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Food & Drinks

Pairing Whisky With Starters

Double cut beef tenderloin, potatoes croquette,
Double cut beef tenderloin, potatoes croquette, grilled asparagus, roasted almonds, carrot pure, dark chocolate-merlot sauce served with Talisker 10 years old at the Movenpick Hotel and Residences. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NAIROBI 

Baby spinach and rucola leaves, dry aged Parmesan flakes, roasted pine nuts, glazed balsamic dressing, fresh strawberries and almond dust make for one of the best salads I have tasted. But throw in a Singleton Tailfire as the pairing of choice and it is a whole new food game.

The mellowness of the whisky, which Alexander Kavita, reserve brand ambassador for Diageo describes as a good “entry into the complex world of single malts”, melts in with the sweetness of the fresh strawberries, spiciness of the rucola and the acid in the dressing.

Whisky has over the years tried to find its way to the dinner table as a perfect pairing, for those willing to experiment beyond wine.

“We are looking to scotch to show up at the table,” says Kavita, explaining that the diversity in the whiskies available in the market allows for one to play on the various food courses for a perfect pairing.

Movenpick Hotel and Residences Executive Chef Aris Athanasiou’s fried Camembert, hazelnut dust, blueberry marmalade, rucola leaves with rock salt and chilly olive oil melts in your mouth quite literally before the heat of the chilly olive oil hits you.

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The crisp exterior of the fried soft cheese contrasts its gooey centre and the marmalade provides the sweet element, and rucola a fresh touch.

This paired with the Cragganmore 12-year-old has the flavours of the whisky and spice mellowing out on the tongue, leaving a dull heat and floral after tones.

The Cardhu 12-year-old is a mellow whiskey which is served alongside ham prosciutto, pear compote, honey mustard dressing and dry apricots. Such a dish plays on sweet and smoky, which, offset vanilla and cinnamon flavours in the dish.

Cardhu is a distillery in Speyside which happens to have been founded by women and the single malt under the same name is one of Diageo’s top selling single malt whiskies.

The three single malts work well with the respective salad, hot starter and cold starter respectively, bringing on a new dimension of pairings.

“We pair whisky with food because it works and it is the next best thing to explore beyond wine. In the end, it is all about personal preference,” says Kavita.

Chef Aris, who prepared the five courses for the pairing states that the tasting notes in each dish and whisky are supposed to complement each other.

He used ingredients already available in the restaurant kitchen, showing that one can work with what they have for a pairing dinner.

However, there are some combinations that may not always bring out a seamless connection, for instance, the main course of double cut beef tenderloin with potatoes croquette and a dark chocolate-merlot sauce is a dish on its own that takes you to what TVChef Guy Fiery would describe as Flavourtown.

The chocolate-merlot sauce is the highlight of the dish and the tenderloin coated in the sauce is nothing short of scrumptious, yet when paired with Talisker 10-year-old, the smokiness in the whisky comes off as harsh.

Talisker 10 reads off as more of an after-dinner drink with a cigar than a pairing whisky, mainly due to the extra smokiness packed by the drink.

Chocolate and Johnnie Walker 18-year-old seem to be an unlikely match but quite strangely enough, they work together. Johnnie Walker 18 is the rebrand of the Johnnie Walker Platinum and its tasting notes have vanilla, almonds and citrus undertones. This means it pairs well with a sweet dessert which brings out the vanilla and almond while the citrus notes cut the sweetness in the mouth.

The dark chocolate Djanduja, orange parfait sorbet, butterscotch sauce, vanilla and cocoa truffles is a sweet tooth haven and a swig of the JW 18 mutes the extra sweet flavours.

With five courses, five whiskies, a revolution and a half later, dinner comes to an end at Movenpick’s The View restaurant. The revolving restaurant gives one the illusion that they may have had a tipple too many over dinner as it rotates over the Westlands skyline.

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