Friday 29 February 2008

Sicilian Wine Dinner

Last night, the Rose and Crown ran another of their wine dinners. Unfortunately, I have another cold. Fortunately I am not as congested as I was at the French wine dinner so I was able to enjoy it, even if I missed a lot of the subtleties.

We went to an Italian wine dinner in September, which featured a delicious Sicilian fiano, so we were sort of hoping it'd be back on the menu. It wasn't. But we began with a viognier from the same label, MandraRossa, which was very pleasant, if underchilled. That was served with caponata and grilled bread, which I thought was quite a brave choice - I wouldn't have thought something sweet and sour like caponata would have worked with wine, but it was pretty good. When I make caponata it is usually pretty similar to this recipe, but I usually add some toasted pinenuts to it. Fabulous with BBQd lamb chops or a steak. The one at the pub was diced quite small, for convenient eating as a bruschetta topping, and had some flaked almonds in it, which didn't add heaps of flavour or texture, but were a pretty good idea anyway.

The next wine could also have done with some solid chilling; a white blend called La Segreta Bianco, it went very well with the fish course. Actually, I thought having a seafood platter as the fish course was quite brave too, since so many people seem to be funny about shellfish. It was very nice though, a little swordfish involtini, a couple of mussels gratin, and a couple of spicy prawns sharing the involtini's skewer. The prawns should have been decent-sized king prawns - while they were sweet and tender, at a little less than an inch long, they just looked a bit miserly on the plate.

A pleasant, fruity red wine, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, came with the chicken cacciatore. The chicken was lovely - nice big chunks on the bone, they'd obviously been very well browned before the liquid was added, so they were extremely tender but didn't have the flabby texture that boiled chicken skin gets. The sauce was also very good. Not as thick and tomatoey as some, it was clear and well-flavoured and soaked into the accompanying macaroni very nicely.

The pudding wine was a really lovely Moscato (which should have been colder... I think the pub lacks icebuckets). The pudding was described as "Sugared fruit tart and blancmange", which wasn't particularly accurate. It was sort of like a thin mince pie, with quite a fresh-tasting (very appley) fruit mince filling, with "blancmange" on the side. Now, as I know it, blancmange is a cornflour-thickened milk pudding that sets firm enough to turn out of a mould. It seems there is also a famous Sicilian (which would fit) version called biancomangiare which sounds much nicer, being based on almond milk (a vegan pudding - always useful to have up your sleeve). But this wasn't that either. It was sort of a custard, quite lemony, but obviously thickened to a pouring consistency with ground almonds, so it had a slightly gritty, lumpy texture. It was delicious, but not really what I mean by blancmange. If I didn't trust the chef, I would suspect that he was making the biancomangiare and made the schoolboy error of not reading the recipe through the whole way and missed the step of running the almond milk through the cheesecloth...

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