Thursday June 1st June, 2017 – Alsace Wine Dinner, Paris House, Woburn
It’s been quite the Spring for wine dinners after almost a year with none. This time we had moved on from the Mosel to Alsace, and swapped to a new restaurant (new to us anyway) in the shape of Paris House on the Woburn estate, around 35 minutes drive from home. Here is an establishment that has newly broken free from its previous ownership, and which has recently been beautifully refurbished. It’s my understanding that chef Phil Fanning wants his Michelin star back, and based on the form we experienced he’s going all out to get it.
The wine side of the dinner was curated by the Wine Geeks Wine School, with one of their member on hand for the evening to talk us through the wines. First however, we were slightly too early and so we were parked in the garden, in the sun, to enjoy an aperitif. The building, reached through the deer park, is rather wonderfully mad, being a structure that looks like the sort of Elizabethan properties found across Cheshire, but being actually a 19th century version built for the Rue des Nations section of the Paris International Exhibition of 1878, and shipped back to England to be rebuilt on the Woburn Estate because the 9th Duke of Bedford had fallen in love with it!
Anyway we settled down to enjoy a Kir Royale while we waited for the other guests to show up.
Once events kicked off we were treated to a glass of sparkling wine, the Bruno Sorg Cremant d’Alsace, a lovely citrussy sparkler.
Once we had enjoyed this cremant, and an introduction from our Wine Geek for the evening, we were ushered in to the private dining room, a large and pleasantly cool room off the main restaurant. Bread was brought and shared around while we waited for the first course, which was the leche de tigre, hamachi, chilli and sweet potato. It arrived “undressed” and a teapot of leche de tigre was then poured over the solid part of the course, leaving us with a vibrantly green dish, that was fresh and pleasantly smooth in the mouth but with a punch from the chilli that surprised in a good way.
With it we were served a Trimbach Muscat Réserve 2015 which went very well with the fish.
Next up was asparagus with a confit hen’s egg, seasonal mushrooms, and a lovely belt of wild garlic. The egg was still soft and lovely and the asparagus was at its best, as you’d expect at this time of year. There were also unadvertised pine nuts, which is not to be complained at. In fact if I had a complaint it was that I wanted more of that egg!
This came accompanied by another very fine wine choice, this time a Pinot Gris Grand Cru Eichberg, Kuentz-Bas 2012 that went very well with the fresh Spring flavours.
The theatre continued with the meat course, which arrived in fine style, and was soon given its accompanying sauce after we’d had a moment to admire it bereft of liquid. This was duck with almond, sea kale, and black quinoa. Apparently the lamb we had initially expected was taken off the menu for the night because one of the other diners didn’t like lamb. Surely something wrong there… but apparently a lot of younger meat eaters really won’t touch lamb. All the more for me then! Anyway to return to the duck, it was cooked just the way I like it, still pink so the iron taste of the blood is detectable but not overwhelming. The selection of vegetables was ideal for me too, with additions such as some micro-broccoli to add to the palette of both flavours and colours.
We hit the red wines at this point, with a Pinot Noir, which was now taking me outside my experience of Alsace wines, as the reds are hard to find. This time we drank a Pinot Noir Côte de Rouffach, Muré 2014, which I am pleased to note can also be got reasonably easily in the UK. I loved the plummy, fruitiness of it set against the duck meat. Perfect choice I’d say.
We were treated to two desserts, or rather a pre-dessert as something of a palate cleanser, and then a dessert full of intriguing sweet-tasting ingredients. First though, the lychee, rose and pistachio combination, cold, sweet but not cloyingly so, with a delectable sweetness and perfume to it that left your mouth feeling as if you’d just indulged in the world’s most delicious mouthwash (and I mean that in a good way). The pistachio ice cream in particular was an absolute knock-out.
Anyone who knows me well will know of my minor Gewurtztraminer obsession, and so I was delighted to be offered a glass of Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Pfersigberg, Domaine Ginglinger 2013, sweet but not too sweet with that spicy Gewurz hit that you expect from the best versions.
And so the final course, the dessert proper if you will. The carrot, white chocolate, dill, mascarpone and ginger offering was not only tasty, but also fun to look at. We all agreed it rather reminded us of the Smash instant mashed potato martians to an extent, which was probably not entirely true but felt like it at the time. The white chocolate and carrot casing was a stoke of genius in fact, the sweetness of the carrots adding to the chocolate to improve what can be a bland sweetness.
With this we had the final wine, the Domaine Rolly Gasmann Vin d’Alsace Terroir des Châteaux Forts 2014 which I could happily have hogged the whole bottle of… given half a chance.
Actually talking after dinner, we were instructed to help ourselves from the opened bottles, and as I don’t need telling twice for this sort of thing, I was in there like a shot! We did discuss the fact that I’d like to take some sort of wine course at some point, and the tame geek was kind enough to say that he didn’t think I should bother with the beginner’s courses as I already knew enough to not need to do that.
We finished the conversation, recalled we needed to catch an early flight to Helsinki the following day and has thus better get home, paid for our aperitifs and dropped off a service tip and went home happy!