Each tasting dish was specially created by Tom Aikens for the event to showcase the versatile portfolio of Cloudy Bay, as well as being a perfect match for the full flavours and vibrant aromatics of the wines. Better known for their famous Sauvignon Blanc (reputedly one the most sought after white wines in the UK), I was also delighted to have the opportunity to try their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling at the tasting.
Of the eight dishes we tried, five were chosen - each dish will be accompanied by a pre-selected glass of Cloudy Bay wine and will be priced at £8.50 (for both food and wine). The five best dishes were:
“Tomato salad with basil, watermelon, mint and crayfish tails”, paired with a classic 09 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. I enjoyed the combination of tropical fruit and herbal notes of the sauvignon with the tomato, watermelon and basil flavours in the salad, and felt these worked perfectly together.
“Deep fried paprika squid with lime”, paired with the 06 Cloudy Bay Te Koko. This dish was in my opinion the “weakest link” despite being served with a delicious aioli. There is only so much excitement I can feel over deep fried squid (as delicious as it may be – and this one certainly was). The Te Koko (another Sauvignon Blanc), had more intense floral and spicy undertones of orange blossom and ginger and was robust enough to stand up to the garlic and paprika aioli.
The “Dorset crab with chilli and ginger” was paired with the 06 Cloudy Bay Riesling. Riesling is one of my favourite white grape varietals and Cloudy Bay’s showed great depth of fruit and with a classic petroleum nose reminiscent of an aged Alsatian Riesling. It married well with the crab, ginger and chilli and was one of the best combinations of the evening.
The “Spicy crab cakes with tomato salsa or guacamole”, paired with Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, was another hit. The crab was fresh and delicately spiced and was a great match to the heady Chardonnay. The wine had citric characteristics with a touch of oak balancing the spiciness of the crab meat.
One of my favourite dishes was the “Seven hour lamb” which luckily made it to the final and was matched with Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir. The meat had been braised for 7 hours - it was sweet and melting in the mouth, and served with fluffy mashed potatoes. It was also an excellent partner to the delicately flavoured Pinot - showing characteristic red berry fruit flavours on the palate, with long but very soft tannins.
Other equally delicious dishes which did not quite make the mark were “Tomato gaspacho with crab” (my favourite). It was as creamy as bisque, and had a lovely sweetness from the basil.
“Salmon with chilli and lime, peanut crumbs and pickled radish” – I enjoyed the oriental flavours in this dish (peanuts, chilli and lime) and felt it went well with the fatty salmon and Chardonnay it was paired with.
“Marinated hand dived scallops with chilli, mint and lemon grass dressing”. I also greatly enjoyed this dish (similar to a “ceviche”) - the scallops had been seasoned in a delicious, tangy dressing with fresh vanilla seeds.
I can think of few more enjoyable ways of spending a weekend than picnicking with Tom Aiken’s delicious food, washed down by glasses of Cloudy Bay wine, with a live Jazz band in the background, and hopefully some sun! This should be an amazing event and one I will make sure to attend.