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A meal at Septime: Dordogne pork and a whole new appreciation for Beaujolais!

My brother and my sister-in-law were visiting me in Paris recently and I took them to eat at my favorite restaurant in the entire world – Septime! Septime is an amazing restaurant in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Chef Bertrand Grébaut is very creative with his menu and always maintains the integrity of each of his ingredients in his dishes. Every time I come to Paris, I make sure to have a meal here.

The menu changes frequently. The day that we ate there, for the appetizers, we had a choice between jack mackerel, beetroot with feta, and leeks with smoked egg and cecina de Leon. My brother had the leeks, my sister-in-law had the beetroot and I chose the jack mackerel, which was served with kohlrabi, cornichons, parsley oil, and raw cream (I absolutely love raw cream. I dollop it on my baguette with blueberry preserves every morning).

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For the entrée, we had a choice between monkfish and pork from the Dordogne region of France. Since we had eaten monkfish for last night’s dinner, we all chose the pork. The pork was served with roasted onions, a jus with tamarind, and toasted buckwheat.

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For my wine pairing with the pork, I chose a 2013 Beaujolais Villages made by Jean Claude Lapalu. The name of the wine is Tentation. Beaujolais often gets a bad rap because of the mass produced Beaujolais Nouveau that often sacrifices quality for quantity and that is unfortunately most of the Beaujolais we see on the shelves. However, there is much better Beaujolais out there! Beaujolais Villages and especially Beaujolais Cru are much higher quality wines and they are definitely worth a try. There are some really notable wine makers in the region and the Tentation is a great bottle of wine in the Beaujolais Villages classification.

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The Tentation is a beautiful bright ruby color. It is bursting with fruit aromas, especially cherries, which are on the jammy side. There are also some warm and sweet spices as well as just a hint of earthiness. This is definitely a lot more complex than your typical, mass produced Beaujolais Nouveau.

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Three characteristics of this wine make it a great choice for the pork dish. First, Beaujolais is made 100% with the gamay grape, which produces a fruitier wine. The vinification process contributes even more to the  fruitiness of this wine. The Tentation is made using the carbonic maceration technique, where whole grapes (rather than macerated ones) are fermented in an environment rich in carbon dioxide. Fermentation of whole grapes rather than the juice, is another factor that contributes to the fruitiness of this Beaujolais. In fact, the Tentation so fruity that it feels like cherries are exploding in my mouth. Overall, Beaujolais and pork are a fantastic pairing, whether you’re serving pork loin or a plate of charcuterie. Pork loves fruit and the fruitiness of the Tentation makes it a great accompaniment to this dish.

Second, This wine is also quite light. It has a relatively low alcohol content (12%), is very light and refreshing in flavors, and is super low in tannins. Because the gamay has a thin skin, it produces a red wine that’s light in tannins and gives it a much lighter body. The carbonic maceration technique also contributes to low level of tannins in wine.  The pork that we had was light. It was simply roasted and served with a light tamarind jus. The lightness of the Beaujolais worked really well with the food whereas a heavier wine would definitely overpower it.

Finally, this wine is very juicy – it definitely satisfies your thirst. Pork is one of those meats that can easily become dry, in which case the thirst quenching quality of the wine would be a great addition to the meal. Our pork of course was expertly cooked and it was already super soft and juicy 🙂

Overall, this was yet another heavenly meal in my favorite restaurant. I love coming to Septime! They always have amazing food and very interesting wines. They also sell the wines featured in the restaurant in the wine bar they opened around the corner at rue Basfroi. I’ve gotten quite a few interesting bottles of wines to take home with me.

And to leave us all drooling, here is a small selection of pictures from previous meals I’ve had at Septime.

Bean and peaches

Fish and tomatoes

squid

Below, the onions at the top of the plate were to die for. So much flavor!

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Below, on the left is the organic sheep’s milk cheese from Larzac that I fell in love with. After I tasted it in the restaurant, I searched high and low to find this cheese in Paris. Now, it is always on my list of cheeses to bring back home with me. So tasty!

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One of my favorite wines: Morgon

It’s truly a shame that commercially produced Beaujolais Nouveau (which generally emphasizes quantity over quality) has given all Beaujolais wines a bad rap. In reality, when you go beyond Nouveau and explore the Villages and the Cru appellation, you get some truly lovely wines, all made from the Gamay grape (which incidentally is pork’s best friend when it comes to food pairing). The thin skin of the Gamay grape creates wines that are lighter bodied and easier to drink, which makes these wines super versatile.

