Friday, November 6, 2009

Beacon Hill Bistro: South Africa Wine Dinner

Three food and wine lovers attended the Skinner Pre-Auction Wine Tasting at Troquet. Yet our appetites were only whetted with the fine wine and cheese. So we needed to decide on a restaurant for dinner.

Jackie of Leather District Gourmet, Dale of Drinks Are On Me, and I, walked down to Charles Street and pondered over the possible choices. The Beacon Hill Bistro was mentioned and I remembered they were holding a South Africa Wine Dinner that evening, part of their Wine & Dine Mondays series. This interested all of us so we walked over to check out the menu, and see whether we could get seated or not.

Fortunately, we were able to get a table and participate in the wine dinner. The dinner was four courses, with wine pairings, and only cost $55 per person. Executive Chef Jason Bond had prepared a very interesting menu and we eagerly anticipated our meal.

First up was a Rock Shrimp Salad with grilled pineapple and fennel frond sorbet. This was an intriguing dish, and I was not sure whether the elements would mesh well together or not. Yet they certainly did. The sorbet exploded with fennel flavor, a nice contrast to the shrimp which seemed to be with a creamy, mayonaisse-like dressing. The grilled pineapple slice also contrasted and complemented the shrimp.

Continuing with the fruit theme, the dish was paired with the 2008 Kanu Chenin Blanc, an inexpensive wine (about $10) but with lots of flavor and character. The Kanu had nice acidity and a decent finish too. A very pleasant wine, which would pair well with seafood or light dishes. South Africa is well known for their Chenin Blancs, and this wine is a very good value.

The second course was even better than the first, a Duck Leg Confit over roasted Mussquet de Provence Squash with smoked sea salt and cocoa nibs. The moist, tender duck meat was heavenly and the smoked sea salt really added a deep smokiness to the dish. I even enjoyed the squash, which is no usually one of my favorites. My dining companions and I craved more duck when our plates were empty, wanting to savor more of that tasty meat.

This course was perfectly paired with the 2006 Kanonkop Pinotage, a wine I really admire. It is one of the best Pinotage wines around and its rich, smoky flavors really complemented the duck. The Kanonkop had depths of complex flavor, a lingering finish, and was pure pleasure on my palate.

There is a sign in the tasting room of the Kanonkop winery that states: "Pinotage is the juice extracted from women's tongues and lions' hearts. After having a sufficient quantity one can talk forever and fight the devil."

For the third course, we got to eat an animal where we knew its name, Tan. We had Braised Mangalitsa Pork Shoulder with Boudin Noir, chestnuts, kale, and winter radishes. A Mangalitsa is a type of heritage pig, also known as the curly-hair hog or wooly pig. Their meat has a unique flavor and they generate a lot of fat, which has multiple uses. Chef Bond acquired two Mangalitsa pigs, which he named Black and Tan. Our dinner was Tan's debut, and a very welcome debut. It did not bother me, or Jackie and Dale, that we knew the name of our dinner.

The pork shoulder was excellent, tender and very flavorful, so very different from those "pork chops" you see in ordinary grocery stores. The fat was also very tender, almost creamy, rather than tough and chewy. The Boudin Noir, blood sausage, was also very good. Overall, a super dish.

The wine pairing was the 2006 Rustenberg "John X. Merriman" Bordeaux Blend, a wine I have enjoyed in the past. I did not enjoy it as much this time though as it seemed to have a tinge of vegetal/green pepper flavor, which I don't recall every tasting before with this wine. In general, it was a good pairing for the pork, though I wonder if this vintage was typified by that vegetal flavor.

Dessert was Malva Cake with dried apricot, Meye lemon marmalade and sweet cream sauce. Malva cake or pudding is a common South African dessert. The cake was incredibly moist, with a bit of a sponge cake consistency. The fruit and sweet cream complemented the cake and I enjoyed it very much.

It was paired with another incredible wine, the 2004 Klein Constantia "Constance." This wine has a colorful history, once being a very famous wine, popular with the aristocracy. Napolean was said to have asked for this wine on his death bed. This wine was made with 100% Muscat de Frontignan, and is a very compelling wine. It has a complex melange of flavors, including honey, lemon, peach, orange, floral notes, and more. It is sweet but not cloying so, having sufficient acidity as a balance. The lengthy finish is very satisfying and you could easily sip glass after glass of this wine. Certainly one of the best dessert wines I have tasted in quite a while.

Service was excellent and overall this was a top-notch dining experience. Add to that two good friends, both interesting and witty conversationalists, and it became an exceptional experience. For the quality of the food and wine, this dinner was a value at only $55. Chef Bond is a skilled and creative chef and you must visit his restaurant to taste the products of his culinary skills.

There are two more Wine & Dine Mondays this year so maybe you want to make reservations. On November 16, the wines will be from the Languedoc region of France, featuring Wines from Gerard Bertrand. On December 7, they will have Sparkling Wines from Around the World.

Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro
25 Charles Street
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-723-7575

Beacon Hill Bistro on Urbanspoon


Barbara said...

I feel like I missed out! Would have loved to attend. I pick up Kanonkop's Pinotage whenever I see it. Have ordered online several times as well. One of my favorites. The Constance sounds intriguing.

Jacqueline Church said...

Despite the constant ribbing, I truly enjoyed this meal. I can't wait to use my leaf lard! It was a bonus that you and Dale could tell me more about each wine, too.

Can't wait til "Black" joins the menu!
(Is that wrong?)

Richard Auffrey said...

You definitely should check out the Constantia. It was a superb dessert wine.

It is not wrong. I look forward to Black joining the menu as well. And I know we are not alone. I am waiting as well for you to use the leaf lard. I would like to see the difference it makes in baking.