There are some thing in life that make you happy. Perhaps it’s a cup of tea in bed each morning, or maybe it’s hitting every green light on a stretch of road.
Then there are the things that make you ecstatic. So thrilled to bits that you want to burst at the seams. And burst at the seams we did, when we attended the Best of the Cape wine pairing at the Big Easy restaurant in the Hilton Hotel in Durban this last Tuesday.
At R495 for 4 courses of food and 5 different wines, this is supremely well priced, and with the standard of food at Big Easy – the quality far exceeds the cost. Jan Nico Coetzee (who has been in the wine industry for 10 years) paired a list of fantastic wines with a menu created especially for the occasion by Chef Janine Fourie. Great food? Check! Amazing wine? Check!
I’ve eaten at Big Easy before (you can read all about that HERE), but I’ve never attended one of their wine pairings before. As far as I know, this was the last one for 2017, but they do have a couple of other events still happening this year – A Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day lunch and a New Year’s Eve dinner.
We arrived at the restaurant and were welcomed with a chilled glass of Rijk’s Private Cellar Chenin Blanc 2014. This was light, fresh and clean – a real summer wine. The hubby is not the biggest fan of white wines, and he made sure I had a picture of this bottle, so we’d remember it for future summer events.
We found our seats in the private dining room at the Big Easy – a truly beautiful room for small, private events. I’m already considering booking it for my Mom’s 60th birthday in a couple of years! There are thick lengths of rope lining the walls, a framed and signed chef’s jacket, and vineyard-themed canvases on the walls, and the entrance into the room is an archway, in raw, naked brick, with sheer curtains that you can pull across should you want a little more privacy for your party. Apparently, Ernie Els had two briefs when creating the restaurant – that it should feel like his home (the decor mimics this), and that it should have a hamburger on the menu.
We were seated luckily enough next to the sports celebs for the evening – Sharks rugby players Sbura Sithole and Odwa Ndungane. Both very down to earth and friendly, and the other gents in the room wasted no time in talking all things rugby with them.
Chef Sbu came around and explained the menu to us, followed by Jan Nico Coetzee, who spoke briefly about each of the wines we were tasting.
Honey Mustard Tuna Tartar with Ouma’s anise brioche, radish remoulade, kohlrabi micro leaves and beer emulsion
I’ve never been a big one for tuna – canned or raw in sushi. I seem to go on and off with tuna as the years go by. And in all honesty, I think I maybe be back on with it!
This starter was absolutely divine. I’ll admit, the anise and radish in the title had me a bit worried, but when each little element of the dish was put together in a bite, and a sip of the accompanying sparkling wine was taken, it was heaven. Pure heaven. The beer emulsion didn’t taste particularly like beer to me, but the dish as a whole was just spectacular!
The Green Man was such a beautiful crisp tasting sparkling wine too. There was such a distinct flavour and aroma of Granny Smith Apples that Jan Nico had said we’d smell, but it was such a unique flavour in a sparkling wine.
Slow Roasted Pork Shank with apple, sage and pork pate ravioli and smokey citrus rooibos broth
This was my favourite course! The ravioli was cooked a little al dente, but I think it needed to be to fit in with the rest of the plate. Crumbles of roasted pork shank, a large ravioli filled with the apple, sage and divine pork pate and the smokey citrus rooibos broth. This was such a strongly scented and flavoured dish that the wine paired with it was going to need to be able to compete. And it did so, so well.
We had a small sip of the wine while waiting and, while it was good, I don’t think I’d have been able to drink a whole glass of it by itself. Cartology was such such a strong and vibrantly flavoured wine that it really left an impression. And with the strongly flavoured dish, it worked so beautifully.
Jan Nico told us that the wine is a blend of about 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Semillon. The wine is green, fresh, sweet and full of summer fruit. It’s also quite a rare wine, in that in KwaZulu Natal, we only receive 60 bottles each vintage.
Spiced Biltong Springbuck Fillet with cardamom essence carrot flan, smoked butter potato fondant with thyme, balsamic granola and de-glazed cranberry jus
I’ve never tried springbuck before, so I was excited and nervous at the same time. I love my red meat, so I was sure I’d really enjoy it, but I was also worried at how gamey it would taste.
The dish was absolutely divine (if a little big for a four-course meal – I had to ask my husband to finish it for me, a hard task seeing as how I just kept nibbling at the amazing components on the plate). The springbuck was perfectly cooked, tender and so delicious. I loved the ‘cardamom essence carrot flan’ as it was sweet enough to offset the meat, and the cranberry jus and baby carrots were just lovely. A perfectly planned dish.
The Waterford The Jem was, as I told Jan Nico, everything I want in a red wine. Rich, fruity and I could smell and taste the luscious dark berries in it – the perfect companion to the dark springbuck meat and cranberry jus. Although at around R1000 a bottle, I’ll have to just keep the memories of how it tasted alive! Absolute perfection.
Strawberries and cream – Strawberry pannacotta, basil canolli filled with cream and dried berries
My favourite word. At least one of them!
The strawberry pannacotta was just incredible – the flavour was spot on and it was so deliciously creamy. I loved the dried berries and edible flowers on the plate too, as they just made it so gosh darn pretty.
I was so intrigued with the basil cream filled canolli and they were amazing! I have seen that basil and strawberries pair well together, but I’ve never experienced it in a dessert. So delicious and overall the whole plate paired well with the port. It wasn’t an overwhelming amount of sweetness, as the basil gave a freshness to it, and the dried berries were just tart enough to cut the sugar. The port itself also wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and since it’s served cold, it’s great as a dessert drink in the middle of summer.
Wow. Just wow.
This may have been my first wine pairing dinner at Big Easy, but it will by no means be my last. I honestly think that the price of the evening is so fantastic when compared to what you’re getting out of it. Truly great gourmet food and fabulous wines.
Big Easy – I’ll see you soon!
**DISCLAIMER – while we were treated to a complimentary meal on behalf of Big Easy, all opinions are honest and our own.**
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