I was invited to partake in the Grupo Penaflor Winemaker Dinner at Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse on April 14. Typically known for the ‘rodizio’ style meal where gaucho’s serve table side carved meats that were cooked on a charcoal grill, this was a treat. The event was held in Pampa’s bright and spacious private dining area. Organized through Vine and Dine – www.vineanddine.ca – this was an excellent opportunity for Pampa Chef and Owner Joao Dachery to show off his skills in the kitchen.
Juan Ignacio Torre-Gimenez came all the way from Argentina to tell us about the wines from Grupa Penaflor (well, I can only assume he was in Canada for more than 1 dinner!). From the Argentinian wineries, we enjoyed five 2-ounce pours with our 6 courses. I even ended up ordering 4 bottles at the end of the night!
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Linda from Vine and Dine, and treated with samples of Santa Ana Torrontes and La Mascota Malbec. I quite enjoyed both of them, and the little cheesy doughy appies that Pampa typically serves at dinner were delightful with both wines. If I were allowed, I’d eat more than a few of those Pao de queijos (Brazilian cheese bread) and I wouldn’t regret it a bit.
We were seated in the private room and service was great – staff were very attentive and friendly. First course was served with the OPI Chardonnay. The food was beautifully plated on a wooden platter to share: entradinhas frias (small bites). The beef carpaccio was amazing – fresh with a burst of flavour – probably the best carpaccio I’ve ever had. The mango chutney with prawns on Pampa toasts was pretty good, and the ground beef empanadas were fresh and warm and made me feel comfortable.
The second course was served with Don David Malbec. The marinated leg of lamb skewers were well seasoned, tender and well-cooked. The coconut milk mashed potatoes were super delicious – smooth and creamy, with a flavour I’d never quite experienced in mashed potatoes before. We were all mmmm’ing over the potatoes. (See the main photo at the top of the page for a photo of this dish). Yum!
Next we were introduced to the Paz Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon. It was served with the frango com bacon (bacon-wrapped chicken) served with polenta. The chicken was awesome – moist and tender and flavourful. Everything tastes better wrapped in bacon! However, I didn’t really love the polenta…
The Ciclos Icono is a Malbec/Merlot blend. It was served with linguica e lulas (sausages & calamari) with chick peas, tomato sauce and croutons. I thought this dish was unique and very tasty – if I could do the recipe justice, it would make for a great appetizer at a dinner party at home. There was a brilliant spicy kick here and there that warmed my mouth.
The most expensive wine of the evening, and perhaps the best, was the Unanime. A bland of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, the wine was paired with picanha e farofa (beef rumpstake), manioc flour and chimichurri. The manioc flour reminded me of shake ‘n’ bake – it was a dry crumble flavoured with herbs and spices. The steak was cooked nicely, at a medium rare, although I did have a couple chewy parts. There were some great flavours in this dish.
For dessert we had mousse de maracuja (passion fruit mousse), served with a blueberry-malbec reduction. Wow. I’m normally not a fan of fruity custardy desserts, but this was seriously delicious. The fresh real fruit flavour was not too sweet and I’d have to put this dessert in my top favourite desserts here in Calgary now.
We were given a couple fun tasks to complete throughout the evening. A couple members at our table successfully retrieved a cork from inside an empty bottle, given only a handful of articles to use. This was the best activity, in my mind, because it got our table free liqueur! We were each served a shot of Licor 43 – a delicious drink from Spain that tastes of vanilla, citrus, chocolate, marshmallow, orchard blossoms, and 43 herbs and spices. Pampa freezes it in a block of ice for 2 days and then serves it by pouring it from high above, allowing it to aerate as it makes its way into your glass. This was my second time having this sipping liqueur here at Pampa… I think I need to purchase a bottle for home! It’s truly delicious!
All in all, I had a great evening. Service at Pampa was excellent, the food was delicious, and the wine was great. I was treated to the evening, but all thoughts in this review are my own. I understand that Pampa is going to continue to have regular Winemaker Dinner’s, and for the value, I think this would be an excellent treat for those who like to imbibe in good food and good wine every once in a while.
Also, www.vineanddine.ca hosts many similar events every month, so you should sign up for the newsletter.