Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Pol-Roger at Ribs Damansara - Ooo La La!!

November 6th 2014 - This was one that got neglected as a result of getting caught up in a Rock Blues Singing and Writing Revival and which dropped off the desktop. My singing and lyric writing has taken off thanks to a brilliant little website for musicians called Wikiloops. Musicians across the world can upload a recording of themself playing their instrument to the central site. Other musicians can then download that recording and record themselves with it in a "jam" with their instrument. This new recording gets uploaded, which can then get further downloaded and layered with other jams. Since I found it, lyrics have been pouring out of me and I have been having the absolute best of times recordings myself singing them and uploading them to Wikiloops. Strange - barely wrote a lyric for three years and now…  tap got turned on and they are gushing. Check it out at www.wikiloops.com and do a search for gwailoah (that's me). You might have to register but there is absolutely no spamming and you don't need to be a musician to listen to the tracks. Or follow this link http://www.wikiloops.com/artist/gwailoah.php

Mr. Hubert from Pol-Roger
Anyhow, wanted to give a loud shoutout to another good night at the Ribs in the company of M. Hubert de Billy from Pol-Roger, who was here in South East Asia on a tour of meetings with distributors. Yin-How of Ribs was one of them and he put together a good looking dinner to mark the occasion and help to showcase the good stuff. How to say no? 

We don't see much (read ANY) Pol-Roger in the stores or the restaurants, but presumably it is there. The name is the stuff of legend, the world of James Bond, exquisite living on the Cap D'Or sucking on a bottle of fizz with oysters for breakfast whilst zooming along the Corniches of the Riviera in an open top sports car. Winston Churchill was said to have whiskey before a meal, cognac after, and Pol-Roger with. They even named the street where their central office in Epernay is located after him. Though it was a surprise to hear that their central office is in Hereford - the story is that when part of the company got bought over by HP Bulmer the Cider maker they didn't want the expense or upheaval of relocating staff to London. Renting space would be horrific. So they stayed. Though they now have a London office for marketing and storage. 

The Pol-Roger website notes that the relationship between it and Sir Winston Churchill dates back to a luncheon given by the British Ambassador to France soon after the liberation of Paris. At the lunch were Mme. Odette Pol-Roger and Sir Winston, both of whom became fast friends in a friendship which continued until his passing. Presumably it was there that he also developed his taste for the fizz, of which he once said "in victory, deserve it. In defeat, need it!"

Sir Winston's connection to the Pol-Roger house was loyal and clearly affectionate. It seems he never made it to visiting the winery, though he famously designated it as “the most drinkable address in the world”. Another of his pithy epithets was “My tastes are simple, I am easily satisfied with the best”. He also had a racehorse named Pol-Roger which was a winner at Kempton Park in 1953. 

Lenglui had to pull out last minute due to strep throat so the Doc being already slotted as substitute was happy to step up to the table. I got there slightly ahead of time though some had already been seated and were chugging happily on the first fizz. Doc and I had been parked with M. Hubert for the dinner, who proved a shade shy on his feet but most excellent company at the table. Representing the fifth generation of the Pol-Roger family, M. Hubert has been in charge of public relations and brand development. He studied Business in Reims, Paris and San Francisco and has been a member of the directoire since 1998. Together with wine maker Dominique Petit, they suggest the potential blend of the cuvee to the rest of the family members (father, sister, uncle) for final approval. 

The short version is that the food was well tasty and the fizz was delightful. We started with the usual porky style canapes that the Ribs does so very well, and they really helped the fizz grip the throat nicely ahead of the feast that was to come. 

The oysters came in three styles. The Doc thought the one with the radish went well with the NV fizz, though others on the table liked the lemon yuzu with caviar. For me the lime garlic and chili did the trick nicely - good spritz on the tongue which was zapped nicely by the crisp clean and perfectly chilled fizz. Very lively, though maybe needed a shade more caviar for salt to test the NV. A brilliantly young and crisp fizz though - perhaps a shade too bright for my taste but a very good champagne nevertheless. 

