I've always heard of people going to a food and whisky pairing, but I have never been myself. It’s not as common as wine or beer pairings, which happen all the time.
It turns out that I had been denying myself a really great opportunity to get even more out of my whisky, which is my favourite beverage.
So The Big Easy Winebar & Grill Durban by Ernie Els hosted a Cardhu 12 YO whisky and cuisine pairing this week and I decided to go. As much as I love my whisky, but I had never come across Cardhu, which excited me because I had no expectations.
Cardhu 12YO is a single malt whisky with a fresh and fruity flavour and I enjoyed it on the rocks with almost all the dishes they had on the menu.
The dishes were presented by Chef Noel Kanyemba and the drinks by noted mixologist, Haroon Hafajee.
On arrival we had goat’s cheese and sundried tomato bruschetta with red onion and rocket. This was paired with a Cardhu cocktail called ‘The Lady Rules’, which was made with the whisky, some orange liqueur and syrup, lemon zest and soda water. Hafajee made sure to illustrate during the evening how versatile Cardhu is and why it works just as well in cocktails as it does neat.
Starters we had chilled calamari served with snoek aranchini, sweet chilli jam, fennel pickled cucumber and garlic mayonnaise. The snoek aranchini paired beautifully with the whisky. The flavour of the snoek worked quite well with the Cardhu as it’s a whisky that has sweet, light spices.
We also had some oven roasted pork belly with smoky bacon chakalaka (really good), black fig and whisky relish and sesame glazed baby spinach. With this dish I liked how the whisky paired very well with the chakalaka. The Cardhu leaves you with a lovely long lasting smoky finish, so I guess that’s why I quite enjoyed it with the chakalaka more than anything else that was on the plate.
For the main course we had a pepper crusted beef fillet with baked chicken liver flan, yellow beets, crispy potato fondant and marrow thyme jus.
The pepper crusted beef fillet didn’t quite hit the spot. It was too peppery. The fillet was done a perfect medium. But it worked with the whisky, with the pepper offsetting the spices in the whisky. Unike many of the guests, I enjoyed the chicken liver flan, thanks to the texture that goes well with the whisky. It was a nice dry finish, which I appreciate.
The menu was finished off with a chocolate and raspberry Mille-feuille with espresso mousse, amarula truffles and dark chocolate orange crumbs and paired with a Cardhu cocktail called ‘The Heart’. The dessert was really amazing and not sweet, thanks to the coffee and the cocktail was quite smooth and sweet making these a perfect pair.
I’m a novice cook, so I'm always looking forward to ways I can give my food an edge. Being a fan of whisky, I'm definitely looking into cooking food that will go well with the spirit.