an evening of pleasure
Last weekend we were invited to a special dinner by one of the vineyards that we know and buy wines from in the Kaiserstuhl area, Trautwein. This winery is bioland and demeter certified and one of the first vineyards in Germany to completely convert to bio-dynamic and organic farming (in 1980). By no means do we choose our wines according to this criteria, but it is an added bonus to know there are no chemicals in that sip of wine if it tastes good.
The event, “an evening of pleasure”, took place in a Michelin “Bib Gourmand” Restaurant, Scheidels Restaurant in Kenzingen, a mere 10 k away from the winery. After an initial getting to know with some nibbles and live music in the cozy court yard of the restaurant, the 65 wine- and food-interested were let into the restaurant to enjoy a 7 course dinner with corresponding wines from the Trautwein vineyards.
Our first course was a scallop carpaccio with olive oil and basil. This was accompanied by a 2005 Rivaner, which is also known as Müller-Thurgau and once was the most planted grape variety in Germany. It is a cross of Silvaner with Riesling and was the grape behind the ubiquitous “liebfrauenmilch” and therefore sank into disrepute. We liked the wine as a fresh and light summer wine but the pairing was not optimal. The sea-smell of the scallops, the saltiness, choked the wine. I can imagine a Pinot Blanc with some body a lot better with these scallops which tasted very fresh.
The second course was poultry terrine with Judas’ ear fungi and pistachios, accompanied with Pinot Grigio jelly. Of course the corresponding wine was a Grauburgunder 2005 (Pinot Grigio). I wasn’t crazy about this terrine, it was rather bland, but I liked the idea of combining poultry with pistachios. The wine was a plus for this course and lifted it up. Maybe the cook deliberately hold back the spices so that the wine can shine? I don’t know.
Then came my second favorite course of the evening: Pike-perch (also known as zander) “the asian way” with Basmati rice. The fillet was wrapped in rice paper with some ginger, coriander and tomato and then poached. This was very tender, tasted very delicate, and the ginger and coriander gave the fish a whole new dimension without overpowering it. And the combination with the 2003 Weißburgunder Auslese (Pinot Blanc selection) was just right. The wine had a lot of alcohol but was almost creamy on the palate. This was a perfect combination, being more than the sum of its parts.
The next course was anti-climactic. The ravioli stuffed with king prawns was just ok, the prawns not adding much taste and the balls of Charantais melon just disturbing. They were too sweet without holding up to it with taste and completely ruined the perfect 2003 Chardonnay Auslese Edition RS (selection reserve, aged in barriques) that was served with this course. T. had some pasta with a tomato-garlic sauce because of his allergy and was happier with his combination than I was with mine. The next day we tasted the wine again, liked it a lot and bought some, but the combination within this dinner was almost fatal.
This rather disappointing course was followed by my favorite: braised calf’s cheek with porcini-cabbage vegetable and pommes Williams. I have been meaning to cook braised calf’s cheek myself for some time now, and this course makes me want it even more. Sitting here early in the morning, days after the experience, I am still tasting it just looking at the pictures. The cheeks were so tender, so flavorful, the sauce almost made me mop it up with bread…Have to replicate this! The wine we drank with this was also, surprisingly, very good, especially if you think about our, well, aversion to German reds: 2003 Spätburgunder Edition Reserve Spätlese (Pinot Noir late vintage reserve, aged in barriques). The next day we learned that this wine costs 25 Euros and had to think about the Pinot Noirs we get in Austria for this amount. This is, according to us, the greatest problem with German reds. There are some really good ones every once in a while, but when you think of the price/performance ratio, they lose.
The cheese course was Tête de Moine, which actually I like a lot. Unfortunately, this was served not the correct way, pared into the shape of delicate rosettes, but in plain slices. I believe this really makes a difference in the structure and taste of the cheese and could not understand why it was served like this. Were 65 servings too much? The wine pairing with the cheese was just ok: 2005 Gewürztraminer Edition Spätlese (late vintage), slightly sweet and full of rose aromas. I would have liked this wine a lot better with some other cheese, maybe a blue-veined cheese like Gorgonzola. No pictures of this no-no serving.
Our dessert was a mascarpone tartlet with strawberry coulis and raspberry sorbet. The tartlet was sweet but light (!) and the various berries were refreshing. The serving was rather big after all the food we had during the 6 courses before this. We were served some 2000 Pinot rosé Sekt Reserve Brut (sparkling rosé, the traditional method – bottle fermentation) which tasted fine, I am not a great rosé fan, be it sparkling or not, the only one I liked until now was the Moet Chandon Rosé we drank at a Moet Chandon tasting dinner in Munich a couple of months ago.
Although I have criticized quite a few courses I have to say that the overall experience was very good. We liked most courses and most wines and I guess that the cook had some problems having to adjust his food to match the wines (which is usually the other way around) because the wines were the given and he had to come up with the dishes. And you cannot beat the price: We paid 70 Euros per person and it was worth it.
The next day we had the chance to visit the vineyards with winegrower H.P. Trautwein himself and it was very interesting to compare and contrast his methods with those of Claus Preisinger (who is converting to organic farming) whom we had visited just a week earlier. Trautwein lets a lot more grapes grow on the vines, lets the useful weeds grow higher between the rows and has his vineyards more or less all together in one place. Later on we tasted all the wines of the winery before buying some of the 2003 Weißburgunder Auslese Edition and 2003 Chardonnay Auslese Edition RS.
This was again a fun weekend, with good food and wine. We also got to know some very interesting people during the dinner and got some useful tips about the region. We will definitely use them!