Pairing food with cognacs this season

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019 10:23 |
Calm before the waters gather before plunging down the cliff. take a moment to admire the scenic through Aberdare Ranges. Photo/PD/Faith Kinel

Experts say the art of pairing wine and food is key to a successful meal and a passport to more pleasant but intimate experiences 

Let’s talk food and beverage pairings.  I know we are used to wine pairing reviews but let’s do something different today.  Let’s try some cognac, shall we? 

Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885), a  French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement called cognac the “liquor of the gods.”

It’s become known as a symbol of French luxury, the best brandy money can buy (yes, cognac is a brandy).  Brandy is a distilled spirit made from fermented fruit juice.

I got an invitation to a Hennessy Cognac and food pairing dinner at Dusit D2 Hotel in Nairobi recently. 

For Hennessey the drink is made up mostly of Ugni Blanc grapes, which have prevailed as the dominant grape in the Cognac region of France. 

If your cognac is not specifically created in the Cognac region of France, then it’s probably another brandy. 

Just like Champagne is from Champagne region and anything else is referred to as sparkling wine. 

Aged and nurtured

People tend to think cognac is difficult to pair with most foods. Rumour has it that “she demands to be savoured all by herself, with our taste buds full and undivided attention”. 

Not really my take though because, in its defence, cognac is not like the rest of them; it’s alluring. Gutsy and complex in taste. 

But there’s a side to cognac you might not be aware of, especially when you bring it to the fine dining table. 

Lead by the Hennessy Global Brand Ambassador, Ben Smith, we tasted the various ranges of cognacs that have been aged, nurtured and blended by different generations of master.

We also sampled through flavours crafted by the chefs at the Dusit D2 Restaurant paired with each selected Hennessy brand. 

For a starter, we had crispy pork belly with Szechan Pepper served with slices of apple fruit, which was paired with Hennessy Very Special.

Intense in character and full-bodied flavours, it revealed its liveliness by bringing out the delicate flavours of the crispy pork belly, complemented by the infusion of the apple fruit.

For the main course where we had: Jasmine rice (primarily grown in Thailand) served with crispy beef tenderloin and sucumber salad, which was paired with Vsop  cognac. Vsop has a subtle gold colour and a delicate smoothness. 

The intensity of its flavour and rounded mouth-feel balances the jasmine rice and the peppery taste of medium rare beef.  

Usually, I prefer well-done meat but I have lately given in to the medium rare option; it’s juicy and easy to chew compared to some of the well-done meat cuts. 

For the Dessert we had chocolate fondant with banana ice cream and miso caramel sauce,  paired with Xo.  Usually, Xo excels when coupled with high-quality dark chocolate while the vanilla notes fare very well with cream-based desserts.

I guess it’s safe to say that the Xo was the ideal companion for this dessert, perfect pair to end the evening.  I loved how the cognac captivates sharpens and dazzles the palette. 

Experts say the art of pairing wine and food is the key to a successful meal and the passport to the most pleasant experiences. It is the ability to create a relationship between food and alcoholic beverages based on the tasting and the use of the senses.

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