Trio of Fin de Claire Oysters
M. Hubert shared that it is only the Brits who like the Vintage Champagne; the rest of the world like the NV because it has more life. Okay, makes sense, and it is true that we Brits like things a bit aged for some reason. Maybe it is because of the gamey food styles us Brits go for - we hang meat and game and like to let our cheese rot for a while. And we learned that the UK is still the biggest market for Pol-Roger. 

The Vintage 2002 got paired with the Lobster and worked well, though in truth it would have been a belter with the earlier oysters. Calls for more oysters to test this particular theory not unexpectedly fell on deaf ears. Well, don't ask don't get, eh?

Grilled Slipper Lobster
The Rose 2004 got paired with some cold braised duck. Some nice fat on the meat made the cold duck taste wonderful and the pink fizz let the gamey meat and hard fat meld into a full chewy bite that oozed taste and juice. Lovely. The Rose itself was more masculine than traditional Roses, and intentionally so. Seems it took M. Hubert's father three times of asking the grandfather to give permission to make a Rose, which was ultimately granted only on condition that Grandpa would not be made to drink it. Conventional wisdom at the time was that to create a successful Rose, it had to be sweet, light pink and in a feminine bottle. Pol-Roger went completely against this grain and produced a non sweet, dark pink fizz in a masculine bottle. And it worked, both then and now - firm in the mouth and finish, this Rose is no lady (though perhaps it is not quite a gentleman either). It is a good belt of bubbles and taste, with enough fruit to tittilate and sufficient body heft to feel that this was indeed a drink for the soul rather than the mind.

Cold Braised Duck
Dish of the night was the Pork - lovely gravy with well braised meat and chips of crackled skin which gave crunch to the lean fatty texture of what was a slab of excellent pork. The gravy was rich, full, exploding with stock and a soy sauce barbecue blast across the cheeks. Home run for the Chef for this one. Ribs do their pork extremely well.

Soy Braised Pork Belly with Foie Gras
Paired with the Sir Winston Churchill, this was the Pol-Roger piece de resistance. Made from Grand Cru grapes only, this was champagne at its finest - slight biscuit nose and taste, the cleanest of bubbles that popped and zapped the cheeks and the smoothest and finest of finishes. Now THIS is a breakfast champagne to go with the oysters and caviar. 

Dessert was somewhat anticlimactic, though trying to follow the pork would have killed most things. Good choice to go for a simple fruits and cream, which cleaned the palate nicely and freshly and became a nice cap on the evening.

Order forms for the fizz came around. I opted for the Rose and a bottle of the Sir Winston which I will yank out from the fridge one day when the occasion arises. 

Also wanted to keep it for an occasion for when the Doc would have kicked his second bout with the Leukemia into oblivion. Didn't happen - this would prove to be the second last time I would share his company. Within twenty four days he would be gone. Life can be a bastard like that. But it was a great evening with him, and will stay with me as a result. Which is part of the reason I wanted to upload this report and not let it rot in some folder on the Mac like a lot of others. He was in very good spirits and form on the night, usual dry crackling wit, sipping his fizz like a champion and thoroughly enjoying it with his duck and his pork. Great memory. Will think of him when it gets popped.

6th NOVEMBER 2014, 7.30PM

Selection of Canapes
Pol-Roger Brut Reserve NV

Trio of Fine de Claire oysters topped with garlic lime chilli coriander, lemon caviar and ponzu grated radish 
Pol-Roger Brut Reserve NV

Grilled Slipper Lobster with kaffir infused burnt butter and lemon salt 
Pol-Roger Brut Vintage 2002

Cold Braised Duck with tangy pomelo vinaigrette and crispy julienned Bentong ginger and fire roasted capsicum 
Pol-Roger Brut Rose Vintage 2004

Soy braised pork belly and Foie Gras served with crispy lotus root and crackled pork skin
Pol-Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2000

Fresh strawberries with calamansi infused crème fraiche topped with toasted pistachios and white wine agave nectar reduction

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