DISTINGUISHED RENAISSANCE EPICUREAN ESSENCE, France
Privileged and prestigious. That’s what we’d call our exotic wining and dining sojourn in the Loire Valley of France. In the medieval green habitat of Leonardo Da Vinci’s palatial home in Amboise town, we were invited by Renaissance period squires, pages, court attendants and a bard in traditional finery for a dedicated Renaissance lunch across cabana benches.
Heralded by heartily strummed welcome tunes in dated French and ceremonious bows, we toasted with crisp, well rounded wines as the steaming hot platters graced our timber tables. Roasted Gruyère and chives croissants, olive oil sautéed garlic and rosemary crostini with lavender cream aioli paired with a superlative boutique, ananas and lemon flavoured Blanc du Blanc from Aosta, Italy.
Onion tomato broth with basil and steamed seat rondelle in pumpkin and red pepper emulsion were presented with a full-bodied Barton & Guestier Red Reserve Merlot from France with striking cinnamon and rich blackcurrant flavours, the medium tannins adding zest. For cheery company we had smiling faces and lush green lawns around medieval chateau architecture in attendance.
CARRARA MARBLE CAVES BESPOKE CLASS, Italy
This was a rare and singular edition wine and dine experience exclusively planned for us. The grovelling and precariously treacherous, seventy degree inclines on rough gravelled mountain roads of Carrara, the marble capital of the world in Toscana, were an intimidating challenge for our unexpected sojourn up ahead.
Our narrow, damp and stone-strewn path ended at the hyper gigantic cavernous mouth of a massive marble cave. Huge white slab cut walls lead us to a chilled 5 degree interior, lit with mellow lamps and a sprawling food and wine counter. Cheering us in hearty Italian, our hosts, marble quarry owners, uncorked signature boutique wines with an onsite 5-star chefs’ created local wonders.
We quaffed and savoured two grand labels in all their oenophilic class. One was boutique winemaker and host Pierre Paolo Lorieri’s Limited Edition Vernero Vermentino full-bodied red with distinct musk, leather notes and deep plum and clove flavours. The other jewel was a crisp and light Zonin Ventiterre Chardonnay displaying white spring rose and lily bouquets on the nose, the lingering kiwi fruit and lemon flavours lingering on. Our off-the-skewer dishes — succulent grilled gamberi and fresh lime glaze and fresh extra virgin olive oil sauteed mixed vegetables with baked spaghetti — were well-complemented with the wines.
BOMA WILD AFRICAN BUSH GASTRONOMIC SOJOURN, South Africa
This in-the-wild bush themed wining and dining at The Thanda Private Game Reserve was the highlight of our South African visit. As a pale evening moon climbed slowly above bush thickets and distant hills, swaying forms in bright Zulu costumes and broad smiles whipped up tribal numbers amidst shrieks and full-throated laughter. The mood was set for our campfire experience as flaming coals warmed up country delights to go with superlative wines.
Our goblets of a fine Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc danced to the tunes with remarkable lily, green apple and mandarin bouquets, the piping hot grilled meat starters with peri peri pickles igniting melodic moods!
As we returned to our tables after some spirited dancing with the Zulu musical tribe, our plummy and cigar box flavoured Solar Viejo Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain joined in the merriment with pan-seared beef fillet with horseradish potato cream, steamed green beans in red wine jus.
A gentle breeze teased our relaxed faces as distant trumpets and an occasional growl resounded from the grassland sweeps in the distance. The night had just awakened…the rhythmic Zulu drums announced it.
TOP OF THE SNOW ALPINE GOBLET AND GOURMET, Germany
The smooth funicular passing a deep tunnel emerged at the top, dropping us at the start of the snowy ascent to Germany’s highest summit in the Bavarian Alps.
Hopping on to the gondola upwards on 75 degree inclines, we reached the gold cross crowned peak precincts and the viewing deck. The 360 degree views were awe- inspiring and humbling, silencing us with Alpine grandeur. We scanned ranges of towering Alpine peaks in Italy, Switzerland, Austria and distant France in the misty horizon.
A location like this could only be celebrated with unique gourmet specials and signature wines! It was Bavaria on the platter for us as we opted for bandnudeln and obatza, for starters. Bavarian Band Noodles with Bavarian country cheese graced with garlic and fried onions complemented with a chilled Dornfelder Black Tower Riesling from Germany. The delicacy matched strikingly with the Riesling's floral aromas of white rose and lily, along with fruity ones of peach, pear and melon.
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Our choice of beef cutlets and garlic hash browns with brine red berries was comfort cuisine with astringent thrills aided smartly by a wonderful Bavarian wine from Weingut Baldauf. It was the local jewel, Silvaner from Franconia, Bavaria, Germany with outstanding nectarine, honeysuckle aromas and lingering maple syrup and vanilla flavours.
Prost! Our salute to the experience echoed across the valleys….
