As we sat down at the latest wine tasting dinner, and picked up the menus, I was hit with the most amazing sense of deja vu. Surely we'd had a seafood bake and beef and corn pie at the last Chilean wine dinner? Well yes. I looked through my archives and found that last May we sat down to the exact same menu. But I found it interesting to see how things had been done differently, so I hope you will too.
Last year they called the starter Jerusalem Artichoke Soup. I said "I don't think it was. For one thing, I haven't seen a Jerusalem Artichoke in the shops for weeks, and for another, Jerusalem Artichokes puree so very beautifully that I don't think you could achieve the effect of a clear green liquid with pulverised little hard vegetable bits." This year they mistranslated Sopa de Topinambur as Artichoke Soup and produced a lovely, creamy, lemony soup, with the occasional bit of artichoke heart in it. Last year's sauvignon blanc was replaced by a very nice (if underchilled) unoaked chardonnay.
Of last year's seafood bake I said "fairly large portion of very rich, very delicious seafood baked in creamy, cheesy sauce. It had nice chunky pieces of crayfish, mussels and squid". This year it was a smaller portion, scooped onto the plate instead of served in the individual gratin dishes of last year. Last year's crayfish and squid were replaced by little shrimp and crab. The sauce was overthickened and a bit stodgy, but it still had a very good flavour and a squeeze of lemon and the fresh green salad really lifted it. It was served with a buttery, lightly oaked viognier, instead of last year's chardonnay.
The pastel de choclo, beef and corn pie, was quite different. Last year "it was a casserole of mince with sweetcorn kernels, sultanas and slices of hardboiled egg, served with some rice". This year small pieces of tender, slow-cooked beef (shin, I think) in a slightly gloopy gravy was covered by a thick layer of creamed corn topping. Tasty, but too big a portion, and I have a faint feeling that the topping was probably supposed to be cornmeal rather than creamed sweetcorn. It was served with a very good carmenere.
Last year's Turron de vino was translated as wine and almond nougat and was "a glass with a layer of a sweet, loose almond paste, broken up with flaked almonds, topped by a strawberry puree and a generous amount of whipped cream". This year they translated it as "wine custard with meringue" and produced a very nice vanilla anglais, with a scoop of icecream in the middle, topped with a really horrible sickly-sweet grey foam that reminded me of the tideline at the beach when there has been heavy sewage pollution. It was served with a very big, inky dark cabernet sauvignon that didn't speak to the dessert in any way.
So. Some hits, some misses - the soup particularly was immeasurably improved, even if it still wasn't made with the right vegetable - but I can't do better than repeat last year's closing remark: "I just feel that if they hadn't tried to do Chilean food they would probably have been better off".