A chef and master sommelier serve up the perfect pairing
British Chef Michael Savva of the yacht Mia Elise is a classically trained chef who has worked in many of the world’s top kitchens, from St. Moritz, Switzerland, to New York. Now he travels the seven seas aboard charter yachts. Drawing his inspiration from world cuisine, he is as willing and able to put on an Italian feast as he is to revisit ancient Mediterranean cooking methods, such as fish baked in sea salt. We had a chance to taste the delectable lunch menu that we have selected for our first-ever chef vs. sommelier challenge.
• Tuna tartare with scallop ceviche, ponzu vinaigrette and edible flowers
• Maine lobster braised in bouillabaisse with cauliflower and pickled French beans
• Daurade en croûte de sel with grilled vegetable fondant
• Raspberry mille-feuille
As one of only 204 professionals worldwide to hold the title of Master Sommelier, Virginia Philip knows wine inside and out. Her discerning palate and encyclopedic knowledge also earned her the American Sommelier Association’s title of “Best Sommelier of the United States.” At The Breakers Palm Beach, Philip oversees the beverage selection of the resort’s nine restaurants and bars and 14 wine lists. She owns Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla., a great place to please and train your palate.
Pairing food and wine, while not rocket science, does require some thought and experience for both the wine and the food to show their true potential.
It is imperative that the wine does not overpower the food, and the food does not overpower the wine. When a dish is paired correctly, the food and the wine take on a new taste profile that neither could have achieved on their own.
For Chef Michael’s tuna tartare with scallop ceviche, ponzu vinaigrette and edible flowers, I would suggest Prieuré de Montézargues Tavel Rosé 2010 ($22.99). This grenache-based rosé is medium bodied and works excellently with oily styles of fish. The pomegranate and watermelon notes of the wine complement the ponzu vinaigrette and both types of fish without overwhelming them.
The maine lobster braised in bouillabaisse with cauliflower and pickled French beans would work wonderfully with Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon-Chardonnay Clos de la Crochette Mâcon, France, 2009 ($32.99). This Chardonnay is medium bodied. Considering the progression of courses, the wine is quite lovely. Lobster is one of the more full-bodied fish dishes, requiring a wine with a good deal of weight, creaminess and flavor. Overtones of yellow apple, lemon and mushroom intermingle with the cauliflower and pickled French beans.
At this time during the dinner, many guests may be wishing for a great glass of red wine. Fish dishes like Chef Michael’s Daurade en croûte de sel with grilled vegetable fondant can be tricky, requiring a white wine to complement the meal without overpowering the dish. As a compromise, I will generally select a Pinot Noir. Copain “Les Voisins” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California, 2009 ($36) is a real beauty. Riper notes of red cherry, pomegranate and raspberry will marry well with the vegetable fondant, while the lighter tannin structure of this grape will not overpower the dish. Compromise can be a good thing!
And with the raspberry mille-feuille dessert, the Giacomo Bologna “Braida” Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy, 2011 ($24) is perfect. Ending on a fun and impressive note to a meal is always a good idea. This great bubbly has overtones of wild strawberry, red raspberry and Jolly Rancher red apple. The wine is so light, yet the acid cuts through the cream of the pastry and enhances the raspberry. This wine also is an excellent pairing for chocolate.