Saturday 13 June 2009

Chilean Wine Dinner 09

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".


kat said...

Seems a little lazy that they didn't try to create a new menu, or is that just me

Alicia Foodycat said...

Kat - Not just you! I thought it was very lazy. It's not the same chef, soo I would have thought they'd want to put their own stamp on the meal.

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Perhaps stick with what you know should be their motto. Could it have been the economy that put a dent in their menu items? Or as Kat says -- lazy? Oh well, an adventure I'm sure.

Esi said...

That does seem lazy not to create a new menu, hopefully you at least had an enjoyable evening.

NKP said...

I am surprised it was the same menu as well, but it gave for an interesting comparison post.

Bettina Douglas said...

Or maybe the new chef thought they could show how it should be done? Makes for an interesting review having the two compared.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Teresa - I don't think it was the economy, the way they did the new version would have been more expensive than last year's!

Esi - we always have a nice time there. And the food was good (except for the dessert).

Natashya - I'm just sorry I didn't have pictures from last year to compare.

Mother - the new chef still doesn't have a background in Chilean food. It was much better, but still a bit weird.


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