Sud de France Festival 2014: Dinner at Contra
Sud de France Festival is an annual, three-week celebration of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, notably for their wines. Events involved in sommelier competitions (those in the wine profession) or for the non-wine professionals like us, attend fun things like the launch party, wine tasting classes, and their series of “Tasting Tables” and typically features a French jazz band to entertain the crowds.
This year, one of the participating restaurants that are collaborating with Sud de France was Contra ($90 per person for this particular dinner). Contra cooks seasonal, beautiful and naturalistic dishes (à la Noma) and it seems interesting reading through the concise menu of the evening how Chef Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone would pair the food with these French wines.
Entering this narrow restaurant, it’s minimalist yet warm with all the blond wood. Straight back is the semi-open kitchen where you could see the chefs and cooks plating the food. The French jazz band, Avalon Jazz Band entertained us for a few songs while we ate the delicious, warm lard bread and sipping our nicely bubbly glasses of Domaine Collin, Cremant de Limoux, Cuvée Tradition Brut NV.
The summer mackerel escabeche was the lightest, refreshing and clean version of escabeche I’ve ever had. The mackerel was delicate and had a touch of acidity of the broth it’s sitting in. Worked well with the light, acidic Cremant de Limoux.
The second course of brandade with lardo in lotus leaf paired with Le Loup Blanc, Petit Chaperone Rosé, Val de Cesse 2013 was great. The creamy, salty blend of French salted cod, potatoes and olive oil was delicious and it being steamed in lotus leaf imparted a delicate earthy, vegetal flavor. The dry, fruity, crisp, rosé cut through the relatively hearty dish.
The next course of green bourride was beautiful with the vibrant green of the herbaceous seafood broth topped with seared scallops and large poached tiger prawn dotted with a few fronds of dill and parsley. It’s a lighter version of the traditional bourride since the stew is not emulsified with aioli, as it’s made with herbs and the texture is a broth than stew. It’s very appropriate for this summer-y evening since it’s so hot and humid.
It paired wonderfully with the Matassa, Cuvee Marguerite, Côtes Catalanes 2011. On the sip, the medium-bodied wine has flavors of apple, peach, lemon, grapefruit, anise, almond, fino sherry and mineral notes with a medium sour acidity and a pleasant bitterness to play along with the herb notes of the bourride.
The cheese plate of Tarentaise & Pyrenees brebis cheeses swathed with pistachio paste and served with a small pile of onion ash on the plate was thoughtful. The nutty, subtle spice notes of the Tarentaise cheese paired well with the floral, buttery Pyrenees brebis cheese. The condiments of the not too sweet pistachio paste and onion ash amplified and complimented the cheeses wonderfully.
The pairing of Domaine du Possible, Charivari, Côtes du Roussillon 2012 worked. The fresh, robust, young wine has a lot of complex flavors going on worked with this cheese plate.
Finally, dessert we were presented with this unusual Rousquilles, apricot and grilled milk ice cream.
Rosquilles is a sweet biscuit that’s primarily found in Catalonia, Spain, including the French region of Languedoc-Roussillon. It is a ring-shaped, soft and crumbly pastry often covered with a layer of sugar icing, sort of like an American doughnut. The chefs broken the biscuit to fine crumbs, with a thick, sweet apricot compote and topped with a quenelle of the delicious milk ice cream. It’s a great finale to the inspiring meal.
This meal opened my mind to how the young wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon has so much potential to pair with delicious, boundary-pushing food.
To view more photos of this meal, please CLICK HERE or view the gallery below:
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Sud de France Festival