I posted about this same event in FLDG, but for those who didn't read that, and to concentrate more on the port aspect of the meal, I've changed the text somewhat.
Last week (on November 2nd, it's legal!) we attended a 2nd anniversary dinner for a favorite Spanish-Portugese restaurant in Vancouver last night with two other couples. Six courses were served, all paired with wines, and five out of the six were fortified port-style wines. The one non-fortified wine was a yummy Quinta do Ameal 2003 verdejo and it was paired with the first course of sardines on toast, salt cod fritters and prawns with piri-piri aioli.
I was very excited about going to this dinner since, even though I'm not the world's biggest port fan, pairing savory foods with port presented an intriguing culinary challenge and I wanted to see how someone would pull that off. The sad day-after report is that none of us thought they actually got the foods right for the wine, but we had a splendid evening nonetheless.
Here are the pairings, with my comments:
Chilled cantaloupe-mint soup and Taylor Fladgate Fine White
Deep gold. Intense yellow peach flavors with melon, lemon, tangerine, honeysuckle and fresh basil. Easily the best white port I've ever tasted with lots of acidity to carry the sweetness (always lacking in others I've had). It was so faceted that the soup, with just two flavors, missed by a mile. Had the cantaloupe been riper and more concentrated, had another element like mango been introduced, all would have been to the good but the watery, light-bodied soup was a complete mismatch.
Tomato stuffed with smoked salmon, feta cheese, tarragon vinaigrette and Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny
The tomatoes were pale winter roma tomatoes (I bought beautiful deep red Mexican romas a week ago, there's no excuse for this.) And the feta seemed to make the salmon taste fishy. There was nothing the least bit sweet or caramelly on the plate to build a bridge to the Tawny. What were they thinking? But oh the wine. I don't have an arsenal of port descriptors, but I love the red apple-cherry-roses-and-toffee character of tawnies in general, and this one was very fine. Some day I'll have to taste a really old tawny to find out how the other half lives, but I wouldn't against my liking the fresher younger tawny more.
Smoked Duck and Apple Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette and Kopke Ruby Port
The apple salad was comprised of diced apples, chopped fresh jalapeno and red bell pepper, and the dressing tasted like just vinegar. There was no seasoning, no nuance, and the other elements killed what might have been a sweet apple flavor. The port was young, brash, simple and loud. It reminded me of some fortified wines I tasted in Australia.
Veal Tenderloin with Chestnut Puree and port reduction, and Smith Woodhouse 1994 LBV
The meat and chestnut puree were delicious, but the port was hot and rough. If this what all ports were I'd never touch port again. I wished they'd served the last port (below) with this course.
Chocolate Mousse in puff pastry with mocha cream and Dow's Vintage 1989
The appearance of this wine had us all reciting known port vintages, "81, 83, 85, 91, 94...EIGHTY NINE?" Who knew? Anyway, the mousse was expert, almost solid chocolate in flavor but lighter than air, and more dry than wet. The port was excellent. Lighter bodied in a welcome way with many savoury (for a port) notes. Would seem to be an early maturing port, and if I owned the wine I would be drinking it long before my 83's and 85's. Had it been served with the veal, it probably would have been the one working match of the night.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov