Thursday 23 October 2008

Tuscan Wine Dinner

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.


Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Foodycat, how absolutely enchanting to go out to these wine dinners. The menus sounds fabulous. Isn't being a foodie wonderful?

Rachel said...

Rickmansworth means what? Not a slight to the divine Alan Rickman, I hope!

So, I dropped by to let you know about the cool new Cook the Books blog Johanna the Food Junkie designed for our foodie book club ( to remind you to read "La Cucina" by Lily Prior. We have a new headquarters!

Darius T. Williams said...

I bet this was divine...this looks great!


Sam said...

Looks like a fantastic meal!

Joie de vivre said...

That melanzanie parmigiana looked amazing! (I know I spelled that wrong) How fun.

alexandra's kitchen said...

I want to be a wine rep! This dinner looks like fun. I've been dying to make gnocchi/nudi since having the spinach-ricotta gnocchi at the Zuni Cafe. They were so flavorful yet light tasting. I've bookmarked the recipe you linked.

Bettina Douglas said...

I discovered the vernaccia di San Gimangano when we were doing our Italian lunch earlier this year.
I think it works extremely well with Tuscan food. (Plus the label is so cute.)
There is also a Sardinian wine made from a related grape which is lighter but works very well with seafood.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Teresa - the wine dinners are wonderful! And they are very reasonably priced.

Rachel - Rickmansworth is the town where we live, I guess the divine Alan's family must have been from there originally!

Darius - wine, food and friends, can't be beaten!

Sam - it really was!

Joie - it was so good! I think I will try one like it; so much lighter than the usual version.

Ali - let me know how you go making your own!

Mother - it did go very well. I will have to look out for the Sardinian one!

NKP said...

If I were the wine rep I would have a glass at every table too. (or 2)
What a great spread - I think I like the eggplant dish the best. I could never get tired of Italian food. This event looks like so much fun.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Natashya - I never tire of Italian food either!

Chris said...

Thanks for linking to my blog. I am excited to peruse the rest of your posts. :)


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