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Croizet Cognac Infused Dinner at Logan-Brown

By September 17, 2014No Comments
Croizet Cognac is one of the specialty products offered by Jason Dellaca and his team at Brand House operating in the luxury and specialty sector of the hospitality market. In times where there is a move away from the high-end towards a more accessible and affordable experience, it is pleasing to see Jason stake a claim in this currently more difficult area of business. Consumers realise that while the sting of cost eventually fades, what is never forgotten is the experience of quality and class. There will always be a desire for the very best. Clever people would deem it an ideal time to expand in this market, when the competition is falling away.

Brand House, working with luxury liquor, is an extension of Sahara New Zealand, a company dealing in the supply of various products to the upper end of the hospitality industry. The Brand House portfolio has the distilled spirits ‘DQ’ Vodka and ‘Arta’ Tequila, ‘Burmester’ Port and ‘Beau Joie’ Champagne in addition to ‘Croizet’ Cognac. Based in Christchurch, the company operates throughout New Zealand. www.brandhouse.co.nz

Jason Dellaca, Brand House with David Burton, food critic

Difficulties of a Cognac Matched Dinner
Jason Dellaca has been promoting his brands in true luxurious fashion recently. In Wellington last month, Brand House and Logan-Brown restaurant collaborated in a special dinner matching Croizet Cognac with Shaun Clouston’s cuisine. It’s an exercise that is rare and fraught with difficulties. I attended a successful event three years earlier with a Delamain Cognac masterclass which included some food courses designed by Rex Morgan at Boulcott Street Bistro (click here to see my review).

One of the hardest things for the chef to do is to manage the high 40% alcohol, as the spirit will always have power, heat and cut that few foods will be able handle. There is also the more mono-dimensional nature of the flavour delivery of cognac as a distilled spirit. I suspect the key for the chef is to focus on the flavour compatibility and contrast, as well as the textures to absorb or ameliorate the alcohol. One of the solutions to this, to enable a truly enjoyable cognac and food match, devised by Jason and Shaun, was to serve the Croizet Cognac in other forms, such as cocktails, where the alcoholic strength is moderated and other componentry come into the mix. Another approach is to specifically match flavours to the unique nuances of the different cognac expressions, this being a detailed match rather than a global pairing. The success of the dinner in the final analysis was based on the diversity of the Croizet Cognacs themselves and the uniqueness of the cognac-based cocktails. These aspects gave chef Shaun Clouston much greater scope to design his dishes.

Croizet Cognac at Logan-Brown
I was among 65 guests attending the Croizet Cognac Infused Dinner at Logan-Brown. Clearly there is still good interest in high-end and luxury events, such as this dinner! Host Steve Logan introduced the evening describing it as a rare occurrence and Shaun Clouston discussed the strategies in creating the matches. Jason and his Brand House team were on hand to discuss the various bottles of exceedingly expensive spirits on display around the dining room. All was set for an excellent and intriguing evening. I can report that the Logan-Brown staff delivered everything faultlessly with class and style. Here are my impressions of the drinks and the food served. Please note that I state I am not a spirit specialist and my knowledge of cognac is limited and the review is somewhat outside the scope of my website. www.loganbrown.co.nz

On Arrival
Beau Joie Champagne Brut NV was served on arrival. What is most unusual about Beau Joie is its packaging, with the bottle encased in a copper mesh suit. There’s a certain degree of functionality for sure, such as keeping the bottle cold for longer, but its striking appearance is a talking point. The wine is accessible, quite light in weight and yeast autolysis, showing good fruitiness, and clearly a Champagne. This is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, with no dosage, spending 6 years on lees. Also served was the Beau Joie Champagne Rosé NV, with red fruit character, complex toasty notes and aldehyde depth and intensity. Equal portions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with 4 years on lees.

Duck spring roll, duck liver parfait, honey dew roasted breast
Served with ‘The Winston’
‘The Winston’: This is the world’s most expensive cocktail, made by Joel Heffernan at Melbourne’s ‘Club 23’, using Croizet ‘Cuvee Leonie’ Cognac 1858 with Grand Marnier Quintessence, Chartreuse ‘Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolonge and a dash of Angostura bitter, and requires two days to make. At Logan-Brown we had a facsimile, made using the more affordable versions of the ingredients. Soft orange in colour, the aromas of herbs and liquorice are infused with oranges. Very smooth, sweet and slippery, a fine core of alcohol carries the palate unfolding an intriguing combination of preserved plums, liquorice and citrus fruits. The sweetness is balanced by fresh acidity and alcohol finesse and cut, the spirit kicking in at finish.

