An evening hosted by wine guru Tom Cannavan of Wine Pages, cheese queen Phoebe Weller of the Roving Fromagiere and Scottish culinary heavyweight, Café St. Honore, was destined to be great. Add in some of the finest Scottish produce available, an abundance of world-class cheese, a selection of exquisite wines from the Loire Valley and the company of fellow foodies from all over Edinburgh and that night becomes captivating.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by a film crew (which immediately filled me with fear), but some delicious canapés soon began circulating, and accompanied by some sweet Rose d’Anjou, the fear of the cameras soon melted away.
Rosé d’Anjou 2014, Eric Legrand (Marks & Spencer, £8)
The evening highlighted some of the wonderful wines to come out of the Loire Valley. In the interest of full disclosure, I am primarily a red wine drinker. I occasionally enjoy a crisp, cold white but have rarely enjoyed a rosé, and have never bought one. Sipping my glass on arrival, I found myself questioning why on earth I had never enjoyed a glass of pink before.
Perhaps it was the warm summer evening, perhaps it was the mesmerising smells wafting from the kitchen or perhaps it was just that the wine from the Anjou region of France was just the right temperature, but that sweet aperitif certainly made me reconsider my past wine choices.
The group of 18 was soon ushered towards the tables and Sous Chef, Iain Thompson, in the absence of Neil Forbes, began to send culinary joys off the pass.
Argyll Sea Trout Tartare, Organic Lemon Dressing, Salmon Roe and Katy Rodgers Crème Fraiche
with Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Domaine de l’Aumonier (Stone, Vine & Son, £9.95)
Fresh, seasonal, chilled sea trout is such a beautiful thing that accompaniments should be kept as simple as possible. Lemon added a citrus fresh punch to the dish, while the award winning Katy Rodgers Crème Fraiche gave the dish an indulgent quality that was complimented by the crunchy Melba toast. Paired with the first white wine of the evening, a Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, the dish was elevated by the wine. I generally don’t particularly like Sauvignon Blanc and it’s often very agressive nature, so this wine was a real surprise to me. Described by Tom Cannavan as ‘A Sauvignon Blanc for people who don’t like Sauvignon Blanc’, this wine was delicate and fruity. A more tropical wine than your typical Sauvignon Blanc, and all for under a tenner – perfect for a summer’s evening.
Gierson’s Organic Chicken & Ham Hock Terrine, Celeriac Remoulade
with Rosé d’Anjou 2014, La Jaglerie (Oxford Wine Company, £7.99)
Slightly less dry than the first rosé, this wine was balanced beautifully with the chunky Scottish chicken and ham hock terrine. The berry fruitiness of the wine added a welcome sweetness to the dish, while the remoulade with nutty overtones was a delicious pairing for the chilled, crisp French rosé.
North Sea Hake, Crushed Heritage Potatoes, Spinach, Mussels, Bisque
with Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Domaine Jacky Marteau (Marks & Spencer, £9.00)
The dish comprised a delicate hake cooked to perfection, topped with crispy skin and served alongside a rich bisque, mussels and crushed potatoes – sure to excite the taste buds. Salty and rich, bisque always runs the risk of being too overpowering, however the crisp wine cut through the richness and added a refreshing lightness to the plate.
This light and zingy wine is more typical of the Touraine region and has a lovely concentration of flavour, characteristic of wine made from older vines.
“As vines get older, they tend to get their roots deeper into the ground and as they get deeper they find more interesting sources of minerals in the ground that don’t sit near the top layer of earth. In Touraine they don’t irrigate the vines, they don’t water them – they just let the vines be that can grow to be 20 meters deep. Older wines don’t produce as much fruit, but they have a lovely concentration”. – Tom Cannavan
Gartmorn Farm Free Range Duck Breast, Confit Duck Leg & Potato Cake, Redcurrant Jelly Jus
with Touraine Gamay 2012, Les Marcottes (Lea & Sandeman, £9.95)
I love duck, particularly confit duck. There are few things so indulgent and luxurious as duck. The breast, served pink, alongside a buttery-layered potato cake filled with the confit was topped with a rich, flavour-packed jus.
