On the last weekend of March, we were invited to attend a Ciroc vodka cocktail pairing at the Big Easy in Durban. The restaurant (located in the Hilton hotel) is quite easily one of our favourites, so it was without a doubt that I said yes!
The pairing featured a four-course meal, with four cocktails from the premium vodka brand. One cocktail was a welcome drink featuring Ciroc’s Snapfrost vodka, and the other three cocktails were paired with the first three dinner courses, and created using flavoured versions of the original vodka.
The welcome drink was created using the Ciroc Snap Frost vodka, mixed with a rose syrup, fresh cucumber, fresh apple and topped with soda. It was light, refreshing and a perfect way to start the evening.
The welcome drinks were served out on the deck of the Big Easy – with a gorgeous Ciroc sign set up and lit with blue lights.
Parmesan crisp, tomato and basil broth, baby herb salad, soda bread, roasted vine tomato
Everything about this course was perfect. Definitely my favourite dish of the evening (a bold statement, as the sweet course is usually tops for me). The broth had a hint of chilli that added just the right amount of heat, while the baked ricotta was creamy, herbed perfection. With the peppery rocket, crispy soda bread toast and sweet roasted vine tomatoes, this dish is something I’d even try and recreate at home (although I’d never be able to get it quite to Head Chef Noel Kanyemba’s standard).
The paired cocktail was created with the Ciroc Red Berry, a homemade strawberry puree and a splash of Martini Rosso. Haroon Haffajee, the Ciroc Brand Ambassador who created all of the cocktails, and was present on the evening, said that the Martinin Rosso added a herbed note to pair with the basil in the broth, as well as the herbs in the ricotta. The strawberry puree also paired exceptionally well with the peppery rocket.
It’s easy to say that this was also our favourite cocktail of the night, and by going between sipping this and tasting the dish, the pairing was perfection.
Pan-fried calamari, Saldanha bay mussels, sautéed snaps, baby gem, olive and garlic chutney, dill and spring onion emulsion
This course was light and refreshing, not heavy at all and somehow still packed with flavour. The Kabeljou fillet with the dill and spring onion emulsion was sublime, and the veggies were cooked to perfection – crunchy and fresh.
Even my Hubs, who isn’t usually a fish person, rated this highly!
This course was paired with a tall and super refreshing cocktail, with the Ciroc Mango vodka, fresh mango juice, a homemade dill syrup, fresh lemon juice and topped with soda water.
The dill didn’t leave this cocktail tasting overly herby – in fact it just upped the refreshing taste of this cocktail, and allowed it to work beautifully with the light fish and veggie dish. The mango and the fish was an excellent choice, and I could easily drink this cocktail by the pool on a hot summers day.
Slow Cooked Pork Belly
Baked apple puree, parsnip crème, parisienne potatoes, anise jus, charred baby carrots
I for one am a little touch and go with pork. I never used to have a problem with it, but some time last year I lost my taste. I can eat smoked pork goods like bacon, gammon, kassler and I can even stomach pork sausages, but pork roasts or chops are not my best.
This pork belly though – it may have redeemed pork for me! It was so incredibly delicious that I finished the whole thing. The baked apple puree was beautiful, and worked so well with the anise jus and parsnip crème. My only criticism was that the top of the pork belly could have been crisped up just that tiny bit more, but that is just my personal preference.
The final cocktail of the night was made using the Ciroc Summer Colada vodka – fresh pineapple and creamy coconut flavours, and a limited edition flavour. The vodka was mixed with fresh pineapple juice, vanilla syrup and topped with soda.
Once again, a lovely refreshing cocktail that worked exceptionally well with the dish. The pineapple in the drink worked with the apple puree, and helped to cut the richness of the meat. A lovely pairing.
Dark Chocolate Tart
Orange curd, fennel infused chocolate soil, meringue, chocolate dipped candied orange, lime gelée
Dessert is always my favourite course! I have a vicious sweet tooth, and am a major chocoholic, so this one hit the spot beautifully. I also love chocolate and citrus paired, and the orange curd was smooth and silky. The lime gelée was zesty and tart against the rich sweetness of the chocolate.
An overall beautiful dessert that I’d be happy to order off the menu.