The duck presented three ways gave options on matching and contrasting. I found even in cocktail form, the alcohol was intrusive. Interestingly the orange flavour, which is normally a classic with duck didn’t connect for me in the spring roll and only marginally so in the breast meat. It was the parfait that worked best for me, the soft texture absorbing the alcohol, and the sweetness fattiness and richness of the parfait melding with the flavours and cut of the cocktail.

Charred white miso salmon, ‘Popcorn’ scampi, black garlic, lemon and asparagus
Served with Croizet ‘Gold’ Cognac XO
Croizet ‘Gold’ Cognac XO: Full, light golden colour with good depth, orange hues. The nose is very soft and delicate, the style refined with excellent fruit and oak balance on bouquet. Lovely finesse on palate with intensity matched by cut. Some phenolic grip and dryness as the cognac moves through the palate, the graininess carried by the spirit. The alcohol is integrated and balanced. A flourish and blossoming of aromatic flavours marks the finish.

The chariness of the salmon found a strong match with the oak maturation character of the cognac, nuances of smoke, toast with caramel elements. The cut of the cognac suited the salmon flesh texture and oiliness. With the scampi, the acid and alcohol bite was accentuated. Interestingly the black garlic was an enjoyable match with the sweetness and aged and caramelized characters working well with the wood and nutty elements of the cognac.

Croizet ‘Single Vintage’ Cognac 1972

Spiced chocolate braised beef short-rib, chestnut dumpling, lardo and vintage balsamic
Served with Croizet ‘Single Vintage’ Cognac 1972
Croizet ‘Single Vintage’ Cognac 1972: Pale yellow with slight orange hues. The bouquet is all about maturation, with fine rancio notes, but sweeter, more aromatic, with nuttiness, almost floral, this with great intensity and penetration. On palate sheer finesse and elegance, with sweet nutty and vanilla, and florals with rancio complexity. Seamless flowing, refinement and integration, but with intensity and depth. Lovely spirit balance, quite unobtrusive. This is a cognac of great beauty.

Not really a match, but not really any harshness and clashing. The texture of the beef withstanding the spirit. The rich flavours of the beef and balsamic maybe better suited to a richer and broader style of cognac, such as the XO or the ‘Cuvee Rolls Royce’ following. The cognac deserved to be sipped on its own. Invariably the questions came up: “What were you doing in 1972?”, “What do you remember about 1972?” Many were at various stages of schooling. Some of the guests had not yet been born. Shaun Clouston answered “I was being hand-delivered then!”

Fiordland venison, smoked shiitake risotto, vensison black pudding and sweet spiced fig
Served with Croizet ‘Cuvee Rolls Royce’ ‘100 Y.O. Special Blend’ Cognac
Croizet ‘Cuvee Rolls Royce’ ‘100 Y.O. Special Blend’ Cognac: Darker colour, golden hued. This has a full, deep and solidly concentrated bouquet packed with ripe fruits, raisins, figs, crystallised fruits, nuts and wood. A fulsome, weighty cognac, rounded, layered, mouthfilling and rich. Sweet crystallised fruits, raisins, nuts and vanilla woodiness all integrated with underlying spirit providing power and drive. The concentration, richness and multi-layered flavours quite sensational. A special limited release bottling for the launch of the Rolls Royce ‘Wraith’’ made from grapes at the time of the founding in the early 1900s.

The flavours of the venison found no great compatibility with the flavours of the cognac, though the wood connected with the caramelisation, and the textures of the meat absorbing much of the spirit. However, there was a better match with the risotto smoking and the wood of the cognac, and the black pudding richness seemed to sit comfortably with the sweetness of the cognac too. Again, the detailing had compatibilities, rather than the dish as a whole matching the general persona of the spirit.

Tiramisu Alexander
Served with The Champagne Cocktail
The Champagne Cocktail: Made with a demi-sec Champagne (brand not-revealed), with cognac (Croizet, of course), with sugar and Angostura bitters. Pink-peach colour, an delightful combination of red fruits, rose-water, perfumes and savoury herbal elements, resulting in a refreshing, effervescent drink with sweetness, lift, and complexing savoury nuances.

The Tiramisu Alexander, a combination of classic Tiramisu with firm sponge/cake fingers and subtle coffee and cream, melded and soaked with brandy (Croizet Cognac, of course) alexander. The lightness of the cocktail matched the soft creaminess of the dessert. Perfumed florals of the drink and the delicate coffee and chocolate quite in balance with subtlety of flavours interacting harmoniously, the acidity of the Champagne cleaning the palate following the creaminess of the dessert. The alcoholic spirit had practically no part to play. This was one of the best matches for me.

Tiramisu Alexander with The Champagne Cocktail

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