Guest post by Danielle Bell.
Nearly one year ago to this date my boyfriend Pablo and I began de Porres. Our idea was to host a monthly dinner party with dishes influenced by his native Peru and desserts inspired my American South, for the intellectually and gastronomically curious. Having cooked for one another often, we knew this was a winning combination of flavors, spices, and histories. We began our first gathering, as one might expect, with ceviche, and anticuchos with yuca cooked in duck fat followed. Our main course that night was arroz con pato, made with duck quarters Pablo and I had confited ourselves. Dessert was derby pie. At the close of the meal we gave out small bags of my lemon curd and buttercream coconut alfajores to our guests. “Perfect with tea or coffee in the morning,” we told our friends, most of whom devoured the cookies on the spot.
While I can recall the look and flavors of each dish, I cannot say the same for the wine. Every month each dish was meticulously plated, and for drink we’d offer our guests the option of red, white, and, in the summer, rosé. However, as our menus and execution improved I began to wonder if we were doing Pablo’s food justice by not paying adequate attention to what we served with it. From then on pairing de Porres became a mission of mine. One I’ve been able to go about thanks to the many talented wine professionals of New York who’ve shared their expertise, our engaged guests, happy hours, books, and blogs. Below you’ll find five of my favorite de Porres pairings.
Scallop Tiradito and Királyudvar Tokaji Furmint Sec ‘o9
Oh, Tokaji. No one bottle managed to charm and enchant the de Porres table like this dry, floral, honeyed white from Hungary. On the evening Hurricane Sandy was to touch down we cancelled our planned dinner and instead had our two most loyal diners over for a light scallop tiradito, sauteed scallops, celery gratin, and alfajores. Our good friend Christopher Bartley came with Tokaji, and Sasha with Viognier. We held a taste test and the Tokaji was the winner hands down for the scallops. In subsequent dinners Chris would bring his Tokaji and it continued to impress. Flounder ceviche, lomo saltado, and arroz con pato all found an able partner in Furmint Sec. I’m especially eager to have it with aji de gallina and arroz con mariscos. Should you try these combinations before me, do let me know how it goes.
Beet and Toasted Quinoa Salad and Ca’ Montanari “Opera 02” Lambrusco di Modena Secco
To explain, Pablo’s salad is made of slow roasted beets. He mixes cumin and garlic with Greek yogurt and sets the beets on top of it. The salad is then garnished with toasted quinoa, watermelon radish, and micro-radish greens. It is one of our easiest dishes to prepare and yet, visually, the most striking. I’m not usually a Lambrusco fan, as I often find it vinegary and lazy. This biodynamic bottle, however, is fresh and crisp with plenty of red fruit and loads of character. It is also immensely food friendly, with enough acidity to cut through the richness of the yogurt, as well as compliment the sugar of the beets; a fine way to begin a meal.
Pulpo al Olivo and Jorge Ordonez “Botani” ‘10
Pablo and I first tried this dry Moscatel while taking advantage of Socarrat Nolita’s excellent happy hour (every bottle of wine is half off). The Botani is floral and playful, it tastes of tropical fruit and smells of limestone. When I drink it I think of the sea. It is the perfect accompaniment to our pulpo (octopus), which is first simmered in a broth of fennel, orange peel, garlic and other aromatics, and served alongside botija olive aioli, and an orange, fennel, and squid ink salad. With a dish and a drink as fragrant a these, and their shared subtle brininess, is it any wonder the two dance so well together?
Estofado de Lengua and Rio Madre Graciano ‘11
The evening we served braised tongue was the first time many at our table had ever encountered the organ on a plate. Thankfully, they were in good hands with Pablo. We served an inexpensive bottle of one hundred percent Graciano with it. Graciano is a grape indigenous to La Rioja that, more often than not, plays third fiddle in blends from the region. It smells and tastes as it looks, which is to say, a bouquet of smashed violets. It is a gorgeous full-bodied red, so dark that it will tint your glasses. It lends itself particularly well to hearty meat braises. On the night we poured it, I recall a Swiss guests saying she generally cannot stand red wine—just as she helped herself to a second glass.
Alfajores and Yalumba Antique Tawny/Cafe du Monde Chicory Coffee
My alfajores, I’d be remiss not to inform you, are not traditional. Instead they are filled with ganache and almond buttercream, coconut, and salted manjarblanco. Additionally, I substitute Grand Marnier for Pisco in the batter. In the past we’ve paired them with a number of dessert wines, only to find this Australian Antique Tawny is handily the best match. It tastes of chocolate, mocha,and dried fruit, isn’t at all cloying, and feels full in the mouth. It is fantastic on its own, but coupled with a buttery alfajor it’s divine. Of course, if you’re like me and love an alfajor or seven in the morning, at an earlier hour a cup of Cafe du Monde Chicory Coffee will more than do the trick.