A Trip to Chile…in Manhattan

At a lunch last week hosted by Cooking by the Book , I was reminded why I like Chilean wine so much.  Or at least I was reminded that I like Chilean wine so much.  And I was also reminded that wine and food “matching”  (as wine writer Randy Caparoso likes to say instead of “pairing”) really can make a fun meal even more fun, interesting and delicious with just a little thought and effort.

Our host at at “Cooking’s” loft space in Lower Manhattan was  Ruth Van Waerebeek, born in the medieval city of Ghent and originally known for her cookbook “Everybody Eats Well in Belgium.”  Maybe, but Ruth has made her reputation with wine people in another place, 73oo miles to the southwest, in Chile where she’s the consulting chef and culinary advisor to the Concha y Toro wine group, the largest producer in the country.  (I wrote about Concha here.)  Ruth also runs a “Gastronomical Hotel,” Mapuyampay, a couple hours south of Santiago, where you can stay, take some cooking lessons, drink some wine, and generally just indulge yourself.  I’m thinking about it.

Here’s the lineup of the food courses, and wine matchings from Concha y Toro:

The “Reception” wine was Casillero del Diablo Coastal White Blend 2011, 65% Chardonnay and the rest Moscato.  This  was actually my favorite wine of the day—a refreshing, easy drinking wine with a flavor of white melon, peaches, and honey and a slight hint of sweetness.

The first course was Cucumber rolls with Salmon Ceviche.  It was served with Gran Reserva Serie Riberas, (Riverbank Series) Sauvignon Blanc 2012, a classic SB with that green pepper aroma, initial rush of bracing acidity and grapefruit flavor.  The Ceviche was delicious, and wine was a nice complement, especially because it wasn’t overpowering as I find some from the South Pacific can be.  Don’t get me wrong, those wines can be very refreshing and they have their place, but they’re very tough on food.

The third course was Parmesan Cheese Budini with litchis and a small herb salad. Frankly, before it was served I had no idea what a budini is, a very thick pudding, made with a starch. The accompanying wine was Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay, a remarkably good wine that resembled a white Burgundy I had recently, and now can’t remember which.  A great value at $23.

Course four was a Gorgonzola, walnut and pear tart, very flaky and rich.  It was served with an equally rich Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada 2009, a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon wtih about 15% Syrah. The Syrah really adds fruit and aroma to this very well-balanced and full-bodied wine. It’s only about $15 retail. Get some.

The final course was grilled lamb brochettes with merquen adobo and Chilean-style mint salsa served on a bed of quinoa. Once again I had to look something(s) up—merquen—which is seasoning of ground smoked chilies with salt, ground coriander and cumin, and quinoa, a seed native to Chile that resembles a whole grain and is boiled and served like rice.  The lamb was served with Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.  I much preferred the other red to this one, which was a well-made, balanced Cab with no distinguishing characteristics.

All in all, a pretty outstanding match of wine and food, and a trip to Chile in downtown New York City.