DESERT DUNES THEME VILLAGE, UAE
On the sand dune horizon in Dubai, silhouettes of handsome Arabian steeds galloped away. In the courtyard with huts laden with bright lush red and white woven durries, floor covers and soft lighting casting long shadows in deep contrast, the setting was magical. Musicians whipped up Arabian tunes as an Egyptian male dancer whirled up his neon turquoise attire in circular patterns and a voluptuous belly dancer cavorted to rhythmic Darbuka beats.
At the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai, we relished every moment at the outdoor restaurant Al Hadheerah. As giant spit roasts readied meat and skewered succulent delicacies over roaring fires, live Arabian kitchen stations, sumptuous salad bars, oven-fronted bread and pita counters, a service bar hummed with diners picking up specialties that caught their fancy. Our limited edition muscular red wine, the award winning Clos de L'Obac from Priorat, Catalunya-Spain bowled us over with cigar box and raw hide flavours. The specialty was a cheese sambousek, a light filo pastry loaded with Arabic cheese and parsley.
Our amazing Middle Eastern mixed kebab platter sizzled with a fine Pampas del Sur Malbec from Argentina. The splendid red’s blackcurrant, ripe berries and oaky flavours complemented the skewers with black truffle aromas. Ahlan Wa Sahlan, we exclaimed!
EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE ISLAND CULINARY CLASS, Mauritius
This was a uber exotic location, a short speedboat zip away from the famed Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa on the azure blue Indian Ocean. Ilot Mangenie, the resort’s private island with stately palms, gravelled sand, lush vegetation and hay capped cabanas with high log wood seating covers was a special locale. This private island wining and dining experience was a privilege with a dedicated menu and well-picked premium wines.
Pan-stirred scallops and mushrooms with garlic crostini with white wine asparagus paste was a culinary wow, the vanishing scallops a wonder with the paste going smooth as symphony on the palates. The matching Framingham Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand created magic with apricot, green apple flavors and thrilling pear bouquet.
As seamless waves gently cascaded onto distant shores and reefs, the teasing breeze whipped up our appetites. A well grilled palm hearts and eggplant dish with baked free range eggs and parsley topped with truffle oil married a Puglian delight, Altemura Apulo Primitivo Negroamaro red, full-bodied wonder from southern Italy laid our spice and burnt wood flavours, exceptional to the taste buds. The classy wine offered moderate smoky notes as we quaffed the goblets leisurely.
ALPINE MEADOWS COUNTRY PLATTERS AND POURS, Austria
This was an unmatched, thrilling dining sojourn for us in the heart of the Tyrolean Alps. Above naturally manicured lush Alpine meadows and the distant snow-capped hills, Rosi's Sonneburgstubn, a country retreat near ski paradise Kitzbuehel allures keen gourmet enthusiasts with unique delights. Our timber-and-oak table looked out at the stunning panoramas.
The chilled Domaene Gobelburg Gruener Veltliner from Kamptal, Austria enthralled us with uplifting pineapple, guava and light jasmine flavours, crisp and fruity. Fresh farm salad with baked Tyrolean cheese in brown onion and wild potato cream began the thrills.
As we took in the mellow sunshine and stilling views across the terrace, the mains, a softly grilled duck breast with olio pesto and fresh lime synched with a light and crisp Rubicone Golden Sparrow Pinot Grigio from Italy. The delicacy paired superbly with the white wine that had a floral bouquet, hay and light pear notes to complement the feast.
To crown our leisurely lunch, the ever-spirited Rosi strummed her guitar and yodelled her mellifluous country tunes to rhythmic clapping and good cheer
ON THE EDGE OF THE HORSESHOE FALLS NIAGARA, Canada
The sheer sight of the gorgeous rapids cascading relentlessly to the rocky floor, raising volumes of foam and mist is an unforgettable experience. It magnetised us more strikingly as we sat by wide-angled windows just fringing this millennia-old aquatic eco-spectacle that doesn’t ever take a break!
Wining and dining on the fringe of the Horseshoe Falls at The Table Rock House Restaurant is mesmerising. Our innovative, modern Canadian-Continental dishes paired with super Niagara wine flights adding spirited culinary adventure. Our wine flights — liberal tasting measures of select premium white and red wines —all from the Niagara wine region created sensory excitement paired with dishes.
We picked Asparagus and Gunn’s Hill Brie Arancini in fire roasted San Marzano tomato sauce, basil pesto. Enhancing our dish was a light Colaneri Estate Pinot Grigio from Jordan, Ontario. The mouth-melting Brie was a delight with the tomato sauce, the aromas of cantaloupe and peach with flavours of tangerine and apricot distinctly delightful. The red wine, an intriguing Megalomaniac Pompus Red from Vineland, Ontario was medium-bodied with a fine fruity character, soft tannins and elegant oak notes.
The delicious pasta and soft mushrooms with pesto aromas enticed us further to go for the next red, a Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Franc from Niagara-On-The-Lake displayed aromas of violet, fresh thyme and cranberry relish with smooth tannins on our palates.
We toasted with a bow, to the eternal drama of the Niagara wonders.