Sardinia's Sardine Free Banquet
DESPITE Alloro’s illustrious peers in the A-Z group, including Aubergine, Ken Lo’s Memories of China, L’Oranger and Zafferano, it never before blipped my belly’s radar. However, beyond a mild title glints a tesoro nascosto....
After a Hendrick’s martini, sipped under the distracting gaze of a doe-eyed hooker at Brown’s Hotel, I was lured there for ‘One Night in Sardinia’. My dining companion was not the working lady, but widely travelled gastro scribe, Dino Joannides.
Camera’s menu was paired with wines from ‘Feudi della Medusa’, a 50 hectare estate in Cagliari, southern Sardinia, close to the Forte Village. A-Z's Operations Director, Sardinian, Giorgio Abis was inspired to create the evening after discovering the wines at this year’s Vinitaly wine fair.
Established in 2000, Medusa’s range comprises indigenous and international IGT wines which rest (according to the obligatory glossy brochure) in an impressive looking cellar propped by pink granite pillars.
My favourite of Camera’s courses was the least aesthetic, but most authentic. A soup of beady fregola (Sardinia’s take on cous-cous) bound steamed, meaty coccioba clams. Alba Nora Isola dei Nuraghi ‘07 proved a rested and restrained, finely textured Chardonnay. Despite the difficulties in partnering liquid with liquid, it had enough weight and freshness to scythe through the tomato broth base.
Maloreddus pasta traditionally gets its ridged shape when pressed against a wicker basket. It cupped tomato and saffron sauce and morsels of aniseed, garlic and clove pepped sausage from acorn-fed pigs. It looked stodge incarnate but tasted leavened. Brick-coloured ‘06 Cannonau, which is often described as a version of grape, Grenache, spoke of spice and sun baked soils with a hint of uplifting menthol in the finish. Alas, when taken in tandem with the dish, it took on an odour of ordure...
Sebadas was the most unusual, barely sweet dessert that I’ve tried this year. A raviolo fritter of fresh pecorino was generously drizzled with slightly metallic, ultimately bitter Corbezzelo Arbutus honey. To make a kilo, it takes a bee up to 8,000 excursions from flower to hive compared to 3,000 for ‘normal’ honey. It was a reasonable match with Aristeo Vino Passito ‘05, which had wet walnuts on the nose and, believe it not agreeably, four star petrol on the palate. It is a blend of aromatic grapes, Malvasia and Nasco, the latter of which is nearing extinction. The best way to ensure its survival is to drink it, and then more will be planted.