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A Noble Tuesday Tradition

By: Claire Superfine Posted: January-01-2008 in
Claire Superfine

'Director of Food & Beverage' - does anyone else get a ping of jealousy learning that someone holds that job title? To me, this equates to "Director of Yum & Fun". At Le Royal, a well-deserving Aussie called Frank not only directs the hotel's sumptuous array food and beverage but absolutely delivers the fun as your host for the Tuesday Wine Dinner.
A well kept secret, to some of us at least, are monthly Tuesday night wine dinners, held at Raffle's Hotel Le Royal. Simply spending time at Le Royal is a special occasion. However, a Tuesday wine dinner is a bit different.

Approximately 40 guests, a mixture of expats and holidaymakers, arrive at 7pm and are whisked into a cozy room decorated with distinguished floral arrangements. Unobtrusive but plentiful wait-staff begin by serving a glass (or two) of refreshing chardonnay and plentiful hors d'oeuvres in a comfortably informal atmosphere. Of course, the old adage about the best experiences being shared with others rings true, but those traveling alone need not be shy as the style is conducive to meeting new faces, especially when seated at the group tables.

The wine dinner is not just a chance to taste great plonk. It also has a learning component. Bodega Catena Zapata - the month in question's selected vineyard - is situated high in the Argentine Andes in the famous wine region of Mendoza. Excellent pupils for the initial familial vineyard history lesson, we sipped our second wine, the Alemo Chardonnay, as its complex and woody flavors were described and explained by our resident expert Frank.
To accompany our white, Chef Christian Rose provided fresh and smoked salmon in a roesti wrap with cilantro sour cream and caviar. Incredibly tasty, it was a fancy version of salmon tucked into a potato pancake; I have nothing against sprucing up a dish.

Adults love games - especially adults with several glasses of wine down the hatch. Our Director of Fun asked us all to stand while he introduced the "mystery wine game". Either raising our left or right hand, we narrowed down the country of origin attached to the red we sipped. The winner was meant to receive a bottle of Devaux Champagne - but I don't believe anyone won. Our mystery wine was from Uruguay and apparently none of us were sharks.
With Uruguay still in one hand, our first Catena red was poured - Alemos Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. Cooler and more acidic than the previous, even to the inexperienced palate, it sat perfectly with our cream roasted wood pigeon on a sourdough crouton bed with mushroom and foie gras. As an excellent counterbalance to that delightful yet rich dish, raspberry and green peppercorn sorbet on a bed of rose petals proved the perfect choice for the next course. Looking forward to something sweet, I was initially hesitant about the peppercorn reference, but the contrast of tastes was splendid.

Our kind wine tutor understood the natural trend toward chatter as our blood alcohol levels increased - no tasting portions here, these were generous half-glasses - and so he quickly summarized our last two reds. The Catena Malbec 2004 - fruitier and more concentrated - and the award winning Catena Alta Malbec 2003, best due to the dry and snowy Argentine winter 4 years ago. After tasting both, I saved the best for last, only partly recognizing the quality of the wine because I'd been told so, and focused on our finale of South American inspired cuisine - grilled black angus sirloin and chipotle potato salad on a bed of dark bitter chocolate sauce. Undoubtedly this was a meal fit for New York, Paris or Buenos Aires.

The informal environment kindled friendly conversations between tables. However, we serious eaters remained seated in order to enjoy a plate of goat cheese with capers and fresh parmesan. As I started on my final Malbec, our table received tiered dishes with tiny and varied petifors. Zoning into the chocolate pieces, I admittedly tried the fruit pastries as well. By the time I sipped the last drop of wine, I couldn't imagine ingesting another item.
However I was finally convinced to try a sip of cognac as guests flocked around an assortment of after-dinner drinks. The night continued until around 11:00pm before the crowd started to thin. This was a wonderful weekday experience. Amen to a fine Tuesday tradition.


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