Brazil 3 Argentina 3
Another fascinating meal in the Masters of Food and Wine programme was my first encounter with high end Brazilian food. It was an impressive one. The chef was Alex Atala from D.O.M. restaurant in Sao Paolo which has been listed by Restaurant Magazine among the top 50 restaurants in the world. Sao Paolo is generally considered to be the culinary capital of Brazil and judging by this light, colourful, creative meal has a lot to offer.
Each dish was paired with a wine from La Rural winery, one of the earliest in the country and now part-owned by the Catena group. Their wines which are marketed under the Rutini label mainly go into the on-trade (restaurants) and while not spectacular are very easy to drink, well priced and food-friendly. They also make some very attractive sparkling wines under the Trumpeter label, particularly a delicious strawberry flavoured ros that went well with the very creative canapés we were served.
Countryside pumpkin and prawn salad with aromatic pepper vinaigrette
This description must have lost something in translation. It sounds rustic but was in fact an immensely sophisticated light salad of seafood and vegetables with cucumber and grilled nuts and a whisper of foam. You could have drunk a minerally Sauvignon Blanc with it but I too would have opted for sparkling wine - in this case a nicely balanced not too sweet Rutini brut nature.
Liquid coconut ‘risotto’ with palm fruit oil, mint and nori
A strikingly original dish that had more the appearance and texture of mashed potato (but must have been pured rice) There was also a powerful saffron note that knocked a bit of the stuffing out of the accompanying Gewurztraminer, a nice example with classic rosepetal and lychee notes. The aromatics of both food and wine rather cancelled each other out. The gewurz would have worked with a slightly spicier dish. The dish would have been better with a Viognier.
Brazilian-style baby pork ribs
Atala didnt make the mistake of marinading the meat with a marinade that might have clashed with the wine. The ribs which were fork tender were simply served with a whipped up, buttery (corn-based?) sauce and a few fine, crisp shards of fried potato . Very good with a fresh-tasting mature red, the Apartado 2002 with still-bright berry fruits and herbal aromas (much less extracted than many of the current Argentinian reds which could well have overwhelmed the flavour of the meat).
Piprioca-scented milk pudding with lime ravioli and banana gold
Another mystifying description (piprioca is a plant only found in the Brazilian rainforest) but basically variations on cream and citrus (mainly orange), a little flan, a jelly and some little frills of some exotic fruit. Everything was very subtle, based on texture as much as taste which gave the accompanying Rutini vin doux naturel, an attractive Bordeaux-style dessert wine, an easy ride.
Like Mallman the other night Atala had the sense not to indulget in an ego trip but to tailor his food to his sponsor’s wines. Great Brazilian food paired with complimentary Argentine wines. A draw!
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