MANILA -- For chefs, creating a menu for wine pairing dinners takes a lot of skill. To perfectly match a dish with a wine is not as simple as pairing whites with seafood and reds with meat. It takes a lot of tasting and testing out flavors.
For Rambla's head Spanish chef Ignacio Alcala, tasting the wine is the first step in creating a menu. Knowing also where the wines come from gives him the idea on what to create.
“I prefer to check the wine first. Then create ideas for the dishes from there,” he said during Rambla's special wine pairing dinner in partnership with Premium Wine Exchange.
The dinner highlighted the Spanish Rioja wines of CVNE, simplified as Cune (koo-ne).
CVNE or Compania Vinicula del Norte de España is a wine producer in La Rioja, Spain. The region has a long tradition of wine making. Cune is the only wine company that has the colors of the Spanish flag and has award-winning wines including the Rioja Imperial Grand Reserva 2004, which was ranked as the No. 1 wine in the world by Wine Spectator in 2013.
For the special menu, chef Alcala created a mix of dishes, from marinated Iberian pork to lobster with potatoes.
The first course was a tapas dish that used marinated Iberian presa, a cut between the top shoulder and beginning of the loin.
The pork was marinated for 24 hours in a mix of Pedro Ximenez or PX (Spanish white grape), garlic, onion, lemon rind, orange rind, and extra virgin olive oil. It's then cut into thin slices like carpaccio and served draped over a pillow of air baguette filled with Parmesan cheese cream. It was topped with PX gelatin and piparras chili.
The dish was paired with Roger Goulart Rose 2017, a sweet Cava complementing the rich flavors of the dish.
The second dish was a delicate flavor of sweet, creamy, and savory. Sous vide cabbage was seared on a plancha (hot plate) then served with pan-seared scallops, house-made tomato jam, ajada oil, and idiazabal cream (made from idiazabal cheese). This dish was paired with a Pagos De Galir Godello 2018 white wine.
“This cabbage made it in sous vide slowly and after we seared on the plancha. It's topped with tomato jam which is a little bit spicy and cooked with rosemary to give it a floral flavor. The sauce idiazabal sauce. I infused irazabal cheese with the cream,” chef Alcala explained.
The same wine was also paired with the third course, Huevos Rotos with Lobster. Huevos rotos is a fried egg dish served with fried potatoes. This version has pieces of lobster meat with a rich sauce made from the lobster head and shells.
The fourth course was the a simple yet flavorful Shrimp a la Papillote with Sobrasada. A half of jumbo prawn was cooked inside an aluminum foil pouch with chorizo. This dish was paired with a glass of red Cune Crianza 2016.
Next was Chicken Croqueton. It's chicken croquette made from slowly cooked chicken with garlic and cinnamon. The shredded chicken meat was combined with egg and jamon, then was breaded and fried. It was served with a demi-glace sauce made from the chicken bones. This was paired with a red Cune Reserva 2014.
The last pairing is Rambla's special rib eye paella. It was paired with Imperial Reserva 2015.
Then to finish the meal, cheese cake was served with rosemary ice cream and quince jelly cream.
These dishes, with the exception of the paella, were created especially for the dinner. But chef Alcala may put it on the menu at Rambla and even on the menu of sister restaurant Las Flores.
“Maybe in the future you'll find this croquetas in Las Flores. The lobster I was thinking serving it as a whole lobster,” he said.