Tasting menu at Hitchin's Kite at the Red Hart
PUBLISHED: 11:18 26 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:18 26 November 2019
What better way to try new food and wines than with a tasting menu
I am a great fan of small dishes and drive my family mad with 'anyone want to share'. With this in mind when the chaps at Kite at the Red Hart invited me to sample their North American tasting menu paired with wines of the area, there was no hesitation.
If you haven't heard about this renovated pub tucked away along Bucklersbury in Hitchin, it's a bit of a hidden gem. It was previously the Red Hart but 'best mates' Tom Weller and Ben Hedley, well known for their thriving café in the town, The Groundworks, decided it needed saving and they have done a marvellous job. Its charm as a cosy pub remains but there's also a restaurant and courtyard popular in the summer.
When we arrive, we are greeted with a glass of fizz, always a good start. We are shown to our tables and introduced to our entertaining compère for the evening James Slater of wine merchants Enotria and Coe, who introduces us to the first of five of wines, paired with each dish.
James has selected five from the US which is the fourth largest producer in the world, and one from Canada. Interestingly, all the US states make wine even Alaska but not surprisingly 84 per cent is from the sunny climes of California. We start with a 2016 Chardonnay from Cannonball, California, to accompany a starter of fried chicken, waffles sweetened with maple syrup. Each course is introduced by head chef Matthew Long who talks us through the dishes. I didn't feel it needed the mini waffles but finished with bacon bits it was a delicious mix of sweet and savoury. The Chardonnay was oaky but not too much with hints of lemon curd and peaches.
Next is a red, petite Syrah from the Bogle Vineyards, California - delicious with the garlic and soy Californian pork belly, a favourite of mine. The meat was delicately cooked, with a jus which my guest described as 'just beautiful'. For our next course of lobster mac 'n' cheese, a creative twist on the original, we were given a 2017 Riesling from Chateau Ste in Washington State. I enjoy a glass of Reisling during those few summer moments when you can enjoy a long lunch alfresco. As James said, it is perceived as a sweeter wine but this was a dry Reisling and so popular that the spare bottles that James had brought with him were snapped up at the end of the evening.
Our next course of duck is equally delicious - roasted mallard with a sweet potato fondant and marionberries - an Oregon grown hybrid of two types of blackberry. A lovely smooth 2016 Pinot Noir from Williamette Valley Omero, Oregon is served with the dish.
Inspiration is taken from Canada with dessert. A moreish pud called Nanaimo bar, after the city it originated, Nanaimo in Canada. Three layers of nutty coconut crumb base, custard finished with chocolate ganache with salted maple ice cream - one of those deserts where you find yourself scraping the plate for the tiniest of morsels. This was accompanied by a glass of Vidla ice wine from the Peller Estate, Ontario. Ice wine is produced when the grapes freeze on the vine. James explaines the process to produce this wine is long and laborious - no one would really want to harvest grapes in freezing temperatures - but it produces a beautiful desert wine.
'There are some brilliant wines available these days and unfortunately we can't put them all on our wine list,' says Tom. 'We thought it would be great to showcase some more unusual wines from each region, and what better way to sample them with a tasting menu based around the wines. These intimate evenings are also a chance for our head chef Matthew Long to create an innovative playful menu for one night only.'
For me it was the perfect evening sampling different dishes accompanied by wines that I may not usually select.
The next tasting menu is February 12 and will be focused on South African wines. Check out their website for other events.