The entire last week has been rather busy, with one food event turning up after another - Not that you see me complaining about it in anyway, the foodie that I am!! Not exactly a great connoisseur of wines, my wine tasting skills has been till date quite limited, unquestionably accepting whatever's being offered my way. So, an invitation to attend the Italian Wine and Food Pairing Festival at The Claridges, Surajkund last week was gladly welcomed, in an attempt to hone my skills in an area totally unfamiliar to me. Also, having already had a brush with the hotel's impeccable service and warm hospitality, having attended their exquisite Sunday Brunch just sometime back in December, I was looking forward to another memorable wining and dining experience.
After quickly searching the internet for hints, clutching at my scant knowledge of wine and food pairing, and dear hubby alongside to get me through the evening, I finally reached my destination, braving the weekday traffic for a good one and a half hours. (Hats off to each one of you out there who do this everyday for a living.)
The hotel looked spectacular at night, beautifully lit up, it looked magically transformed, almost out of a fairy tale,so different to what I remembered from my previous visit in the morning.
In the center of the hotel, a beautifully landscaped open courtyard which can be viewed from all sides, looked right out of a movie scene. It looked really beautiful and held a definite 'romantic' feel about it, all lit up with beautiful fountains and burning "Mashaals" succeeding in transporting me to another world. A walk through the beautiful art lounge at the lobby, where one cannot help but admire the amazing blown glass artworks, I reached the Oasis, the hotel's multi-cuisine restaurant, where the Italian Wine and Food Pairing Festival was being held.
Inside, seated on the table with the others, was a charming young girl, who introduced herself as Irene Vigalo, whom I thought was accompanying Aishwariya for the evening. She looked so young that none of us realized that she would be the Sommelier from Italy, who was here in India to showcase the Zonin brand of wines. Friendly and knowledgeable, she was the perfect hostess for the evening.
It was fascinating to observe the way, how before taking a sip of the wine she would twirl the glass around, smell it and then take a really small sip of the wine like a true connoisseur. Frankly, I too tried doing the same but hard as I tried, I couldn't really tell the difference. A total novice at the fine art of wine tasting, I believe it will take me some time till I really get to perfectly understand the nuances. Till then, I will just rely on my judgement and enjoy what tastes good to my palate.
Our first course was a Tapas platter - a delectable selection of Italian cold cuts, Chicken and Pistachio slice, Parma ham and Melon. Though delicious, the size of the serving was a bit small and shared between six of us it was polished off in no time. Wish there was more of it.Along with the apperitifs, was served a sparkling wine, Prosecco. It was fruity and aromatic and had a delicate flavour. I loved the taste.
Next, on the menu was Carpaccio di tunno, Carpaccio of yellow fin tuna on argula bed with kalamata olives, capers in olive and lemon dressing. The way it was presented, it looked every bit a work of art!! I don't think I have ever tasted anything like this before.Thinly sliced fresh tuna marinated in olive oil and lemon, it was just outstanding!! I can't ever imagine myself eating fish that is raw but on tasting, you just could not make out that the fish was uncooked. It was amazing that there was not even the slightest hint of the fishy smell which is so distinctive of tuna fish. Definitely recommended for all the fish lovers!!
The Tuna Carpaccio was accompanied by another great selection of wine by our gracious hostess Irene. This time she chose Soave, a dry white wine to go with the seafood.
A clean, fruity aroma with hints of peach and grapefruit, the wine had delicate flavors. According to Irene, this wine is recommended especially for shellfish, fish, soups, light pasta dishes and vegetarian dishes. Also served alongside, was a basket of crusty, freshly baked breads.Soft and chewy on the inside and topped with a generous helping of butter, it was the perfect excuse to be over-indulgent.
Next in the main course was Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a grilled premium tenderloin with freshly sauteed spinach and extra virgin olive oil. Nice and juicy, my steak was cooked to perfection!! The spinach sauce reminded me of flavors back home as it was quite akin to our desi 'palak-paneer' and was great tasting too.
Irene opted out for the vegetarian option, Millefoglie di melenzane, which was layers of crumbled eggplant with smoked cheese which looked tempting and smelled delicious.
This time, the grilled tenderloin was paired with Refosco, a robust fruity red wine. I believe its characteristic fruitiness makes it an ideal wine for drinking throughout a meal. It goes well with pasta or rice dishes, sauces, stewed meats, and moderately aged or mature cheeses. But for a layman like me, all I could sum up was that it tasted great and wasn't too sweet like some of the red wines I have tasted earlier.
Then came the dessert Minestrone e frutta esctico, a lemon sorbet served with exotic fruits. From the first look, to me, the dessert looked like a regular scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with fruits. Not having much of a sweet tooth, I uninterestingly took a bite of it. The flavors just exploded in my mouth!! The sweetness of the fruits and the tanginess of the lemon sorbet really hit the mark.
I just couldn't put the spoon down and polished off every bit of my dessert. The perfect finish to a great meal.
The buffet too was a feast for the eyes and looked distractedly tempting. We just couldn't resist taking a few bites from the delectable spread.
Also worth a mention is the hotel's Wine Library which boasts of a remarkable collection of wines. It also offers wine tasting to their diners to help them make the perfect choice.
I remember before we left for the event, to upscale my knowledge, I had asked my husband that how does one actually figure out which wine goes with what food. He answered simply, "Just follow the basic principle - red wine goes with red meat and the white wine goes with white meat!!" After this great wining and dining experience, I really don't know if my wine and food pairing skills have sharpened a lot and in future I will actually be able to figure out the combinations correctly, but what I do know is that I came out with an experience that was totally unparalleled.
Thanks Irene for being the perfect guide and hostess helping us to unlock some of the intricate mysteries of wine and food pairing.
Also a big thanks to The Claridges Surajkund for hosting us and once again providing an absolutely memorable and delicious experience.
Sharing this wonderful experience with me were:
Parul from The Shirazine
Aishwarya from Aishwarya Eats