The Villages appellation is produced across 38 villages and these wines are more concentrated and fuller bodied than the simple Beaujolais appellation. Check out my earlier blog post on the Beaujolais Villages that I tasted at Septime Restaurant in Paris.

At the top end of Beaujolais are the crus. There are 10 (corresponding to the 10 top villages in the region): Chénas, Moulin-à-vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly, Juliénas, Saint-Amour, and my ultimate favorite Morgon. These wines are typically even more complex than the Villages. They express their terroir and they can be quite diverse and can range from the light and delicate Fleurie to the rich and tannic Moulin-à-Vent.

My favorite of the crus is Morgon, which typically has lovely red fruit aromas (especially cherry and pomegranate), silky smooth tannins as well as some earthiness. The crème de la crème of Morgons comes from the Côte du Py plot. My favorite producer of Côte du Py is Jean Foillard. I’m opening a bottle of 2012.

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This wine smells divine: lots of red berries but there is also a certain earthiness as well as some herb aromas. And the color is such a vibrant crimson.

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Now for the food… As I mentioned above Gamay pairs beautifully with pork. Other foods that bring out the best in Morgon are game meats, especially fowl. The subtle gamey flavors of pork and the game fowl generally work superbly with fruity elements, whether it is a fruit-based sauce in the dish or fruity aromas in the wine.  At the same time, both of these meats are light still enough in flavor to not overpower the flavors of the wine. Similarly because of Morgon’s fruity characteristics, I also love adding contrasting smokey elements to the food. Accordingly, I prepared two dishes to pair with the Morgon.

First, I made some pork belly. I seasoned and roasted the pork in the oven. Once it cooled down, I cut it into pieces and pan seared them. I placed the pork belly on top of a smokey roasted eggplant purée. To add just a hint of sweetness and another earthy element, I sprinkled some beetroot cubes on top of the pork and garnished with some beetroot sprouts.

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The pork worked nicely with the Morgon but it was the smoked eggplant that really made this pairing shine!

Second, I made a Persian dish: Guinea fowl fesenjan. Fesenjan can be made with a variety of meats and the sauce typically features walnuts and pomegranate molasses. This is not part of the traditional recipe but I also put some smoked sweet paprika to the sauce to add smokiness.

I cut a whole guinea fowl into 8 pieces and braised them in the sauce until tender. Fesenjan is typically served with pomegranate seeds as well a variety of herbs, both of which mirror the aromas of the wine. For the herbs, anything goes and I had zaatar, parsley, and mint at home.

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I served both the drumsticks:

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And the breast, which I put on top of a bed of couscous:

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Again, even though the sauce is quite rich (which is balanced by the acidity in the wine) the flavors of this dish are more subtle. It is this subtlety of flavors, which made the pairing work well without having the flavors of the food overpower those of the wine. As in the pork belly dish, I loved the smokiness here from the paprika with this wine. The pomegranate and herb garnishes were also a great complement to the aromas in the wine.

An important note however is that pomegranate molasses can range from tangy to sweet. And if it’s on the sweeter side, that can make the whole dish taste sweet, which may not work well with the Morgon (sweet foods always make dry wines taste sour). The molasses I used is somewhere in the middle: fruity, a bit tart, and just a hint of sweetness. That together with the richness from the walnuts was a great balance of flavors and worked really well with the Morgon. Depending on which type molasses you might find, you can always adjust the flavors by adding sugar if it’s too tart or a little acid if it’s too sweet.

So many wines…. So little suitcase space!

After two wonderful months, my time in Paris is coming to an end and I’m going back to Abu Dhabi in a few days. Of course, I’m taking the best of Paris back with me: lots and lots of wine! I think I may have gone a bit overboard with my French wine collection – 23 bottles! Well, it would’ve been a lot more if there were no weight restrictions during air travel. I cannot wait to take them back home and start pairing them with food.

All wines

Here’s some information on each of the bottles in the picture:

I’m, of course, taking all seven bottles that I brought back from my wine tasting tour in Alsace a couple of weeks ago (for more info on these bottles, see: A tasting tour of Alsace: the land of Riesling and Gewurztraminer!).

