Just as wine accompanies meals in France, for centuries, whisky was drunk with food in Scotland. Traditionally a country’s drink of choice is born out of what they can harvest and ferment. There are no grapes in Scotland but plenty of barley, the basis of Scotch. Nostalgia Restaurant, formerly Prohibition, in Ponsonby whose specialty is placing a modern twist on classic tradition has fully embraced the Scottish ritual.
Not only does the restaurant have a permanent whisky dinner menu available for single malt aficionados and those with a gourmand’s palate, but they have taken the experience one step further. Working closely with Bart Burgers and Katey Rudlin from The Whisky Shop in Elliott Stables, they have created an exceptional Whisky Dinner event.
Whilst discussing how the two businesses could work together over dinner at Nostalgia, Colin Gardner, one of the restaurant owners, was intrigued by the way that Bart and Katey kept suggesting whiskies that would go really well with the food. The collaboration was born. Katey smiles: “When you try a whisky that goes exceptionally well with food it is a completely unique experience. It is not just an accompaniment like wine, rather it melds and becomes part of the food and part of the flavours and aromas. It makes your brain work overtime.”
Although not common, whisky and food pairings first came to public notice after French Chef, Martine Nouet, met famous whisky writer Michael Jackson, aka The Beer Hunter. Martine had already made a name for herself for her work with Calvados, born in Normandy she learnt to nose the spirit at a tender age. Originally the pair worked together matching beer and food but soon branched out into the finer spirit – single malt whisky.
Martine now writes regularly for Whisky Magazine France and makes whisky and food videos for UK based Single Malt TV earning the title “The Whisky Chef”.
The Whisky Dinner at Nostalgia is a passionate work of love for all concerned. Colin, Bart and Katey get together with the restaurant’s own French speaking Chef’, Denis Baudet (born in Brittany), and sit around a table covered with seventeen or eighteen single malt whiskies. Taking seasonal produce into account, they nose and sample the malts, brainstorming flavours and food matching ideas.
“Sometimes you can sample a whisky and instantly taste the food it was born to go with. Caol Ila with oysters and Lagavulin with seared scallops are classic examples”, says Bart, “and Denis has a particular skill in marrying and balancing the flavours to lift them to extraordinary levels”. “I take inspiration from the ideas that get thrown around”, explains Denis, “the combination of my ideas and the expert suggestions from The Whisky Shop guys makes the menu design an exciting experience”. Denis also likes to involve his whole team and will test drive the menu with his kitchen staff. “Their input is very valuable to me and they enjoy it because it is such a novel experience.”
Restaurant owners, Colin Gardner and Eduard Gorin, look forward to the dinners with a mix of excitement tinged with a little nervousness. Colin explains, “Nostalgia Restaurant is all about the experience. We care deeply about getting it right. The look on people’s faces when they taste the food and whisky and realize what a unique experience it is, is wonderful. It makes all the hard work worthwhile”
The next Whisky Dinner will be held at Nostalgia Restaurant on Thursday 19th July 2012 at 7pm. The cost is $150 per person for a 5 Course Dinner matched with 5 different Whiskies.
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