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The World of Wines meets Jamaican Cuisine: Chaîne des Rôtisseurs — Jamaïque

Thursday, July 19, 2018

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The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is the world's oldest and largest gastronomic association. Twenty-five thousand members across 80 countries “who share the same values of quality, fine dining and the encouragement of the culinary arts” gather throughout the year to celebrate “the pleasures of the table”.

Last Sunday, members of the Jamaican baillage (jurisdiction), headed by Bailli Derek Elder, hosted an intimate dinner for 42 members and a few guests at Uncorked in Kingston. Billed as Uncorked Un-Chaine-D: The World of Wines Meets Jamaican Cuisine, the evening was a multi-course menu of nouvelle Jamaican mains paired with a sterling selection of international wines.

Historically, spicy foods are the enemy of wine. However, the menu by Uncorked's chef Lucian Dunn, senior sous-chef Shaneka McDonald and their team of brilliant young cooks was, in a word, inspired.

A preface about the menu: Thursday Food was delighted to see patois being asserted as a language demanding of respect and being apropos to polite company. No one would ever tell someone from Quebec City not to speak Quebecois French. Or dare tell someone from north-east Spain not to speak Catalan. Yet patois is drilled out of so many of us that when we do code-switch it settles on the tongue like curdled milk. Bravo to Uncorked for putting our language, food and charisma front and centre at a French-inspired event.

 

Now to the food and fine.

Thursday Food could write a substantial tome on the evening's first course — “labsta itch up unda sno cone” (lobster cocktail with citrus granita). It was ridiculously good! Plump Jamaican lobster was bright and tasted of the sea from which it was plucked. The granita was refreshingly bright with just a tinge of herbaceousness. This combination highlighted the orange, tangerine and fresh fruit flavours of the unoaked 2016 Cline Pinot Gris (Sonoma Coast). Honestly, guests could have gone home after this course and still had so much to talk about.

The second course — “rum goat bus a sleep inna breadfruit sheet” (rum-braised goat confit crêpe with burnt sugar sauce and coconut pumpkin purée) — was wonderfully tender and flavourful. The spice was expertly handled and the breadfruit crêpe (yes, you read correctly) was deliciously springy and dotted with bits of goat confit. We haven't even got to the pumpkin purée. Redolent with coconut and warm spices, this sauce was sweet without being cloying. The 2015 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Rouge from the Loire Valley was perfectly chilled at around 14°C and was a blissful pairing with the fork-tender goat.

“Wan boasy fish dumplin inna callaloo run dung” (herring kartoffelknödel in a pool of callaloo cream) could easily become the new “dip and fall back”. The German potato dumpling incorporated pieces of salted herring and was, in the words of Debra Taylor, trade development manager, Select Brands, “wicked”. “The dumpling's constitution was beautiful and not overly salted, and the Riesling that was chosen comes from the Mosel where kartoffelknödel originates. The dish danced on the palate and that 2016 Dr L Riesling is definitely God's gift to Germany.

The meal's palate cleanser, “level di vibes” (cucumber, oregano and basil gazpacho with brie), did what it said it was going to do in the most exquisite way.

It's in simplicity that we find true beauty, and the fifth course, “lik a shot” (hot to cold ginger pumpkin soup shot) with Stone's Original Ginger Wine, was exquisite. Hot soup, cold soup and ginger wine were perfectly layered in a shot glass. Consuming it was tantamount to a religious experience. Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jamaïque Vice Chargé de Mission Matthew Hogarth described it as “the trinity”. Only fantastic food would make one willingly to toe the line of sacrilege: Au nom de Père, de Fils et du Saint Esprit!

“Bad bwoy skellie steak buck up inna two style a plant'n” (gaucho steak with escallion chimichurri) sounds like a cautionary tale of a stubborn bad boy who finally met his fate. The only bad in this dish was the revelation that we have been underutilising plantains. The plantain purée was refined and the fried plantain cubes inexplicably resembled pommes rissolées. The escallion chimichurri was intense but not overbearing and the steak had a wonderfully pink centre and just enough toothsomeness. What was meaty, though, was the 2012 Catena Zapata Nicasia Malbec from the Uco Valley. You could eat this wine.

Like Tosca throwing herself off a parapet, the “sweet up yu mout” (pavlova with fresh fruit, sorrel syrup and breadfruit ice cream) had all the drama befitting a finale. The previous courses were a crescendo for the “iceberg” of scented fog that became each table's centrepiece. The triggering of olfactory senses prepared guests for the dessert. Flawlessly baked pavlova (not a tinge of brown in sight) crumbled at the slight weight of a spoon. The sorrel syrup was complex and very good. But that breadfruit ice cream would make the most successful person question his/her life's choices. How did we live without breadfruit ice cream? The 2016 Babich Headwaters Organic Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) was flawless. According to Debra Taylor, “The palate has a subtle guava and honeysuckle with tropical passion fruit and apple which intermingle beautifully with our pavlova and fresh fruit.” The dessert and wine pairing was dazzling.

And, as if by magic, guests found space for the “brawta” course. The composed cheese platter of Stilton, manchego, Humboldt Fog and Ossau-Iraty cheeses; Chef Dunn's homemade pepper jelly, and cassava and breadfruit crackers became its own trip around the world. The Dow's 10-Year-Old Tawny Port from Portugal had a “nutty bouquet with citrus and vanilla accents on the palate and a soft lingering finish”. It was definitely just the “tups” of something needed to round out the meal.

The evening was described as being “unexpectedly fantastic”, “out of the box” and a “culinary journey extraordinaire” by a few guests who possess very discerning palates. The staff moved with militaristic precision and despite the closeness of chair legs and minimum space within which to move (we did say intimate) service was a ballet. Uncorked operations manager Iyolla Douglas and group manager Kathy Evelyn run a tight ship and should be very proud. Chaîne des Rôtisseurs members are widely travelled and accustomed to top-tier experiences. On Sunday, the Jamaican baillage had a chance to experience world-class service at home.

Uncorked co-principal Anna Kay von Dueszeln wants the enoteca to be a destination for both wine and exceptional food. Judging by this event they're well on their way.

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