According to Cormack, what makes the meal he had prepared unusual was the extraordinary amount of salt he had used in preparing it. While most chefs and sommeliers (those people at restaurants who know exactly what wine you should be drinking with your steak) tend to shy away from recommending wine with very seasoned dishes, Cormack explained that the saltier the food is, the more flavoursome the wine paired with it will be.
With all expectations of haute cuisine gone (a relief, since copious amounts of red wine and foie gras do not a pleasant morning after make), Perdeby could relax at the beautifully set table, casually observe the other diners and wait for the first course, repeating the mantra “What would Dave Lamb say?”
There were very few young diners among the guests. Students and alcohol go well together. Student budgets and a three-course meal where each course is accompanied by a glass (or two or three) of a different wine go less well together, it seems.
The Eat @ UP restaurant, which hosted the event, was staffed by fourth-year consumer studies students. Jessica McKenzie and Anastasiya Meyer organised and managed the evening as part of their fourth-year project.
Before the meal started, guests were taken to the restaurant’s terrace, where they were served a 2012 Fleur du Cap Chenin Blanc with popcorn and cheese straws. If you’re sceptical about how well chenin blanc and popcorn go together, you will be pleasantly surprised when you try it. The popcorn, seasoned with volcanic salt, brought out the wine’s lime flavour. Next time you go to movies, forgo the Coke and take a bottle of this. Just be sneaky because Perdeby accepts no responsibility for your getting thrown out of the cinema.
When it became too cold to stand outside, guests were ushered to their tables. Each table sat between two and four guests, making it intimate for those who were there with partners and awkward for those who weren’t.
The first course was pork belly with pickled vegetables. Although it doesn’t exactly sound appetising, it was delicious. Cormack explained that the vegetables had been pickled in a brine solution for 24 hours, allowing the flavour to be locked in without affecting the vegetables’ texture. The pork had been cooking in salt for 38 hours. The starter was paired with a 2011 Fleur du Cap Merlot.
Perdeby tried not to look silly while following winemaker Christoff de Wet’s instructions to gaze into the glass and absorb the smell and taste of the wine. Even though it felt like we had formed an uncomfortable emotional attachment to the merlot, we’re glad we obeyed De Wet. The unusual pairing enhanced the red berry flavours of the wine. Cormack warned guests that, “If you drink the wrong wine with the wrong food, it will taste like paint thinner.”
With that piece of advice noted, we began the main course. The 2012 Fleur du Cap Chardonnay matched the dish of chicken cured with salt perfectly, but the course in itself was rather underwhelming. This would be the part in Come Dine With Me where the host is in the kitchen fantasising about the ten he’s going to get and the guests are in the dining room envisioning giving it a five.
Perdeby was very nervous about the potash honey cake that was served for dessert. We had never heard of it before, Google had never heard of it before and not even our Martha Stewart-like grandmothers had ever heard of it before.
The wine (a Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest) served with dessert immediately put us at ease. Nothing bad can happen when the wine is that delicious. People without a (very) sweet tooth probably would not have enjoyed the combined sweetness of the wine with the cake (as it turns out, it’s normal cake with honey and salt) but we couldn’t get enough and ate it embarrassingly quickly.
By the end of the evening, we could have done with a Come Dine With Me car to drive us home. If we had been sitting in the back seat with our scorecards, this is what we would have given the night:
Starter (salted pork belly and pickled vegetables, paired with merlot): 8/10
Main course (roasted chicken baked in Khoisan salt, paired with chardonnay): 6/10
Dessert (potash cake and spicy syrup and vanilla ice cream, paired with the noble late harvest): 8/10
Photos: Brad Donald