Chef Mandaar and wine-maker Abhay Kewadkar try to demystify the art of pairing food with wine

Cookout sessions are all the rage now, thanks to travel and lifestyle television channels. What better than a live cooking demonstration on a breezy afternoon? At The Verandah, The Park, chef Mandaar and his team were busy setting up the cooking table.

Chef Mandaar was to make Seared duck breast with duck confit, carrot puree and apricot tamarind sauce and Raviolo of native greens, lemon and ricotta anolini, saffron sauce and spinach foam. But this wasn't going to be a mere cooking demonstration. At the end of it, you'd know if the delicacies would taste best when paired with Barrique reserve Shiraz, Cabernet Savignon or a Savignon Blanc.

The wines are part of the Four Seasons portfolio and the live cooking demo and the wine-and-dine promotions are part of the nationwide initiative by the winemakers. More than just being a winemaker and business head for Four Seasons, Abhay Kewadkar believes he has had a life-long affair with wines. He is glad that the market for wines in India is growing and the number of wine connoisseurs in Hyderabad is on the rise too. “The high tax is a deterrent in Hyderabad, though,” he points out.

He gently guides the select gathering, predominantly beginners, to appreciate wine by its intensity, aroma, sweetness and flavour. Heavy delicacies such as roast meat are best paired with full-bodied wines while the lighter foods are paired with delicate wines.

Starting with the Raviolo preparation, chef Mandaar uses the hand-made pasta filled with greens sourced from the local produce to bring in authenticity. The seemingly simple dish transforms into a gourmet preparation under his watchful eyes, with a careful blend of butter, cheese, zucchini and spinach foam for the finishing touch.

On the choice of Seared duck breast with duck confit, chef Mandaar points out, “The duck meat is delicate, softer and doesn't require robust uses of spices like chicken. Hence, you get to sample the original taste of the meat and match it with a delicate wine.” He presses down the ladle firmly on the duck breast to roast it evenly as he begins the preparation.

Preferring not to use oil or butter, he lets the duck breast roast evenly in its own fat. The carrot sauce, mildly flavoured with butter and salt, meanwhile is ready along with the tamarind sauce.

Adding a hint of wine, he says, “Essentially, pair the food with the same wine that's used in its cooking.”

Pairing wine and food is more an individual preference than science. But in the end, did the Raviolo match with the Barrique reserve Shiraz? It sure did.