Another month, another wine tasting dinner at the Rose & Crown. This one was on a Tuscan theme, and I was pretty excited because the rep at the previous one had assured me that there would be a proper pudding wine, so we wouldn't have the same dessert iss-yews that have plagued some of the recent dinners.
And indeed, there were no such problems this time.
We started with the iconic Tuscan soup pappa al pomodoro - which I tried in Florence last year and loved. Who would have thought that a thick puree of tomatoes and that horrible Tuscan saltless bread could be so delicious? This version wasn't quite as thick (I suspect pandering to conservative Rickmansworth tastes) but perfectly seasoned and an amazing accompaniment to the 2007 Beguardo Rose. It really was one of those moments of alchemy when both the wine and the food are better for the match.
As my next course I had what they called Ravioli Nudi - which I would call gnocchi gnudi. I have made something similar following a River Cafe recipe, but it's similar to this - gnocchi made from ricotta and spinach bound with eggs and a bit of flour and given some oomph with parmesan. These were lovely. Light and not at all cloying. It was paired with a 2006 Campo Ceni which was quite robust and fruity - lots of ripe berry flavours. Not quite the perfect accompaniment but a very nice wine!
The "meat" option for that course was a stuffed pepper (which I didn't choose because the ingredients were too similar to the vegetarian main that I wanted). I'm often a bit dubious about stuffed peppers because the stuffing is so often rice-based and really heavy, but this one was filled with a lovely light diced vegetable mix and topped with a bit of cheese. There was some proscuitto in it, which is why it counted as the meaty option.
For the main course they brought out the big guns. A 2003 vernaccia di San Gimignano made by Panizzi. It was absolutely lovely. The time in the bottle had aged it to a deep gold colour and it had that beautiful buttery finish that you get with aged Hunter Valley semillon. Apparently a lot of people complained about it because they like their white wines young and flinty. Pinheads. I like a pinot gris as much as the next girl but a slightly older white wine like this is an entirely different kettle of fish.
With the vernaccia I had what they called Melanzane Parmigiana. It really wasn't what I think of when I say melanzane parmigiana, but it was fabulous. Thin slices of courgette and aubergine were layered with an intensely flavoured tomato confit and a round of softly melted goats cheese. Amazing! The panzanella on the side was disappointing - cubes of stale bread with a lot of vinegary onions and the occasional bit o' tomato.
Dessert, however, did not disappoint. A couple of cubes of a dense, orangey sponge, topped with a thick chocolate glaze, a couple of light, fluffy, Bramley apple fritters and a beautiful, ripe fig provided a whole symphony of flavours to match with the vin santo. None of it was too sweet, so the sweet wine was really able to shine. I'd have been happy just with the figs and maybe a biscotti with the wine, but the apple fritters were just the right balance of tart/sweet filling and hot crisp coating.
The wine rep was at the table next to us. Lovely girl - I got the impression she'd had a glass of each wine at every table - and a job well done.