Review of De Nada French Evening
After spending the day going a couple of shades past stir crazy, trapped inside (with toddler) and hiding from the sprawling wrath of Bertha, nothing was a more welcome respite than arriving at De Nada for a night of French food, wine and good company.
The welcome was warm as always and after a much needed glass of wine we took to our seats starving, excited and ready to feast on all things French.
The evening had been advertised as simply, “6 French wines paired with 6 French dishes” and, as is usual with De Nada’s gourmet evenings, Samantha, the lady of mystery that she is, had kept the menu a secret until the night itself. Well, we all love a good surprise, don’t we?
The lovely Nathan from Springwell Wines was on hand to try and educate us (no mean feat) on the wines that he had chosen to accompany Sam’s ménage a trois of starters and mains.
We were soon presented with a board on which sat a trio of entrées. Firstly, there was a jar of chicken liver pate. A velvety, earthy and meaty concoction, with a devilish layer of clarified butter on top that was simply yummy.
It’s partner in crime was the Domaine de Montredon Picpoul de Pinet. 2013. A zippy, springy little number from the Languedoc region. Nathan describes picpoul as “sauvignon blanc on steroids” A big hit of pear drop and a fresh, hugely vibrant acidity which cut through the irony meatiness of the liver with zeal.
Next came baked mussels. Three plump, green-lipped bad boys that were finished with a crunchy parmesan, olive oil and breadcrumb topping and then baked to absolute perfection.
It’s pairing was the Val De Garrigue Cotes du Rhone ‘La Petite Poulisonne’ 2013
The hot dry winds of the Rhone valley make this a wonderfully flavourful wine with initial notes of subtle apricot that turn into a much deeper richness and worked with the mussels well.
Our final starter was a black olive tapenade and aubergine caviar. The aubergine caviar in particular, was very tasty. A delicately fragrant aubergine emulsion that coated the mouth with warmth and spice to a tee.
To go with this we tasted the Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2013. A quality and accessible example of Chablis that handled the oiliness of the tapenade and the spice of the aubergine with bone dry dignity.
After a brief hiatus, where I grabbed the opportunity to take (or at least make Nigel take) some of the photos you see dotted about these pages, the mains arrived. Another delectable trio…
First to the starting line was ratatouille. A medley of vegetables stewed down in a rich tomato sauce. A little pot of Provençal sunshine.
The accompanying wine was the Sainte Marie Rose. A blend of, grenache, syrah, cabernet and cinsault made on an old monastery site near St Tropez with subtle hints of raspberry and redcurrant.
I’ve always talked myself out of liking rose wines, but this was a far cry from the usual fare of sickly white zinfandels and blushes served up in nondescript bars everywhere. I really enjoyed it!
After chatting to Nathan, I learned that some wine and food pairings, as was the case here, are steeped in history and tradition and work for no other reason than, well, they just always have!
Next up, my favourite main course. A hearty cassoulet. made with haricot beans, French garlic sausage and fatty little unctuous cubes of pork belly. The flavour that the beans took on from the sausage and pork was delightful, like tiny little sponges ready to soak up all the porky goodness that surrounded them! The star of the night for me.
The wine we tasted to go with this was the Chateau Treytins St Emilion 2008. A classic merlot- dominant Bordeaux with a warm, soft and well-rounded feel. A big bowl of the cassoulet and an even bigger glass of the red would definitely be my ideal night in. A really ‘cosy’ pairing.
Lastly, was beef bourgignon. Tender chunks of beef and sweet baby onions cooked low and slow in a rich and savoury red wine sauce. A bistro-tastic classic.
Our final wine of the night was the Mont Rocher “Vieilles Vigne” Malbec. Much smoother and more elegant than some of the Argentine heavyweights that I’m used to dealing with. Dark red fruits and plum gave it a softer edge, meaning it didn’t have to fight for attention with the bourgignon sauce. They worked in harmony and it knew it’s place.
Now, something that’s been niggling me is how it was that Sam managed to get away with serving two big, bold, cockle warming, comfort food dishes right in the middle of August? Thanks to Bertha it was uncharacteristically (although maybe not for Manchester) chilly, wet and downright miserable outside. Comfort food weather indeed! Had Sam summoned Bertha to do her bidding whilst she was cooking up a storm (pun absolutely intended) in the kitchen?? Well, whether it was witchcraft or just plain luck, it all worked. And she pulled it off brilliantly.
Thankfully we had more than enough wine left to make our own combinations and see what went with what. Although by this point, the wine had been flowing for quite some time and it gradually felt less about educating our palates and more about slurring a few words, having a last few laughs and calling those inevitable taxis home.
To use the king of clichés…..all good things must come to an end.
“And how much does it cost to go on a culinary adventure such as this?” I hear you ask. A mere £25 per head. Yep, I love a bargain too!
Well done De Nada. C’etait magnifique!
Review by Miss Sing