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Fijian wine dinner

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, July 05, 2013

MIRKO De Giorgi showed to me what I once read somewhere. That the refinement, the rigour and the setting of a first class meal had an opulence "you just can't find in a dish that's ever been described as yummy".

In a recent wine dinner seeking to develop the local wine culture, the Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa's food and beverage director pushed the envelopes with concepts and approaches that elevated the dining experience to something transcendent.

He said it was a collaboration between himself and resort executive chef Glen Roberts.

And the success of the first two events has whet his appetite to holding future dinners that collaborated outstanding wines with fine dining.

He said the plan was to incorporate local food and produce to raise awareness about the health benefits of drinking wine.

Instead of composing a menu comprised of imported ingredients, Messrs Giorgi and Roberts used meat, poultry and produce that were available locally.

"I think local food is very interesting and it goes really well with wine," he said.

"I would love to develop wine culture that is associated with local food and, of course, incorporate Western, Chinese or Indian cuisine as well."

The Shangri-La wine dinner featured a selection of whites and reds from award winning New Zealand winemaker Babich Wines.

"I chose Babich, as I have their products on my wine list and the company makes great wines.

"It was a bonus that Tappoo, who are their local agent, managed to fly over Babich Wines general manager, David Babich for our wine dinner."

Feeling slightly under the weather, I'm used to casual, fast and the odd formal dinners, I joined close to 200 guests on the front lawn of the Ratu Makutu Events Centre sipping on Family Estates Cowslip Valley Marlborough Riesling for canapés which included an interesting combination of smoked chicken with watermelon cubes.

In welcoming the invited guests to the event, resort general manager Michael Monks said Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa was proud to host an event that sought to develop local wine culture by highlighting its health benefits when taken with meals that used local ingredients.

Settling in at the Davui Hall for dinner, we enjoyed Babich's Black Label Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with the entrée — succulent Fijian lobster and decadent candied tomato parfait.

The crisp intense flavours of the New Zealand Sauvignon blanc blended well with the rich lobster-tomato parfait, the gastronomical delight further enhanced with tales of the Babich family's winemaking history by Mr Babich.

Next up was perhaps the piece-de-resistance for the evening.

An appetiser with a difference, pan fried paka paka fillet served with a red wine caper and parsley sauce. The fish, according to the chef was caught locally.

This sumptuous fish dish was accompanied with a Marlborough Pinot Noir.

The fruit-driven strong flavour of the Babich Wines red complimented the flavours of the fish and its risotto-like bed.

A quick survey around the dining assembly gave the appetiser a big thumbs up.

The boneless 48-hour slow-cooked lamb shank served with Fijian pumpkin mash, pearl onions celery and carrot ragout also proved to be a big hit with the diners.

It was served with Babich's Gimblett Gravels Syrah, the strong rich red worked remarkably well with the tender lamb.

Apart from the pan fried paka paka fillet, which was served with a sophisticated layering of flavours, my other favourite was the dessert dish.

The orange-infused chocolate cake with glazed cherry cream and double dip chocolate chip rounded off what could only be described as an awesome evening of food and drink.

Resort manager Michael Monks said hosting the dinner was a chance to showcase how local food could work with good wines to turn ordinary meals into dining experiences.

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