enjoy a sumptuous feast cooked up by acclaimed chef Tom Kerridge. As part of the Chef Eats Out initiative by The Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, it brings together budding new chefs to get creative foodie-type juices flowing.
Hosted at Tom’s two Michelin starred pub/restaurant The Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Bibendum was approached to put together a wine tasting menu worthy of Tom’s delectable dishes and quite frankly, as this would mean we would also get to sample some of his creations, we whole-heartedly obliged.
After a glass of fine bubbly in the garden by champagne house Bruno Paillard, our hungry bellies were guided to their seats.
First up was the crispy pigs head with pancetta and artichokes accompanied by a glass of the Navaherreros Blanco by artisan Spanish producer Bernabeleva. In my head I was imagining Tom emerging from the kitchen, pigs head hooked under arm, maybe still honking a bit, but in reality the dish that came out was elegance itself.
This was also very helpful as I was able to park the ‘un-phased, in fact, very excited about said potentially scary food item’ look I’d been practicing in advance of the lunch (because when you like food you have to make out like these things don’t really scare you, even if they do a bit). Presented in a perfect crispy oblong, the meat had a rich texture and almost gamey flavour to it, whilst the strip of crackling and artichokes made the dish a textural delight. Like the food, the wine had an honest, gutsy nature to it and where Tom pushes the boundaries with his food, this up and coming Spanish producer does so with its new breed of boutique Spanish wines.
Many bundles of parsley had been sacrificed to make our next dish, of which we were very thankful for – parsley soup topped with croutons, smoked eel, bacon and cheddar tortellini. We figured that if there was in fact a world in which wine and food were joined in holy matrimony, Lageder’s Haberle Pinot Bianco, a cool sort of character, would take one look at the aforementioned parsley soup slinking down the street, do a double take and exclaim ‘my, how perfectly green you are’. Thankfully we were right, and days later we are happy to report they are still very happy together.
Palate cleansed, we clippety clopped onwards to the main event – loin of Cotswold venison with another potential scary food item (ox tongue), Bérigoule Mushroom, English Asparagus and Prickly Ash. What better vinous beast to pair this hearty dish with than Journey’s End’s 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch, South Africa. The smokiness of the venison, saltiness of the ox tongue and meaty quality of the mushroom set off the leathery, savoury quality of the wine sublimely. Tom told me he thought the wine was ‘lush’ and if it’s good enough for Tom, well, it’s good enough for us.
And now my friends, we reach the end of our culinary and vinous adventure with a very chocolaty pudding, topped with salted caramel and muscavado sugar ice cream. Tom tells us it took 4 days and a rather cumbersome process to make the chocolate square, so perfectly square and chocolaty, and we do agree that it was very square and chocolaty indeed. Enter the Maury Grenat 2009 by Els Pyreneus, a dessert wine built with cocoa in mind, this little number sent our chef friends into fits of joy. This wine delivers a smooth, sumptuous treat for your taste buds and happily chuckles in the face of those ‘wine and chocolate- yeah right’ sceptics.
All in all we had a jolly nice day and were excited that so many of the chefs wanted to chat to us about the amazing wines we’d been drinking. What we’d hoped to do was make sure that the honesty, attention to detail and personality found in Tom’s food could also be found in the chosen wines. Producers like Alois Lageder (Alto Adige), with his gravity fed, sustainable winery and penchant for playing classical music to his barrels, and Bodegas Bernabeleva (Castilla Y Leon), with their pioneering attitude to wine making and use of native Spanish grape varieties are, quite simply, what this is all about folks.
To find out about up and coming events, check out the Caterer & Hotelkeeper website