I was recently invited along with some of Beirut's finest wine amateurs for a wine tasting session at the Caves de Taillevent. Les Caves de Taillevent, which I have reviewed a couple of weeks ago, is one of my favorite wine cellars in town.
At 8pm, we all gathered in the main room for an aperitif:AperolandProseco (Aperolspritz): ice cube, slice of orange, three partsofProseco, twopartsAperol, splash soda preparedbyMouniaElKik, one of Les cavesdeTaillevent esteemed staff members.
At 9pm, it was time to move on to the bar. Along the long bar, special tasting placemats were layered one next to the other with eight wine glasses over each. Eight wine and champagne glasses from different sizes and shapes according to the wine being proposed during the gathering. I loved this bluish grey clear placemat that only has the logo and a detachable column for notes on the side. We were entertained by Antoine Char, a Taillevent member of staff who reconstituted the scenario of a plane taking off. "Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the flight... We remind you that is flight is none smoking". We laughed and prepared ourselves for some serious stuff ahead. With some fine musical background, we started our culinary trip.
Behind the bar, Alexandre Nasr, an amateur gourmet and fine cook whose background is in finance but came as a friend to prepare the amazingly tasty bites we enjoyed during the night; together with the help of Ghadi Chami from the house.
The first course, was a vegetable tartar served in a single malt cup. Beetroot, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, olive oil and decorated with choux de romanesco (Romanesco broccoli, or Romanesque cauliflower, is an edible flower of the species Brassica oleracea, and a variant form of cauliflower. First documented in Italy, it is light green in color and is a natural approximation of a fractal) to open the appetite with a mustard Dijon vinaigrette. The cup was decorated with grilled Pancetta (Pancetta is Italian, Croatian and Slovenian bacon. It is pork belly meat that is salt cured and contains peppercorns). Crunchiness and sweetness combined in this verrine that has a pleasant mustard aftertaste. I loved the presentation and preparation of those vegetables cut in little cubes.
What would a wine tasting session be without the fine remarks of a connoisseur. I asked Paul Choueiry, the house's Enologist and sommelier to help me with his tasting notes.
Domaine de la Charmoise Tourraine 2012: The nose is rich with an acidic fresh flair. Citrus, exotic fruits, pineapple, lychee, candy green apples. This is a very good wine to be paired with vegetables. In the mouth, a fresh fruity aroma. An interesting equilibrium that gives a good wine.
Moving to more serious stuff, Oysters came next. An excellent oyster shooter in white wine and seasoned with white pepper. A lemony flavor and orange egg of salmon caviar decorated with chopped chives.
Seppi Landmann, Alsace Riesling 2008. A mature wine with candied fruit aromas. White wine with a nice texture accompanies perfectly those oysters.
Third plate, third wine: Carpaccio scallops, lime juice, olive oil, chopped chives, extra virgin olive oil, fleur de sel. A perfect thickness of a fresh product, with French olive oil and a flower of salt at the end that makes all the difference. A slight sweetness coupled with a back saltiness make of it an amazing plate.
Jean Michel Gerin, Condrieu 2009. A slightly fruity wine that caresses your palatal buds with style. Fresh with peach aromas, note of flowers and wood. An elegant and fine wine I enjoyed
Things started to become more serious as the mini calzone de bresaola, Lebanese style was served. Cooked and raw bresaola, rocket, Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and salt served in a small Lebanese shawarma bread. This is certainly fine dining material which I fell in love with. I couldn't but look at Alexandre and say: Bravo!
Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur Champigny 2012 Thierry Germain: An organic wine from a small producer with a strong nose of a bouquet of cheese and red fruits. A light wine, easy to drink and accept that fits perfectly with a meat plate
Next was the "Verrine 3D" or as you can see it, a garden in a cup. Alexandre calls it the "Mushroom Tralala". Fricassé de Champignon cooked with vodka and sake, seasoned with garlic, parsley, black pepper and decorated with red dried berries. The main ingredient is Gorgonzola cheese and fresh cream used as a support to small mushrooms. A very interesting and innovative creation that I personally found too salty and too heavy. I would have checked the proportions and surely served a smaller portion.
