On a day that was already going well, it was hard to imagine that it could get even better with an invitation to attend the 2017 launch of the #HQFineWining (what a clever hashtag) series of food and wine pairing dinners. Graham Beck bubblies were served and we were told that bubbly pairs well with all kinds of foods, including the well-known HQ steak!
I had invited Elize Skriker to join me for the dinner, and she and I Tweeted and Instagrammed up a storm, joking that we would not have much time to chat. We were both surprised that we won a bottle of Graham Beck MCC each for our Tweets and Instagram posts, respectively!
We were welcomed with a glass of Gorgeous Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2016, a still wine made with the two cultivars that go into the making of the award-winning Graham Beck sparkling wines. A canapé of home-made truffle gnocchi with a Parmesan velouté was served. I recognized Ricky Botsis, who is a regular performer at HQ, a crooner singing Sinatra-style songs. He is beyond charming, and reflects the music that he performs! He is very smart at Instagram too, checking and liking posts throughout the evening! I first heard Ricky perform at HQ last year, when he performed on a Date Night evening I went to with a friend.
We were told that HQ hosts a monthly #HQFineWining evening, and have been doing so for the past four years. Last night the Graham Beck dinner was the first for 2017. Other wine estates that have been booked for the dinners include Boschendal, Nederburg, Kleine Zalze, Creation, Diemersdal, Ken Forrester, Buitenverwachting, and Cederberg.
It was lovely to see Pierre de Klerk and his French wife Julie, and to hear their good news about an addition to the family, having last seen Pierre a few days before his wedding last year. Pierre told us that Graham Beck started producing sparkling wines in Robertson in 1991. The grapes for the Graham Beck Cap Classique are picked by hand, sugar and yeast are added, and then the bottle is crown capped. The minimum time on the lees for a Graham Beck bubbly is 15 months. Their Blanc de Blancs spends five years on the lees.
Our table had a brown paper ‘tablecloth’, with information about their meat supplier, as well as the dining concept: one ‘can have anything you like as long as it’s salad, sirloin & chips. Prime cut beef served with our unique HQ Café de Paris butter. An experience of steak perfection’. And they do deliver on this promise! Meat is supplied by Cape Grim Pure Beef, and I remembered from last year that one can order (a more expensive) steak option of 100% organic, free-range, grass-fed Australian Black Angus beef. The ‘tablecloth’ also informed that R5 is added to each bill, for HQ’s ‘kids of the Cape’ social investment initiative. The waitress taking our steak order marked our steak cooking time preference on the ‘tablecloth’. Even though I had my notebook with me, the ‘tablecloth’ became a handy recording place of Social Media handles from tables on both of our sides!
Our starter was a crisp salad of Cos and iceberg lettuce leaves, with toasted pine nuts, Parmesan shavings, and dressed with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. This was served with the Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2011, made solely from Chardonnay.
On the table was two sets of cutlery, one with horn handles, for our main course. It was a 250 gram sirloin steak, wet-aged for 32 days and grilled medium-rare (even though we were asked our cooking time preference), topped with Café de Paris butter (the traditional recipe is chicken livers, thyme, full cream, white Dijon mustard, butter, water, salt and pepper), and served with skinny fries. My steak was prepared perfectly medium-rare, soft and tender! And if the portion was not big enough already, the staff came to the tables with extra helpings of chips and the sauce, in case one is still hungry! The vegetarian option was Portabella mushrooms stuffed with a rich Duxelle (finely chopped mix of mushrooms, onions, shallots and herbs sautéed in butter), gratinated with Parmesan cheese, and served with skinny fries and Café de Paris butter. The wine pairing for the main course was with Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV, and the description of this MCC in the Graham Beck brochure we received as ‘flirtatious and fun’ was an apt description of our evening! The blend composition is roughly equally Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The most disappointing course was the dessert, which was tasty, but its presentation was not attractive. It was a lemon brûlée tart with a black cherry reduction, and served with dehydrated strawberry chips. I requested a dry cappuccino, and after one false start, I enjoyed three excellent cups, enabling me to finish my Blogpost on my return home. The bubbly pairing was Graham Beck Brut Rosé, a blend of approximately 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.
While we were enjoying our main course a group of ten international students from an English language school arrived to sit at the table next to us. Swiss Musician Larry F sat next to me, and we connected immediately. He seemed surprised that I knew how to Instagram, couldn’t believe my Follower number, and then the ice was broken! He gave me a copy of one of his CDs, and Elize and I had great fun talking with them and taking photographs. The evening was most enjoyable, with gorgeous Graham Beck MCCs and the Gorgeous, the excellent steak, and fantastic company we had – we felt that we had the best table in the house, with our interaction with guests on both sides of us. And Ricky added further ambiance with his singing!
Disclosure: A bottle of Graham Beck Brut Rosé was awaiting us on our table, as a thank you for attending. Elize and I each won a bottle of Graham Beck Brut NV for our Social Media-ing. It felt like Christmas!
HQ, Heritage Square, 100 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-6373. www.hqrestaurant.co.za Twitter: @HQCapeTown Instagram:@hqcapetown
Graham Beck Wines, Robertson (Tasting Room) and Franschhoek (Marketing & Sales). Tel (021) 874-1258/(023) 626-1214 www.grahambeckwines.com Twitter: @GrahamBeckSA Instagram:@GrahamBeckBubbly
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein