A Little Bit About Bordeaux:
If you haven't been to the city of Bordeaux in the past 15 years, now is the time to go. This charming, walkable city, so steeped in history, used to have a reputation as being insular and not welcoming to outsiders. But in recent years, it has gone through a major urban renewal and is looking more and more to the future and opening its doors to the world. No wonder this UNESCO World Heritage Site was named "European Best Destination for 2015". Most of the historical monuments and buildings have been scrubbed clean and, since the installation of a quiet, modern tram system, cars have been banned from many of the grand avenues. The two-mile long promenade alongside the Garonne river is the perfect place to go for a walk, a run or a bike ride and the many beautifully designed parks and gardens invitie you to step in, take a stroll and relax.
And then there's the wine! Known as the "Capital of Wine" Bordeaux is a perfect place to learn about and enjoy it. Begin your education at the year old Cité du Vin, a state-of-the-art museum and cultural center designed to resemble the swirl in a wine glass. Bordeaux's desire to open itself to the world and embrace modernity comes to life through the many high-tech, interactive exhibits which stress the importance of the culture of wine worldwide, not just in Bordeaux.
After this cultural immersion into the whole world of wine, an essential way to focus on Bordeaux winemaking is to explore the many châteaux within 90 minutes of the city. Most wineries welcome visitors with tours and tastings and there's wine to satisfy all tastes: red, white, rose, sweet and even sparkling wine known as Crémant de Bordeaux. Learn more about planning your château visits by clicking here.
Another fun excursion from the city is to head west to the Atlantic Ocean and visit the seaside town of Arcachon. In just under an hour by train, you'll be on gorgeous sandy beaches, eating briny oysters just plucked from the sea.
And speaking of oysters, what about the food scene right in the city of Bordeaux? After all, we all know that wine stimulates the appetite. In recent years, the number of excellent restaurants has skyrocketed with the opening of several casual wine bars, informal brasseries, modern neo-bistros, and high quality fine-dining establishments.
On our first night in Bordeaux, after settling in to the luxurious InterContinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hotel right in the heart of the city, myself and the five other Blog Award winners were hosted by Manuel and Marcus from Millésima's Hospitality and Event departments and treated to a fabulous meal at Le Bordeaux Gordon Ramsay, the more casual of the two Gordon Ramsay restaurants in the hotel, the other being the Michelin-starred Le Pressoir d'Argent.
The First Course:
The 2015 Clos Des Lunes, Lune d'Argent made from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc is a full-bodied white wine with a round and chalky creaminess and the perfect match to the citrusy flavors in the salmon gravlax with dill, orange, grapefruit and radish. I love that a wine this delicious is priced at under $20! You could pair this versatile wine with many salads, including chicken salad, and just about any seafood dish.
And now, for the pièce de resistance, Gordon Ramsay's signature dish of Beef Wellington.
See the recipe for Gordon Ramsay's Beef Wellington below.
I have a new-found respect for the wine of Sauternes after visiting the area (more on that in a following post but in the meantime check out what fellow Blog Award winners Odd Bacchus and Food, Wine, Click have written on the subject). For now, let's just say that I highly recommend Sauternes! The sweet yet tart, lemony taste of this 2002 Chateau Guiraud was the perfect match for the lemon meringue tart.
2 x 1 pound beef fillets
Olive oil, for frying
16 ounces of wild mushrooms, cleaned
1 thyme sprig, leaves only
16 ounces puff pastry
8 slices of Parma ham
2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the red wine sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pound beef trimmings (ask the butcher to reserve these when trimming the fillet)
4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
12 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
Splash of red wine vinegar
1 x 750ml bottle red wine
3 cups beef stock
1) Wrap each piece of beef tightly in a triple layer of cling film to set its shape, then chill overnight.
2) Remove the cling film, then quickly sear the beef fillets in a hot pan with a little olive oil for 30-60 seconds until browned all over and rare in the middle. Remove from the pan and leave to cool.
3) Finely chop the mushrooms and fry in a hot pan with a little olive oil, the thyme leaves and some seasoning. When the mushrooms begin to release their juices, continue to cook over a high heat for about 10 minutes until all the excess moisture has evaporated and you are left with a mushroom paste (known as a duxelle). Remove the duxelle from the pan and leave to cool.
4) Cut the pastry in half, place on a lightly floured surface and roll each piece into a rectangle large enough to envelop one of the beef fillets. Chill in the refrigerator.
5) Lay a large sheet of cling film on a work surface and place 4 slices of Parma ham in the middle, overlapping them slightly, to create a square. Spread half the duxelle evenly over the ham.
6) Season the beef fillets, then place them on top of the mushroom-covered ham. Using the cling film, roll the Parma ham over the beef, then roll and tie the cling film to get a nice, evenly thick log. Repeat this step with the other beef fillet, then chill for at least 30 minutes.
7) Brush the pastry with the egg wash. Remove the cling film from the beef, then wrap the pastry around each ham-wrapped fillet. Trim the pastry and brush all over with the egg wash. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
8) Meanwhile, make the red wine sauce. Heat the oil in a large pan, then fry the beef trimmings for a few minutes until browned on all sides. Stir in the shallots with the peppercorns, bay and thyme and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the shallots turn golden brown. Pour in the vinegar and let it bubble for a few minutes until almost dry. Now add the wine and boil until almost completely reduced. Add the stock and bring to the boil again. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour, removing any scum from the surface of the sauce, until you have the desired consistency. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve lined with muslin. Check for seasoning and set aside.
9) When you are ready to cook the beef wellingtons, score the pastry lightly and brush with the egg wash again, then bake at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked. Rest for 10 minutes before carving.
10) Meanwhile, reheat the sauce. Serve the beef wellingtons sliced, with the sauce as an accompaniment.