“The goal of this evening is so you will dare to order a glass of wine next time you dine at a restaurant.” Those were the words of Coromandel’s managing partner, chef, and jack of all trades, Gopi Nair at the latest CTBites Invites event where Indian cuisine was paired with wines from around the world.
But wine with Indian food? It is possible. Apparently wine was popular among Indians thousands of years ago but as time passed the country became integrated which resulted in wine becoming all but obsolete. Nair explained to the dining room of food fanatics that he did not grow up pairing wine with food but people should not stray from marrying the two. “You can come to an Indian restaurant and order wine,” Nair said. “You don’t have to order beer or a martini.”
While the marriage of wine and Indian flavors already kicked off with hors d’oeuvres of Beets Kachoris and Drums of Heaven with a refreshingly light and citrusy Gruner Veltliner at the bar, Nair brought backup, his friend and sommelier Joel Lall to ensure these couples of Indian food and wine stayed together. Lall dropped his wine tasting knowledge on us with a simple exercise; hold your nose, put a mint leaf in your mouth. Lall asked, “What do you taste?” Everyone replied, “Nothing.” Once Lall told us to breathe normally, the minty flavor was present. The reason for this is a few of our senses allow us to recognize what something is. “You don’t taste chocolate,” Lall said. “You taste sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Your smell is why you ‘tasted’ mint.”
Before the main courses were served, Lall instructed us to swirl the wine, smell it, and told us the hints of flavors to discover during the experience. “Everyone’s taste buds are different,” he said. “The wine will change with food so you should taste prior to eating, during, and after.”
The collaboration of Nair and Lall led to dishes including Scallops Malai marinated in fresh yogurt, nutmeg, and ginger and cooked in tandoor with a Fume Blanc with hints of lemongrass and green tea, and Chicken Bhuna, a curry dish cooked with crushed tomatoes, onions, and a blend of fresh ground spices which Nair had to explain to the room. He asked, “How many of you once said ‘I don’t like curry?’” The majority of the room raised their hands to Nair’s dismay. He went on to say that most have a misconception about what a curry actually is and that anything with moisture is a curry. What is sold in stores and marketed as a curry is misleading since styles of curry are different in every Indian home.
The five-course meal continued with Nair’s favorite dish, Ghustaba, a New Zealand lamb chop marinated overnight in nutmeg and ajwain infused yogurt with pan tossed vegetables paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon from Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla, Washington.
The final course of night had a sweet ending with an Italian Moscato from Seven Daughters matched up with a Rice Flour Batter Dipped and Fried Ripe Banana drizzled with honey and dusted with powdered sugar with coconut ice cream.
Nair and Lall showed diners that eating Indian food and drinking good wine is possible after all. Let’s hope that everyone in attendance learned enough and are brave enough to order that glass of wine on their next restaurant visit.