When someone mentions USDA to me, I think a big, fat, juicy steak, not unlike those revered in one of my favourite Netflix shows, The Ranch.
This was why when I was invited to attend the USDA Great American Taste event, I immediately said yes.
With the promise of a sumptuous dinner created by the talented culinary people of Discovery Primea, I readied my appetite and my palate.
What I didn’t expect was that it was not simply about meats: It was also about getting experimental with the evening’s wines. It wasn’t the usual setup where each course is meticulously paired with a specific wine, carefully chosen by the restaurant’s beverage personnel in collaboration with their chef. No, this was different: We were each given two wines to pair with each course, and we could mix and match them according to our preferences.
Now I won’t go too technical, but I’ll let you know what I think about each featured wine for the night:
Charles & Charles Riesling – An off-dry style of Riesling (note: Not all Rieslings are sweet… They tend to run the gamut in terms of sweetness), it was refreshing and perfect to kick off the evening’s event without overwhelming the palate.
Cloud Break Petite Sirah – A light, pleasant red wine cocktail option, it was similarly a brilliant idea to give guests a red alternative. It went great with the canapés, which featured U.S. Roast Beef and Mini Philly Cheese Steak.
Soup: Shellfish Bisque Soup
Ménage à Trois Chardonnay – The more refreshing of the two Chardonnays of the evening, it was good to drink on its own, but also has enough acidity to cut the fishiness of the soup.
Cloud Break Chardonnay – A heavier Chardonnay, it was flavorful enough to hold its own against the strong shellfish taste of the soup.
Main Course: Kurobuta Beef Belly
The Seven Deadly Zins – A powerhouse wine that was appropriately served for the main course, the old vines added deep, earthy characters to the wine. In general, Zinfandel is something I would imagine with a roast pig, which is exactly how our pork belly was served. Also, the side of my head that tends to appreciate the dark side of things totally loved the label.
Ménage à Trois Silk – Appropriately named for its smooth, silky texture, this blend of Pinot Noir with a touch of Malbec and Petite Sirah was perfect with the pork, but equally delectable to have sans food (or, as a friend puts it, “to drink alone”). I’ve always loved the label for its touch of naughtiness, and as its importer Edna Diaz put it, the best ménage à trois involves “you, your loved one, and a bottle of Ménage à Trois.”
Dessert: Flourless Moist Orange Cake
Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon – I am all about being adventurous when it comes to wine pairing (years of hanging out with amazing winos and chefs tend to do that). This completely unorthodox, out-of-the-box pairing had the intent of complimenting the orange notes of the cake with its smoky characteristics (not unlike some Islay cocktails infused with oranges I’ve had). Bonus points for a very funky label, too.
Ménage à Trois Moscato – For the more traditional foodie, this aromatic wine was a great match, with the fruit notes of the Moscato complimenting the orange flavours of the dessert.
That said, if there’s anything the dinner illustrated, it’s to not be afraid to try different pairings, and understanding the intent of each wine and dish. Who knows, one might be able to find a pair that works well but goes against every textbook. It’s also fun to try them out with wines from the U.S.A., with the diversity of their selection readily available in Manila.