Since it opened last year, Pachamama's has been challenging diners with an eclectic mix of wines and cuisine.
Every month or so, the restaurant adds a ``wine-pairing'' event to the itinerary. The staff, including owner Dana Duellman, chef Subarna Bhattachan and manager Jason Connor, work together selecting the courses and the complementing wines to feature that evening.
It is an opportunity for diners to sample cuisine and spirits not found anywhere else.
``It is not so much a wine-tasting as a wine-pairing,'' Connor said. ``We provide a choice of foods that pair well, and it gives the chef a chance to experiment. If people really like it, then we add them to the menu that month.''
On a recent Monday evening, a group gathered at the restaurant to try out the South African offering, a five-course meal with a preselected wine sampled after each selection.
The basic premise was to match the wine that best blended with the meal: The food and wine should complement and bring out each other's flavor. RSA Wines representative Bill Forester was on hand to talk about the winery and the wine selections.
The dinner started off with timbale of assorted fruits, including melons, Asian pears and Sapote with pea greens, papaya, poppy seed and lime vinaigrette. A 1996 Niethslingshoff Sauvignon Blanc accompanied it.
A 1996 Stellenzicht Chardonnay came with course two, local organic greens. (While charting the changing wines over the course of the evening, a pattern was noticed. As a general rule, Pachamama's started off with a lighter wine then followed subsequent courses with darker, heavier wines before finishing with a sweet wine to enhance dessert.)
Then things took a unique turn with Roasted Nilgai Antelope Scallopine, an antelope stuffed with Parma prosciutto ham, eggplant and fresh mozzarella cheese. It was served with porcini mushroom pasta in Roma tomato sauce.
If you are still keeping track, a 1994 Stellenzicht Merlot followed.
Grilled Kansas Ostrich came next. Though an African bird, they are raised in Topeka by a breeder. The bird was marinated in fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil. It was served over taro root puree with asparagus and black berry demi-glace. The wine: a 1994 Stellenzicht Cabernet.
By the way, no one said the ostrich reminded them of chicken.
``It is a very nice red meat. It has a nice flavor and is lean as turkey,'' Connor said.
A spring roll dessert stuffed with bananas, macadamia nuts, white chocolate and served with rum sauce finished the evening. A 1996 Niethslinghoff Riesling was the final wine.
The price per person was about $55 -- a bargain. Diners could not hope to get a five-course meal with so many wines at that price anywhere else.
The event is well-received, Connor said.
``For some, it is almost an educational experience while for others it is a chance for a superb five-course meal,'' he said. ``People get a chance to get out with others in the community.''
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