Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Hawthornes Attend Another Six-Course Wine-Paired Dinner At The Saltbox Café

I've been looking forward to the Saltbox Café's six-course Vines Around The World series since our last one, in April.  Now, the 2016 - 2017 series has begun!  Rosie is happy.  We're taking a journey to South Africa with Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle and Jen and Steve of Empire Wine Distributors.  Each wine is paired with a course significant to the region.  Honestly, these dinners are some of the best I've ever had.

There are many different influences contributing to the diversity of South African culinary traditions.
 The indigenous San people enjoyed a varied menu of plants, berries, nuts, leaves, and roots, ostrich eggs, and meats, such as antelope, small animals, and birds.

The Khoi people, who lived on the coast dined on oysters, mussels, abalone, crayfish, seals, penguins, seaweed, wild plants, and fruits.  Eventually, the Khoi people, influenced by the livestock farming culture of the Bantu people, changed their source of food supply from hunting and gathering to livestock farming, first starting with sheep, then later adding cattle.

The Dutch had a great influence on South African cuisine also.  The Dutch East India Company  established a refreshment station at the Cape for their merchant ships traveling around to Indonesia and back so they could have a break at the halfway point.  In 1652, the Dutch established a farm to produce fresh produce needed by the passing ships, and in so doing, introduced a variety of vegetables and fruits foreign to South Africa.  This farm had a great influence on cuisine and changed the region.  The Dutch company discovered it was easier to bring in slaves to work the fields than to try to get the locals- the San and the Khoi - to work.

These Malay slaves from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Madagascar were imported into the Cape and brought with them their cooking traditions, which were characterized by the use of a wide variety of aromatic spices, enhancing the local cuisine.

The Portuguese were also influential in South African cuisine by introducing the use of chilies , expressed in their fiery hot peri-peri dishes.  Curry dishes and rice, introduced by the Indian immigrants, also became very popular.

The French Huguenots settled in the Cape in the 1600s, importing their vines and bringing with them their wine-making practices.

South African cuisine also goes by the descriptive name of "Rainbow Cuisine," due to the kaleidoscopic influences of the different ethnic cuisines which have gone into the mix.

Our first course is inspired by the Indian influences in South Africa.  It's fire-roasted pumpkin topped with kamut (an ancient grain) and green lentil curry with sunflower seeds and orange blossom white balsamic vinegar and eucalyptus honey. 

 Behind the scenes, at the Saltbox.

 The sweet pumpkin was enhanced by the warmth
of the spicy curry and brightened by the microgreens.
Not a hot spice.
A warm spice.
It was a "homey" dish, as in comforting. 

This was paired with a Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc.
Crisp and pleasing, this wine paired well
with the warmth of the pumpkin.

In my "research" (i.e Googling),
I found out that Groot Constantia 
is the oldest wine estate in South Africa
and a glass of this wine was one of Napoleon's last wishes
before he died.

I'm pretty sure I am undeserving of this wine.

 Our second course is seared local yellow fin tuna with beef biltong over sorghum pap with a touch of foie gras pinot noir wine syrup.  Biltong is a spicy, dried meat, similar to beef jerky, and it originated in South Africa.  The indigenous tribes of South Africa used dry curing as a method to preserve meats.  The meat, from beef or game, is cured in a mixture of vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices, then hung to dry.  Pap is another traditional dish, native to South Africa.  It's a porridge-like dish made with ground maize, similar to American grits, but with more texture.  The pap was finished with buttermilk for tartness.
 The tuna was paired with Leeuwenkuil Grenache Blanc.  
This wine reminded me of bitter clown tears
with a hint of suspicion and minerality.
It did indeed "blossom" with my food.
Excruciatingly bold, this wine is entirely too big for its pants.

 Our third course is marinated game hen piri piri served over roasted vegetables - parsnips and tri-color baby carrots. Piri piri is a chili pepper, also known as bird's eye pepper, that has grown wild in Africa for centuries. The pepper was used in both the marinade and the sauce.  Piri piri sauce is Portuguese in origin.

It takes a village.

 The hens were marinated for 24 hours,
then grilled, and served with a mildly hot piri piri sauce
with lemon juice and garlic.
This was paired with Leeuwenkuil Cinsault.
A sensitive little wine.
I could taste spots of leopard.
Would be easy to down the whole bottle without realizing it.
This was an intellectually satisfying wine
and I feel smarter already for having drunk it.

 Chefs Amanda and Randolph hard at work.

 Our fourth course is chili skirt steak braai with baby potatoes and brussel sprouts.
There are 11 official languages in South Africa and "braai" is the only word that is recognized in all of them.  Braai means grill in Afrikaans, a hodgepodge language including Dutch, Malay, Zulu, and English, evolving since 1692.

This was paired with Groot Constantia Shiraz. 
I detected aggressive notes of spring and an undertone of wet sand.
Lush, elegant, vegetal, quizzical yet decisive, this wine gave me quite the tongue-lashing. 

 Our fifth course is a traditional South African stew called bobotie.  A boboti can be made from a variety of different meats, usually not pork.  This dish was seasoned with West Indian inspired spices - nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamon - earthy spices brought over by the Dutch East India Company.  Fruits were used often in South African dishes and this bobotie has sultanas.  Bobotie, the national dish of South Africa, is a complex blend of flavors.  This  dish stems from the cultural influence of Dutch and Malaysian settlers to South Africa.

 The mutton bobotie was served over a Southern rusk, a twice-baked biscuit that soaked up all that deliciousness in the sauce.

This was paired with Robertson Constitution Road Shiraz.
This wine welcomed me to the bottom of the glass.  This was a naughty little wine and it begged for discipline, pleading with me, "Spank me!  Spank me!"  I heeded, since I, too, am naughty.

 Almost done!
The splendid Chef Amanda,
beneath the Splenda.

The dessert alone was worth the price of admission.
 This is an untraditional Mulva sticky pudding - sort of like an upside down cake topped with brickle and brown sugar, served with an apricot and peach syrup, and ice cream.  Mulva sticky pudding is a Dutch import. 

This was paired with Krone Brut Rosé.  
I've never had a bad day whenever bubbles were involved.

Thank you so much to Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle, our servers Lindsey and Mike and the rest of the outstanding Saltbox Crew, and Jen and Steve of Empire Wine Distributing.

For a recap of our previous dining experiences at the Saltbox Café, please click on the links:

October 2014, we visited Spain.
November 2014, we visited Argentina.
December 2014, we visited Paris.
February 2015, we visited Chocolate. (Why yes, Chocolate is a country.)
March 2015, we visited Italy.
October 2015, we visited Germany.
December 2015, we visited Japan.
Also in December 2015, we enjoyed a Réveillon Feast.
And again in December 2015, we visited France.
February 2016, we took a road trip to California.
Also in February 2016, we visited Italy
March 9, 2016, we had a lovely visit to Chile.
March 29, 2016, we visited the Pacific Northwest.
April 20, 2016, we explored the vineyards of Oregon.


DH said...

OMG.... your descriptions of the wines.... I am cracking up.
A sensitive little wine - intellectually satisfying, a naughty little wine that begs for discipline, a quizzical yet decisive wine, wine reminiscent of bitter clown tears with a hint of suspicion HAHAHAHAHA LOVE IT

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Glad you likee!