If you think that port is a) an old man’s drink or b) only fit to be served at the end of the meal with a cigar – then you must think again. A trio of fabulous foodie events at this weekend’s Absa Port & Wine Festival in Calitzdorp has certainly convinced me that this much-misunderstood drink fully deserves to be given a whole new lease of life as a partner for all kinds of surprising and delicious food.
The first event I attended was possibly the most traditional match for Port – a selection of artisan SA cheeses presented by Johannesburg cheese-lovers, Brian and Jo Dick. Along with Port ambassadress, Junel Vermeulen, 8 different styles of port were paired with a range of cheeses from all over the country. Top combinations for me included Calitzdorp Cellars ruby port with the Regal Cheddar from Gay’s Dairy in Prince Albert – the salty crunch of the cheese really serving to accentuate the soft berried fruit in the port – and the incredible Huguenot from Dalewood in Franschhoek which was paired with the De Krans Tawny, a nutty, savoury, tangy wine which picked up a peppery mushroom note in the cheese. The lesson here? Be creative, think outside the box and wherever possible, get some advice from a proper cheese specialist as to the range of flavours available.
The second pairing session was with chocolates using the handcrafted truffles from Rococo Chocolaterie from Oudtshoorn. Marita Lamprecht spent time in Belgium qualifying as a chocolatier and she imports most of her raw ingredients from that country. The chocolates were divine, the ports were great but as Marita and Junel said – you can’t please all the people all the time – and the sweetness did make some of the matches problematical. But hey – spending an afternoon eating amazing chocolates and sipping delicious port is never a waste of time in my book and if you want to see the most incredible chocolate artworks ever – then click here. I want chocolate shoes NOW!
The highlight food/port event of the weekend was celebrity chef Francois Ferreira’s ‘Boerekos, Bollywood & Ballroom’ extravaganza. Flamboyantly fabulous and charmingly cheeky, Francois has been cooking, teaching and entertaining SA audiences for longer than he cares to remember. He carried his audience through a lunch of traditional boerekos favourites such as Hake fishcakes, Frikkadels and Milk Tart, each dish paired with a port and a still wine made from the same variety. With every dish came a ballroom dance, beautifully-executed by the South Cape Dance Academy and a spectacular change of costume “and my matching jewellery” from Francois. It was two hours of pleasure, not the least of which was the discovery that port beat the still wine as a food match on almost every occasion.
More to come soon from my weekend in Calitzdorp, but as winter draws on and we all put our winter drawers on, it is worth thinking about having a glass of port with your food as opposed to after it. As Shakespeare puts it “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Try a tawny with soup, try a ruby with a roast, try a white port with canapés or a vintage with dessert and see what you can come up with.
Have you found a great food match for port? Tell us and give us all some inspiration!
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