Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Curious Feast with Brancott Estate and Pichet

Several weeks ago I posted details of a promotion where my readers could enter a raffle for tickets to a food and wine event, sponsored by Brancott Estate wines. Over the course of four nights, chefs from a selection of fine Irish restaurants were going to create and demonstrate a menu made up of unexpected food combinations.  Irish culinary duo Cully & Scully were going to host the nights which promised a series of fun sensory games and entertainment.

Following the deadline for entries, one of my friends got in touch afterwards to let me know that he had snagged a pair of tickets for the Monday event, where Locks Brasserie would be the guest restaurant. I'd love to know if any of my other readers were lucky enough to snag a pair of tickets, and more importantly, what you thought of the event.

I was kindly invited to attend an evening of my choice, and so I chose Thursday, the last night in the series. This turned out to be a fortunate choice on my part, as I fell sick with a very bad dose of influenza the week before and had only just returned to work the day before my Curious Feast.

Sully hard at work present
The Curious Feast was being held at the Sugar Club, not an obvious choice for a food event. Inside, a tiered dining area had been created with all tables facing towards a fully kitted out Siemens kitchen.  Across to our right, we could see through into the Green Room, where a team of chefs worked to plate up the meal. Following chefs from Locks Brasserie, Campagne, and Tankardstown House, our chef for the night was Stephen Gibson of Pichet.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a choice of aperitifs (see below) and then we stepped carefully in the darkness to find a table with free spaces. The show quickly kicked off, with buckets of energy and innuendo issuing forth from the frankly whacky Cully & Sully. "Do you always toast your nuts Stephen?" being just one example. Once Stephen had completed demonstrating each dish, a veritable army of servers quickly delivered the courses and wines to each table.

The menu for the night was as follows
  • Aperitif Marlborough Pinot Grigio 2011 or Sauvignon Blanc Brut
  • Starter Rare seared tuna, Parma ham, pinenuts, pear & sherry vinegar paired with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Main Slow cooked short rib, pickled ox tongue and violet artichoke paired Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009
  • Desert Chocolate mousse with candied popcorn, salt caramel and banana paired with Sauvignon Blanc Brut
Pardon my photos below, due to the extremely low level of lighting (which forced a form of sensory deprivation), I had to use my camera flash, hence the somewhat blown out photos. 

Seared tuna with parma ham, pinenuts, pear and sherry vinegar

Slow cooked short rib with ox tongue and artichoke
Chocolate mousse with candied popcorn and salted caramel ice cream
The intention of the Curious Feast was to challenge the diner's perceptions, while creating unusual flavour combinations. I'm not entirely sure that Stephen's menu was very far out there, but it was pretty tasty. My favourite from the night was definitely the slow cooked short rib, which was rich with gelatinous meaty goodness. As Stephen demonstrated the candied popcorn, a mouth watering sugary smell filled the room. Served with creamy salted caramel ice-cream and chocolate mousse, it was a sweet finish to our meal. 

A large part of the night was getting to taste the selection of wines from Brancott Estates. The Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (of which I am generally a big fan) was typical of the genre, with light, crisp flavours. It's currently available from Superquinn for an attractive €10 per bottle. The Pinot Noir didn't really deliver the expected cherry and soft fruit flavours, with wood instead being dominant on the palette. However, given the fact that it retails around the €12 mark, this represents quite good value for money for a wine made from this delicate grape. The sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Brut is made from a mix of grapes, not overly sweet, with quite a dry finish. It's an interesting alternative to more conventional sparkling wines.

Some additional culinary star power was added to our evening by the appearance of Nick Munier, co-owner of Pichet, and a judge on Ireland's first Masterchef series. Nick participated in a wine-tasting challenge where players sampled wines served in black wine glasses, and had to guess the wine in question. This proved harder than expected with many players declaring one wine to be a red, when it turned out to be a warm pinot grigio.

A Curious Feast was an interesting and fun way of marketing Brancott Estate wines in Ireland. As part of the Pernod Richard group, there is plenty of money being invested in this brand (previously known as Montana in some markets), which was a sponsor of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Brancott Estate wines appear to be pitched at a good price point which will undoubtedly help the brand get traction.  A lot of effort and thought had been invested in the Curious Feast, and the large giveaway of free places to the public is to be appreciated.

Stitch and Bear was invited to attend the Curious Feast, courtesy of Brancott Estate. 
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