The Touraine Gamay red wine chosen to complement the dish was a firm personal favourite. The wine split the room, and while half of the guests were put off, the other half marveled over the cherry notes of the surprisingly floral wine, with a deep set of flavours perfect for the duck breast.
Next up, the Roving Fromagiere, cheese extraordinaire, Phoebe Weller.
Rosé d’Anjou, Domaine des Essarts (Christopher Piper Wines, £8.52)
with…cheese. And lots of it.
Salmon coloured rosé soon appeared in glasses around the table, and as Phoebe gathered together the cheeses of the night, she told us what she had planned.
‘A magical interaction’ is how Phoebe described the pairing of wine and cheese; “a balance between salt and sweet, dry and juicy and the ‘savouriness’ – the passage of the wine and cheese on the palate. Rosé D’Anjou is perfect for cheese – the sweetness, the light fruitiness – it’s magic.” And that it was.
Slices of cheese materialised on plates, and first up was the Chabis from Golden Cross in Sussex. The goat’s cheese with velvet like rind and a creamy cheese was an absolute delight. However, the creamy nature of the cheese coated the palate. By having a sip of the sweet rosé, the flavor was heighted and the somewhat clammy texture on the palate vanished entirely – certainly a cheese that was enhanced by its alcoholic counterpart.
Next, we had Kirkham’s Lancashire. Made from Holstein Friesian cow’s milk, this cheese danced on the tongue. The cheese is sealed in butter, and this was evident from the rich taste and texture. Described by Graham Kirham, the cheese maker himself as the ‘dreamy creamies’ this cheese certainly fulfilled the promise and crumbled beautifully in the mouth. Once again, this cheese matched beautifully with the rosé.
The third cheese was certainly one of my favourites. Not least because it is made in the next-door village of my family home, but because it’s nutty flavor was a true revelation. Rolling it in our fingers (yes, you heard correctly) transformed the cheese and released aromas that filled the room and matched perfectly with the Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014. A visit to the dairy the next morning allowed me to see the maturing in storage. A treat indeed, and not the last time I will be visiting the dairy! (Next time, I will bring a large cool box.)
Next up, the Ossau Iraty. A tongue twister and a delight on the palate. This sheep’s milk cheese was rich and pungent, with a mould dappled rind, almost granular texture and big flavours. I loved this cheese with the red wine – big, bold and deep and certainly the kind of cheese that I would eat with a rich glass of port to match the earthy smell of the cheese.
This was followed by a Dutch goat’s cheese, the Landana Rosso. With a slightly yellow rind, this cheese was distinctive – a perfect match for the rosé. The wine highlighted its texture and really pulled out the strong flavours and caramel nuttiness of the cheese.
Finally, the Cashel Blue. As Phoebe said, no cheese board should ever be without a blue cheese. Full disclosure here, I am not a big fan of blue cheeses but I gave it a good go. I can’t say that this was a cheese I would chose to eat again, however saying that, fellow dinner companions were very complimentary indeed and even went so far as to say that it was the best blue that they had tried – Ireland’s Finest…apparently!
All in all, the night was thoroughly enjoyable and one of the best evenings we have had in Edinburgh. It was a pleasure to eat, drink and enjoy both French and British produce in the warm and atmospheric environment of Café St. Honore. Surrounded by old and new friends, laughter and foodie tales from around the globe there was certainly a ambiance to be rivaled in the restaurant that evening…and I can confidently say that the delectable French wine had something to do with that. Rosé Tinted Glasses in the Loire certainly seems appropriate as a title!
Many thanks to the team at Café St. Honore, Romaine from Sopexa UK , Tom Cannavan of Wine Pages and the cheese master herself, Phoebe Weller.