Domaine des Espiers, 2011, Gigondas. Now that's the real deal. From the heart of the Rhone valley, a good wine, an elegant robe and allure. A discreet nose that expresses cheese and liquorice. A young wine with a soft touch. It would be better to wait for some time for this wine to get its intense character. It would have been better to decant it.
Sixth plate: "Tartine de Camembert au Beurre Japonais". A Camembert cheese sandwich with spring onions, salted butter, wasabi, green onions and sweet red onions. A delicious sandwich grilled to make the cheese melt and a taste up to the standard of a fine dining restaurant. The Tartine of crunchy premium bread, sweetness of the red onions, richness of the cheese and added butter seasoned with pepper that make of this simple sandwich a fine dining preparation. The best part is that we don't smell the acidity of the onions.
2011 Tokaji Sarga Muscat, Grof Degenfeld. A very rich dry wine with sweet aromas. Hungary known for its rich aromatic flavors. Lychee, flowers, explosion of aromas and passions. Adequate equilibrium. I loved this wine so much that I left with two bottles to enjoy at home.
It's like time has stopped when we all looked at the chef preparing the next tasting. He opened his well protected box and started removing one ball after the another. Balls of rice that look and smell like sushi. Grabbing one, he rolls it on a line of sesame and serves it on a white plate with a special mix of soy sauce and secret ingredients. A ball of rice cooked in vinegar filled with salmon, fresh ginger, pickled ginger and salmon eggs. A rich sweetness and a hint of spiciness of the ginger cubes filling. A rich ball full of fine aromas. I can honestly say that I have never tasted anything like this ever before.
Pino Grigio Roseto Selezione Soldi, 2011. Don't you know already that the Pino Grigio is one of my favorite wines. This is my sixth bottle this week. The richness and fruits inside this bottle and its lightness makes it a very good wine to consider
It was already midnight... Time has passed so quickly. Desserts followed with a fine ritual. Alexandre showed us how to prepare a Tiramissu in five minutes without using egg whites. Served in a single malt cup, he started by mixing the mascarpone cheese and preparing it for the mix. Add some sugar and fresh cream to the mascarpone and mix thoroughly. In the cup, biscuits, amaretto and cocoa. The cups are decorated with fresh coffee beans. It was so tasty that we all had double portions.
Tokaji, Aszu, 4 Puttonyos 1993: A very sweet wine I'm not a fan of, even though it couples well with a sweet dessert
Yes, another dessert followed... A vanilla ice cream from Oslo, served in a martini cup with 12 years aged balsamic vinegar on top. This is the great example of sweet and sour. A very strong aromatic dessert that needs too much concentration. I couldn't do that at 1am in the morning. I decided to skip it...
From 8:00pm till 1am, time passed so quickly that we all forgot that we have to work the next day. In the presence of culinary amateurs and wine connoisseurs, Les Caves de Taillevent made our night memorable. Nothing would have been possible without the hard work of Alexandre Nasr whom I really admire. I hope that he will one day open his own restaurant, as I'll be his first client.
Tags: Lebanon Beirut Dinner Drink Garlic Black Pepper parsley Pino les caves de taillevent alexandre rizk alexandre nasr Aperol Aperol spritz Mounia El Kik Antoine Char Paul Choueiry Domaine de la Charmoise Tourraine 2012 Alsace Riesling 2008 Carpaccio scallops Jean Michel Gerin Condrieu 2009 lebanese style mini calzone de bresaola Domaine des Roches Neuves Domaine des Espoirs 2011 Gigondas 2011 Tokaji Sarga Muscat Grof Degenfeld Pino Grigio Aszu 4 Puttonyos 1993 Domaine des Espiers