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Can you believe I’ve been alive for 28 years and have NEVER had a wine pairing with a tasting menu?
Tsk tsk, Sarah… TSK TSK!
Well, that’s all in the past now.
To welcome in my 28th year on this earth, Mike and I enjoyed a deliciously rich lunch with a wine pairing at Bistrot de Liège, which is one of two restaurants at Château St. Gerlach in Valkenburg, Netherlands.
Entering the restaurant gave us a pretty good clue on what we were about to get– ornamental but palatable eye candy!
With intricate yet delicate decor, it felt quite cozy in the restaurant.
I love feeling at home for a meal, don’t you?
Mike got in-house baked bread (full of gluten) while our lovely server poured us each a glass of 2013 Wijnkaasteel Genoels-Eldern Chardonnay Blauw from Belgium.
I’m not normally a fan of white wine, but a handful of times a year, I’ll come across a Chardonnay or Riesling on the drier side that I like. This was one of those times!
This Chardonnay had a slightly smokey taste, hint of buttery goodness, and a long finish I enjoyed.
Oh white wine, you are full of surprises.
Right after Mike and I cheered to our first wine pairing, the gluten-free bread arrived, and ERMAGOD, did you know gluten-free bread could be BETTER than regular bread? It’s true!
The outside was crispy and crunchy while the inside was chewy and airy. It was also full of raisins and some type of nuts I wasn’t allergic to– hoorah!
Mike liked the gluten-free bread so much that he asked me a thoughtful and funny foodie question.
Knowing how good a restaurant’s gluten-free bread is, would it be ok to ask for gluten-free bread although you are totally ok with eating gluten?
LOL– What do you think? I say no!
1st Course at Bistrot de Liège
Rilette of cod with house-marinated salmon and various preparations of cucumber
paired with Wijnkaasteel Genoels-Eldern Chardonnay Blauw from Belgium
Although I had been freaking about this heavenly texture of bread I had been missing in my life for a good month now, I instantly forgot about it when the first course arrived. #inthemoment
Out came a beautifully plated rilette of cod with house-marinated salmon and various preparations of cucumber such as ‘fun to play with and look at’ cucumber jelly. The dish tasted fresh, flavorful, and herbaceous (thanks to the herbs from their own garden).
The wine accentuated the refreshing flavor more by adding a crisp burst to my tongue with each sip. This gave me a Eureka! moment.
By definition: When wine is selectively paired with each dish to enhance its flavors
By experience: Oh wow, this food tastes even better with each sip of wine. Oh wow, the wine tastes good with the food. Wow, wow, WOW! I totally get wine pairing! Screw that bottle of wine we usually get. It’s only wine pairing from here on out.
Side note: If you had a summer wedding here, which is something you can do, I’d totally recommend putting this on the menu! But if you want to avoid the possibility of your guests talking more about the food than your dress, then… scratch this idea. Don’t have your wedding here.
Gluten Free vs. Gluten Full Battle
The only difference between Mike’s dish and mine was that he had a gluten full tortilla-ish cracker, which added a little variation in texture.
I don’t feel like I missed out at all so it’s a tie!
2nd Course at Bistrot de Liège
Beef tenderloin with sauerkraut, mushrooms, raspberry purée, and potatoes
paired with Fabre Montmayou Malbec Reserva from Argentina
For the second course, we got a beef tenderloin soaked in brine with sauerkraut, potatoes, mushrooms, and raspberry purée– hell yum!
You can see Mike describing what we were about to eat because the food runner (not server) had forgotten to give us the breakdown.
However, before and after this one tiny mishap that neither of us cared about yet I’m mentioning it in this long a$$ sentence, the service was phenomenal and really brought me back to customer service in New York City.
Our main server (pictured above) was attentive with the wine and water, which is a key factor in good service. In addition, she was patient with all of my (slightly embarrassing) gluten and allergy free requests and emitted a very calming energy into the air.
Take note restaurants! I like a relaxing environment where I can eat my food casually yet have lots of water to drink.
Anyways, back to the food…
This dish was a spot on depiction of the restaurant’s description of their food– artisanal regional cuisine. It was traditional yet quite refined.
Take the sauerkraut for example. I normally eat this with a hot dog or bratwurst, but surprisingly, it held on strong to its fine dining appeal and showed that it could keep up with all the other refined ingredients.
As for the beef, it was cooked to a perfect medium-rare (just like how all red meat should be cooked) and played beautifully with all the different ingredients on the plate I got to mix and match each bite with. This added a fun element to lunch!
What was my next bite going to taste like?
Would it be the typical beef and potatoes,
or a mix of savory and sweet with the beef and raspberry,
or maybe a complete toss-up with all the ingredients?
Oh, how I live my life on the edge!
This course was paired with a glass of red wine from a 2014 Fabre Montmayou Malbec Reserva bottle. It was more of an intense red wine than I would’ve picked out myself, but of course, I loved it with the beef. Its smooth finish really brought out the aromatic flavors of the dish.
Again with the wine pairing epiphany–
the wine complementing each course of the meal… GENIUS!
Gluten Free vs. Gluten Full Battle
No difference. Woo hoo!
3rd Course at Bistrot de Liège
Crème brulée with cardamom and blood orange sorbet
paired with Muscat de Rivesaltes sweet wine from France
Last but not least, we got a crème brulée with CARDAMOM and blood orange sorbet.
The reason why CARDAMOM is in CAPS is because I’ve never had a savory crème brulée, and damnnnnn, it was fine. Crème brulée normally falls in my top four favorite desserts (along with tiramisu, cheesecake, and chocolate mousse), but the cardamom flavor just brought it up to a definite top three!
I don’t think I can go back to regular sweet crème brulée after having this or go back to dessert without having at least one glass of sweet wine too. Maybe that’s just another excuse to drink more wine…
Gluten Free vs. Gluten Full Battle
Mine came with a chocolatey “happy birthday” and a side of pear and strawberry jam with a hint of honey, which I assume is from their own apiary!
Mike’s came with a thin cracker, which I’m sure was delicious just because it had gluten in it. #glutenrules
But considering they were so similar, it’s a tie again! We’re both winners!!!
Feeling full and a little tipsy, we slowly paraded through Bistrot de Liège’s kitchen to exit so we could marvel at the magical place that created this soul satisfying lunch we just had.
What a great first wine pairing experience and start off to my 28th year, which finally brings me back to you!
Thanks for reading everything and making it through all the food porn.
Bistrot de Liège
Château St. Gerlach
Joseph Corneli Allee 1
6301 KK Valkenburg aan de Geul
(2.5 hour train ride from Amsterdam)
3 course lunch – 36,50 euros
3 course lunch + wine pairing – 59,25 euros
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This post was written in partnership with Château St. Gerlach, but all opinions are my own and haven’t been influenced in any way by the restaurant (unless you count the fact that their food tasted and looked so damn good that I would’ve raved about it regardless of a partnership or not). For more information, check out my policy on partnerships.