Chef André Basto pays homage to the people behind the wines in a series of exclusive dinners
Meat Winemakers was the brainchild of chef André Basto, who has been with the Tivoli group since January 2014, and took over the reins as executive chef in November of 2016. Originally from Porto, chef Basto is a passionate and humble master in his chosen art and took a great deal of time finding just the right characters to host these unique events. With 13 seats available at the chef ’s table, the dinners were exclusive, and each of the prime spots was filled with gourmands and oenophiles who were in for a culinary treat. The seats were between €120 and €180 each and included a six to eight-course dining experience with a selection of private collections, new releases and prized vintages from the producers.
With a bounty of excellent wine producers to pick from, the chosen ones were Dirk Niepoort of Niepoort Wines, Paulo Cardoso of Pago de Carraovejas and Ossian Wines, and Anselmo Mendes of Anselmo Mendes Wines. Chef Basto is himself a wine aficionado who not only knows a great deal about wine but also the producers themselves, who were vitally important to the success of Meat Winemakers.
Once the producers were confirmed, the mammoth task of selecting the wines began, swiftly followed by numerous trials to create the perfect food pairing to complement each one. Ordinarily, Pepper’s Steakhouse features excellent cuts of quality meats, where big juicy steaks are served with tasty side dishes, so diners were pleasantly surprised to see the menus featured a good selection of shellfish and seafood alongside some unusual meat varieties, such as the stunning, delicately prepared rack of rabbit that was served with the El Anejón from Pago de Carraovejas.
“I was intent on using some less glamorous ingredients and knew that we were going to have to dedicate lots of man hours to prepare them, but that’s half the fun for me,” chef Basto told us. “I grew up knowing that I wanted to be a chef and I am happy to put in the hours needed to get the best results.”
The first event in the series was with husband-and-wife team Dirk Niepoort and Nina Gruntkowski who, not content with just pairing wine and food, brought their Portuguese and Japanese blended Chá Camélia teas along to add another dimension to the tasting with the cold-pressed teas that complimented the courses surprisingly well. Dirk, a descendant of four generations of Dutch Port producers, ventured into winemaking and is now creating some of the most fabulous Ports and wines under the Niepoort umbrella. His passion and reputation for excellence were both very much apparent that evening, which went on into the small hours with animated discussions between the attendees. The menu included a rich oxtail dish paired with Conciso Branco and a devilish chocolate finale to accompany the rich 2005 Vintage Port.
For the second event, guests had the rare pleasure of meeting Paulo Cardoso, who introduced a few truly stunning wines from Pago de Carraovejas and Ossian, from the Spanish side of the Douro on the slopes of Carraovejas, in Peñafiel, by the Ribera del Duero region. With their wines only available through a small selection of independent, handpicked retailers, it was an absolute treat to taste an assortment of their new and old wines. The menu was beautifully paired, and the inventive, creative talents of chef Basto and his team were on full display as they were able to showcase some unusual pairings such as a bold foie gras bonbon wrapped in gold leaf, served with a sweet Verdling from 2015.
There was no better way to wrap up the three-part event than with the “king of Vinho Verde”, Anselmo Mendes. This was also a superb opportunity to have fun with shellfish. The team clearly relished the occasion as they presented heavenly combinations in their opening dish, simply titled ‘Seashore’. Deeply smoked mussels and tiny barnacles, samphire and a gorgeous, rich-red carabineiro (red prawn) taking centre stage on the plate were served with a variety of white wines from Anselmo’s Muros Antigos and Magma ranges.
There is something magical about combining fabulous food with beautiful wines, and wine pairing events are one of the few times in life where perfect strangers can sit in an intimate environment for hours on end, relishing on what is placed in front of them. “I was delighted with the result of Meat Winemakers, and we are planning many new and exciting events for the future,” chef Basto revealed.