The Strangest Food and Wine Experience

It is important to remain professional in the face of stupidity. One must always remain professional. Imagine if Michael Caine, sprawled on the floor of a seat-less bus and stretching between a gabble of crim mates and a palate of bullion, lost his cajoles while hanging over the edge of the Andes. If he started blithering gibberish and whinged in truly unbecoming self-pity, like a school child with a cheese and vegemite sandwich instead of plain peanut butter like he asked for and offered to make himself mum you never listen, he wouldn’t have got anything done.

Michael Caine in the Italian Job
Behave like Michael Caine as much as possible

Yes, as the astute of you will gather, it is important to remain calm no matter the circumstances. Britton wasn’t built by cry-babies (it was mostly done by the Romans) and Australia wasn’t founded by fly-swatters (they had hats).

One such situation of calm in the face of bewilderment happened upon this writer in the not too distant past. It occurred while discussing the menu for a food and wine function. Food and wine – you will understand – can be jolly good bedfellows, or can be as prone to agitation as a mongoose and a cobra stuck in a pit with a chicken holding a blade surround by a ring of fire lit by a scorpion.

Anyway, thusly the conversation began…

Employer: We need to choose some wines for the Indian Nights function. (He calls me to a sheet of paper listing food stuffs in a particular order.)

Morrie: How about beer? (Recalling the late night adage “Indian food and beer goes well hiccup.”)

AGD Kingfisger Beer
Beer, the natural solution to Indian Food

Matching food and wine step one; think of wines from where the food originated. Example: lots of great seafood dishes match well with wines made near the coast. It’s some sort of evolution thingy I reckon. Whichever one came first, the other developed to match it.

India doesn’t have a terrific wine history, but they got a beer made specifically for the country – the IPA (India Pale Ale, which was made with a high hop and alcohol level for transportation). Unfortunately at a food and wine dinner, wine is expected to be included.

Employer (Ignoring the remark): I was thinking we start with a sauvignon blanc? What do you think?

Morrie: Spicy meatballs* and onion bhaji. What about the Picpoul de Pinet**?

Employer: It is a good wine. But will the customers get it? No, I think we’ll use a Chilean sauvignon blanc. It’s a better suit.

I don’t mind being overruled. I don’t mind being overruled for a sauvignon blanc. I don’t mind being overruled for a sauvignon blanc that’s cheap. I do mind when it’s considered better.

A wine dinner needs to sell wine, otherwise it’s just light-entertainment and free corkage. But call a spade a spade (unless it is a shovel, which I have mistaken a few times).

Employer: What about second course?

Morrie: Tasting plate of lamb bhuna, a mango chutney and chicken, some yogurt thingy*** and muttar paneer.

Really! if you are going to match food and wine consider the food and the wine at the same time. Life easier and less dumb-dumb.

Morrie: Alsace is the safest wine bet with Indian, because the acid and slight sweetness balance with the creamy

AGD Alsace image
Alsace, actually a long way from India

sauces****. There’s a bit on the plate here but what about that gewürztraminer riesling blend we got in?

It’s true. Indian, food and wine, Alsace.

Employer: OK, what about the main?

I can see where this is going. It is going to end in tears but I have to remain professional.

Morrie: Maybe a Chablis? (Imagining Butter Chicken and wines that could work with it.) The sauce is quite thick and you’ll need acid to cut though to taste the wine. Some rich unoaked chardonnay like Chablis might work.

Employer: No, we really need a red for the main.

Catering to a wine dinner is a bugger. Some twerp will not read the prearranged menu and want to order something different, like white wine at an all red event*****, or be vegan at a steak night*****.

Morrie: With butter chicken? (Exacerbation a momentary slip.)

Employer: How about the Valpolicella Ripasso?

Morrie: The Amarone style? (Stutter, the exacerbation-momentary-slip has a relapse).

Employer: Well what do you think?

AGD Leon poster
Leon, how Morrie behaves when not Michael Caine

I think he is not joking as much as his speech is indicating, but I don’t say that because I’m calm and professional – like Leon in Le Professional.

Morrie: Maybe a Beaujolais, like the Regine. Something with acid to cut down the spice.

Employer: Hmm.

His thinking hum has the ring of how-can-I-explain-my-disagreement-with-you about it.

My interest in this conversation has waned more than Shane Warne’s ability to bowl. The only problem is I know, inevitably, I’ll be asked to host the event and champion the selections.

Employer: How about a shiraz? (Pronounced as ‘she-razz’.)

Morrie: Fine.

The event comes, customers ask for beer, we don’t sell any wine, and the shiraz glasses are only half drunk.

Interesting the botrytis affected semillon served with a dessert went down a treat… no pun intended.

*Spicy Meatballs is slang for Kofta.

** Picpoul de Pinet is an obscure unoaked white made in Picpoul de Pinet – where they have heaps of it. It’s usually a bit appleily and quite refreshing after some spice.

***I didn’t actually say that. I just can’t remember what it was. But it did have yogurt in it!

****Yes, I really talk like this.

*****True story, both of them.

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