Heaven in the Basement or Wine Cuisine with Ileana Braniste and S.E.R.V.E
The great thing about Romania is that you can have first-class experiences that you only thought are accessible to the rich and famous. No need to envy the Kardashians anymore for having a personal chef & sommelier, you can have your own, at least for one night, for under $50.
This time I chose VINO and went to see Ileana Braniste, in the kitchen where she sips while creating magic. If you too decide to visit her, expect to see a young and hip chef with vast experience, aiming to give exquisite twists to everyday meals. She is always focusing on creating a culinary adventure around the wines that need to be highlighted that evening. Like the tailor always makes a garment following the body, she balances ingredients and spices to show off the best side of the wines.
The welcoming drink was a glass of Cuvee Sissi (2017) created from Pinot Noir. It was fresh, crisp, elegant, with a subtle smell of cherry blossoms and roses. Nicely balanced, kept us good company while we made acquaintance with the other guests. The great thing about these cooking evenings is that not only you can enjoy a mouth-watering meal, but also meet new and exciting people.
Ileana mixed the delicate fish bits with quinoa and fresh herbs. This makes a perfect spring meal through its freshness and subtle taste. The chosen wine is a mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling kept in new oak for a few months.
The wine was dry, elegant, with a golden vibe that was so classy. It brought those zesty notes so necessary for the fish and just a hint of butter and vanilla, without it becoming overwhelming. Loved the harmony created between these two powerful grapes, like a German gentleman is waltzing a French lady.
Coquelet au Vin & S.E.R.V.E. Cuvee Charlotte (2011)
French tastes met German austerity again in the next plate, where a juicy bit of coquelet (never use this word outside gastronomy, you’ve been warned) sat near spätzle (soft egg noodles) and mushrooms decadently drowned in wine sauce.
The only way to do some justice to this meal was to pair it with a prestigious dark red blend, high in tannins and with a full body. Cuvee Charlotte is a red and dark berries powerhouse of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the local Romanian star, Feteasca Neagra. The subtle notes of oak give it elegance without becoming overwhelming.
Beef with Glazed Carrots & S.E.R.V.E. Cuvee Guy de Poix (2012)
The wine that bears the name of S.E.R.V.E.’s owner, Count Guy de Poix is created entirely from Feteasca Neagra, a Romanian grape which can have a wide range of manifestations. It is as moody as a young girl and needs special conditions to evolve into a proper drink. It is complex, with a nose of dark fruits and black pepper, well rounded by some vanilla. You can keep this wine in the cellar for at least another decade, and you would still have a top contender.
The food came with the surprise of extremely tender beef meat, in beautiful contrast with the glazed carrots which retained their consistency, giving the plate structure and texture.
The last piece of the delicious puzzle came as a reinterpretation of the traditional chocolate dessert. The twist, in this case, was that it was not sweet, but flavoury and savory created by the dark chocolate and the airy mousse.
The wine associated was Cuvee Alexandru, created from Cabernet Sauvignon a decade ago. It complimented perfectly the dark cherries on the desert with complementary notes, although it was a bold choice for a dessert wine. The aromas trapped in the bottle released wonderful hints of vanilla, blackberries, blueberries while the tannin was mild and round.
Would you love to have such an experience? Did you try the wines and have other food pairing suggestions? Let me know in the comments.