Food

A D'vine Dégustation

Thursday, October 25, 2018

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The 2018 Jamaica Food & Drink Festival's D'vine event lived up to the name (and hype). Chefs Colin Hylton and Christina Simonitsch created an eight-course menu that at some points made guests giddy with delight. Select Brands carefully chose four wines to accompany Hylton and Simonitsch's menu. The afternoon began with a trek up to Peter's Rock in the cool hills of rural St Andrew. Upon arrival, guests were offered Mumm Champagne and Hendrick's Gin cocktails, as well as freshly shucked oysters and poached shrimp from Fresh by Rainforest.

The chefs alternated presenting courses and Simonitsch kicked things off with a deconstructed tomato Tarte Tatin. The dish was balanced, the flavours were well-married and the different textures made it a delight to eat. Hylton followed with a spice-dusted roasted breast of duck which was skewered with rum poached gingered apricots and finished with Japanese miso. The duck was perfectly cooked and its richness was balanced by the tart stone fruit and salty miso. Both these courses were paired with Ruffino sparkling rosé. The notes of strawberry and nuanced rose petals made this sparkling wine a delight and it played well with both courses.

The third course was cedar plank salmon with chimichurri, pineapple salsa and crispy skin. Watching Simonitsch prepare this course was both an impromptu cooking lesson and a treat. Her laser-focus and ability to multi-task is both entertaining to watch as it is inspiring. The plump fillet of salmon, herbaceous chimichurri, piquant salsa and smoky notes of cedar made this one of the best dishes of the evening. Following this course was another gustatory show stopper — mango red chilli salad. One patron said: “Colin dropped the mic with this one!” Hylton combined green mangoes, Thai bird chillies, toasted coconut flakes, pickled red onions, cilantro, Indian-spiced croutons and passion fruit vinaigrette to make one helluva dish. These dishes were paired with Babich organic Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand — citrus and floral notes plus a burst of apple and a mineral finish made this juicy wine an ideal pairing.

It's as if the sun knew that it had to wait until guests finished the fourth course because as the last slivers of mango were consumed the sun began to set washing the grounds in persimmon light. After the requisite sunset selfies guests returned to their seats to partake of jerked pork belly with charred fennel, sweet potato fondant and fennel pistou. The liquorice notes of the fennel, earthiness of the pistou and peppery smokiness of the jerked pork made for a dish that was on the mark. The fire-grilled rack of lamb followed. The lamb had a lovely flavour that was enhanced by the smashed parmesan English peas and the oxtail demi-glace made from 50 pounds of oxtail. Thursday Food was hunting for the pot. Where is it chef Hylton? The blackberry and plum notes of the powerhouse Merlot from Robert Mondavi Napa really made eating these meats a pleasure.

Yes, there's more. The chefs each presented a dessert — Simonitsch, a coconut pannacotta with passionfruit sorbet and Hylton, an exquisite peppered ultra dark chocolate mousse. These finial dishes separated the real foodies from the amateurs. Save for those with allergies, most guests found space for both desserts. The cool weather did not deter from guests indulging in the cold slippery pannacotta that got some crunch from toasted coconut, almond crumble and a tuile. Hylton's humility is belied by the bold flavours of his food. The ultra in his chocolate mousse referred to both the dessert's depth of flavour and sheer decadence. Appleton V/X, black sesame seed cookies and walnut craquelin burst into song on the plate and guests were bowled over. Cue mic drop. Dessert was paired with Kung Fu Girl Riesling that had notes of peach, mandarin orange and apricot which delivered a roundhouse kick of flavour.

At the end of dinner, Select Brands awarded prizes of bottles of wine, wine courses and dinner for two to a few lucky guests. However, event sponsor Sagicor ensured that each guest had a great memento with which to leave — a fancy three-in-one wine chiller, aerator and pourer.

 

The evening wrapped with guests sitting around a fire sipping Dow's 10 Year Old Tawny port and Courvoisier, roasting marshallows [nicely done, Sagicor] and speaking about just how memorable D'vine was.


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