Argentinian State of Mind
Trivento Winery and Vineyards Chief Winemaker Rafael Miranda was this year's guest of honour, with a special dinner held at the residence of the Argentinian Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Fernando del Solar Dorrego. Miranda chose eight wines (including one sparkling) to accompany the seven-course meal prepared by a host of chefs from across the island. The Trivento wines featured at the dinner were — Brut Nature (sparkling), 2018 Reserve Chardonnay, 2018 Reserve Malbec, 2017 Golden Reserve Malbec, 2012 Golden Reserve Syrah, 2013 Golden Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016 Golden Reserve Cabernet Franc, and Temptation Sweet Malbec. There are not enough pages to wax poetic about each of the wines, but when has Thursday Food ever shied away from a challenge?
The meal was executed by six chefs — Ravi Anne (Jewel Dunn's River Beach Resort), Mark Scott (The Purple Turtle Fire Pit at Drax Hall), Steve Sowa (Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa), Daniel Schweizer (GCG Group, Montego Bay), and Pure Chocolate co-principals Rennae Johnson-Tjeertes and Wouter Tjeertes.
The best way to start a dinner party is by pouring something effervescent, and Harbour Wines and Spirits did just that with a delightfully luscious Brut Nature sparkling wine. Its long-lasting foam, fresh bouquet and nuanced notes of stone fruit and spices was a hit with guests.
The first course — grilled octopus and scallop ceviche — was prepared by Chef Anne and was paired with the 2018 Chardonnay. The presentation of the deconstructed ceviche was stunning, and Chef Anne proved what he was about. You see, to serve a deconstructed dish it means that each element has to be, in a word, flawless. There is no hiding behind a consommé-like marinade here. Oh, no. Each ingredient was a star, and Chef Anne also showed that he's an accomplished saucier as each dot of tamarind sauce and house-made ketchup (it feels wrong calling it that) was divine. The Chardonnay was light and fruity and had a buttery mouthfeel that made the seafood sing.
Chef Scott was not to be outdone and his second course — poached cod and provolone gratin — was served swimming in an oxtail broth. Who woulda thunk that fish, cheese and the umami of a beef broth would work? It did. Very well, we might add. The 2018 Reserve Malbec, which is the best-selling Trivento Malbec in the world, was paired with the cod. The wine, redolent with dark fruit, spice, and vanilla, was a joy to drink.
The third and fourth courses were courtesy of Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa Executive Chef Steve Sowa. Chef Sowa presented a tea-smoked duck breast with pomegranate sauce, and pickled cho-cho (third course) and a rosemary-seared canon of lamb served with a ratatouille of brunoise vegetables and quenelles of polenta. Guests could have gone home after these courses as Chef Sowa showed his years of training and kitchen brigade leadership on two plates. The pickled cho-cho, which delighted Miranda, when combined with the 2017 Golden Reserve Malbec turned sweet. Chemistry or sorcery, you decide. The 2012 Golden Reserve Syrah combined with the lamb, ratatouille and polenta made the fourth course one of the best dishes of the evening.
Chef Daniel Schweizer created a fifth course comprised of pimento-dusted beef medallions, truffled potato purée and mushroom confit. If we had winter in Jamaica, this would be the sort of dish that you'd crave all season. The 2013 Golden Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with its notes of dark berries, tobacco, anise, cherry, and gravel (trust us, that's a good thing) made this earthy (see, that's why) dish comforting.
Thursday Food has previously advocated for bringing back the long-forgotten savoury course. Leave it to the husband-and-wife pastry chef duo of Wouter and Rennae Tjeertes to show guests that a meal's final courses are as significant as the first, second, third, fourth and fifth.
The sixth course was a savoury crème brûlée made of goat cheese, honey and thyme that was served alongside poached pear and jerk cashew nuts. The dish was transcendent. Oh, we can't forget the wine, a 2016 Golden Reserve Cabernet Franc with notes of dried raspberry, toast, vanilla and hints of liquorice and dark chocolate was the perfect accompaniment. The couple closed the meal with another successful dish, dessert, which saw the combination of a mousse made of 84% pure chocolate, smoked vanilla banana bread, and a gelée made from the wine paired with the dessert — Temptation Sweet Malbec. It was a fantastic way to close the meal and somehow recap the flavour profiles of its precursors.
Kudos to Harbour Wines and Spirits for engineering (it was indeed a feat) such an impressive dinner that will be spoken about for months, or until the next one. Until then Thursday Food will remain in an Argentinian state of mind.