Alsace wines

Besides the Alsace seven, I have wines from a variety of regions in France (not to mention a couple of bottles from other European countries).

Chateau La Pointe Pomerol. I got two vintages of this Pomerol: 2006 and 2009. The Pomerol region is known for being very velvety and silky. I am most excited about the 2009. We tasted this vintage in wine class and it was love at first taste! If only I had more space to bring back a few more bottles of this…

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Two red Bandols from Provence: Chateau Sainte Anne 1999 and Domaine Tempier La Tourtine 2011. Red Bandols are the perfect wines to serve with hearty and rich foods. When the weather gets chilly in Abu Dhabi (well, the weather hardly gets chilly in Abu Dhabi but we do suffer regularly from blasting A/Cs), I will serve these wines with some roasted lamb or stew.

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A rosé Bandol from Domaine Tempier 2013. Provence is famous for its rosés and Domaine Tempier is one of the best rosé makers out there. It’s a mix of a few grapes with the majority being Mourvèdre (other grapes include Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, and Syrah).

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Le Soula Cotes Catalanes 2010. A bottle recommended by my friend Kelly that I met in wine class. This is an IGP wine (Indication Géographique Protégée, which is a classification that denotes geographic origin) that is from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, near the border with Spain. Can’t wait to try this out!

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Mas Champart Saint-Chinian Clos de la Simonette 2011. Made from one of my favorite grapes: mourvèdre! This bottle was recommended to me by the sales person at La Dernière Goutte in Saint Germain when I told her that I loved mourvèdre.

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Meandro de Vole Meao 2011. A Portuguese Douro – a gift from my awesome brother. Douro wines come from the northern part of Portugal, which is a mountainous and rugged region (the fortified Port wine also comes from this region). Douro reds are very dark and full-bodied. I haven’t had this wine so I’m very excited to discover it.

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Another gift from my brother: a German Riesling (he lives in Germany). Battenfeld-Spanier 2010 Riesling from Molsheim. My brother explained to me that this Riesling is special because it spent some time in oak – this is very rare for a Riesling!

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Adonis La Grapperie 2012. I got this bottle from Septime Cave and asked the sales person to give me a red wine from France that is not very typical in terms of flavor and aroma profiles. He picked this bottle out for me. I’m very curious to find out what flavors and aromas this wine has.

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Vini Viti Vinci Irancy 2012. I had dinner at a fantastic restaurant recently – Le Chateaubriand in the 11th arrondissement. The sommelier recommended a bottle of Bourgogne Coulanges la Vineuse 2012 by Vini Viti Vinci. I absolutely fell in love with this wine. It smelled so amazingly delicious and tasted even better! I loved the aromas so much that I pretty much had my nose in my wine glass the entire meal.

Vini Viti Vinci always has very interesting drawings on their labels 😛

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I had to get that bottle to take back with me. While I couldn’t find exactly the same one, I did manage to track down an Irancy made by the same wine maker and according to the salesperson, it’s even better than the Coulanges la Vineuse! Yay!

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Two Madirans to serve with the foie gras that I’m bringing back with me. The first is the 2012 Chateau Barrejat that I paired with the fresh foie gras in an earlier blog entry (See: Madiran wine and fresh foie gras? Move over Sauternes!) The second is a 2010 Chateau Aydie, made by Famille Laplace. Since I am unable to take fresh foie gras with me to Abu Dhabi, I will be serving these bottles with mi-cuit and entier foie gras.

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A 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from the granite rich Clisson in the Loire Valley. I paired this wine with oysters in a previous entry and it was delicious (See: Four whites and oysters Galore!) I’m saving this wine for when I learn to shuck my own oysters. They sell my favorite oysters– the famous Gillardeau – at one of the grocery stores in Abu Dhabi. As far as I know, they don’t shuck them for you at the store. But learning to shuck oysters sounds like a great project to take up this year 🙂

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And finally two very special bottles of Champagne: 2002 Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut. This is my favorite find of the summer! The Egly-Ouriet is another wine that I featured in an earlier blog entry (See: Champagne and Potato Chips). It is so spectacular that I will definitely be saving these two bottles for a really special occasion!

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It was really fun to shop for these wines but now comes the tough part: Figuring out how to transport all of these wines back to Abu Dhabi! 😛