By Chef Gene Gonzalez
Every year during this season, there is one particular dinner that the London-based International Wine and Food Society (IWFS) holds that I never plan on missing—the president’s dinner where the incumbent president honors the members with one of the finest dinners of the year. This year, present president Bernardo Sim, noted wine collector and Francophile who skipped a couple terms from his past stints, worked very hard with Makati Shangri-la GM Alain Borgers (also a long standing member) and Bacchus owner, Alex Lichayto to produce another remarkable dinner that befits the society’s Opal anniversary.
The Makati Shangri-La’s kitchen did a terrific job of precision and fine cooking as they executed a menu that would impress any classicist or modernist in terms of technique. The wines that belong to the society’s stash and the Bacchus selections were of course tried and paired with the menu items beforehand.
The evening started with flowing champagne cocktails and some delicately beautiful canapés with some members taking with them a full flute of bubbly as we were escorted to our tables. A poultry terrine with a good balance of soft chunky meat and liver forcemeat provided a good base for the spongy sweetbreads. This was set on a plate of the freshest garden baby greens and an egg yolk confit that was done to a brink of being moist within without being runny. A Henri Bourgeois Jadis 2013 Sancerre with its bone dryness but ample shades of grassiness and tropical fruit with green guava and floral notes balanced the richness of terrine and egg yolk as the fresh greens were highlighted by the grassy notes of this Loure wine.
Next was a steamed roulade of lapu-lapu with clams and sea urchin sauce and fennel compote. (The lapu-lapu reminded me so much of the delicate doneness I would have at Le Bernardin, where it just crosses the fine line of cooked as it leaves its raw state.) The delicate white flesh was enriched by the briny clam and sea urchin but balanced by the creamy base of the sauce. Fennel compote braised to a transparent softness was the bed of this fish dish with only the subtlest cooked anise flavors. This of course bonded well with the Pinot Gris from Alsace, a Domaine Ostertag Zellberg 2012. The flavors of white fruit and juicy character of this wine was a good foil to the creaminess of this fish course as it complemented the briny and anise characters.
After the sorbet came our main course, a Lamb Wellington with smoked mashed potatoes enriched with marrow and glazed baby carrots. This was paired with two wines from Pessac-Leognan. The Chateau Haut Bailly Grand Cru Classe 2004 immediately showed off its complex characters as black olive, fine leather, and a hint of wood smoke further grew in the glass with more plumy notes. The Chateau Bahans Haut Brion was too shy to come out with its characters at first but eventually its coffee, tart plums, red sour cherry with elements of earth and sweet wood spices, and menthol came out as it developed in the glass. Both wines were of excellent choice standing up to the richness of the lamb and the ling simmered demiglace. Enjoying the course with the wines had me take the experience to the brink as I sopped up the sauce and meat juices with bread for a clean plate.
Dessert was a classic tart tatin with vanilla ice cream. Though personal preference would be a little more caramelization on the apples, the dessert was made truly illicit and worthy of the Barsac, which was a Chateau Climens 1er Cru 2003, a beautifully light orange gold wine with grassy and creamy characters that was exuding stonefruit, dried apricots, cooked fruit syrup, and honey flavors.
The black-tie evening was only a two-thirds over as we were then brought back to the cocktail room this time set up with plates of tempting pralines and mignardises as we were serveda choice of aged port, 15-year-old barrel strength Bas Armagnac Delord, and Gormel Cognac Age des Fleurs. This evening was one of the very rare occasions that I have missed in too long a time—a great opportunity to light up our cigars and continue talks on great wines and sumptuous meals.
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