Wine pairings, dinner offer real value at popular New Bern restaurant


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Editor’s note: The following is not a full review of the entire operation at Persimmons on the Waterfront. Rather, wine columnist Justin Manjorin takes a look at one intriguing monthly feature.

NEW BERN — On the fourth Tuesday of every month — beginning this past March and continuing until October — Executive Chef Antonio Campolio of Persimmons on the Waterfront presents a five-course food and wine pairing.

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The adventure starts at 6 and ends around 9. The cost is $75 per person, and includes taxes and gratuities. As seating is limited, reservations are required. I realize that $75 per person sounds a little expensive but this is a restaurant that has delivered good value for the money spent.

Each course is larger than an appetizer but smaller than a full meal. They are more like Tapas but I can assure you no one leaves hungry, and the wine pours are generous with seconds if you wish.

My wife (Pat) and I attended our first dinner in June and were so impressed that we immediately told our friends that we wanted to return in July. As you can see from the photo, the restaurant’s location on the Neuse River in downtown New Bern is stunning!

The dinner is held in a relatively small room upstairs, which I guess can hold a maximum of 50 guests. As it is the summer and many people are vacationing, there were only 32 attendees at the July dinner.

Kevin Owings of The Country Vintner was the moderator for the evening’s wines. As it turned out, all the wines were from South Africa. While I have been to a few wine tastings, which featured these wines, his knowledge was amazing. It turns out that he was in South Africa earlier this year and visited the estates, which produced the wines selected for our pairings. As an aside, he told us that wines in South Africa were fairly inexpensive, but getting to the remote country can cost a fortune.

The wines — in the order tasted – were:

• Secatuers Chenin Blanc 2015 a white wine. I am not a Chenin Blanc fan, but this wine was quite good with some citrus notes and a hint of vanilla.

• The next wine was Paul Cluver Gewurztraminer 2014 another white wine. I was not impressed with this wine but the Culver name is quite well known in the area.

• The third wine was a Kanonkop Kadette 2014 a red wine. This was a relatively soft blend and I found it enjoyable.

• The fourth wine was Klein Constantia Estate Blend 2013, which was my favorite! It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franca. Many of you will recognize this blend as archetypical Bordeaux.

• The last wine was Paul Culver Late Harvest Noble Riesling, which is a wine that could be compared to an Ice Wine or a French Sauterne.

The meal started with a glass of sparkling wine accompanied by an appetizer, which in this case was Chef Antonio’s fascinating interpretation of a grilled cheese sandwich. The sandwich was served open face and was grilled bread spread with onion jam topped with aged gruyere – in turn topped with sliced heirloom tomatoes and thinly sliced sautéed onion.

The courses served tended to have more complex flavors as the meal progressed!

The first course was North Carolina Grilled Amber Jack served with rice, Peri-Peri and Peach Salsa.

The second course was Lamb Sosaties (No, I didn’t know what these were either.) served with Green Curry, sweet onion and nectarine. (It turns out Sosaties are kebobs or skewered meats.)

Course three was Alligator Baby Back Rib served with potato and green beans BBQ style. The BBQ sauce was fairly aggressive and the Alligator meat was dense but tasty. Except for the shape of the bones it looked a lot like pork. The Kanonkop Red tamed the BBQ sauce and went well with the meat.

Course four was Smoked Eye of Ribeye, served with a Black Garlic Croquette and a Tomato and Peppercress salad. The wine, in my opinion, was the best of the evening and really brought out the flavor of the beef.

Course five – Dessert! This was a Carolina Peach Crème Brulee served with Salted Caramel and Citrus Marmalade. This is a very sweet dessert and the wine (when tasted on its own) had a sweet apricot honey flavor but became much less sweet tasting with the Crème Brulee.

As you can see, there is an amazing amount of preparation and thought that goes into this dinner before it ever gets to your plate. I was impressed by the level of sophistication in the presentation and how everything pretty much went off without any problems. I intend to attend the August dinner and, although the price is a little steep for many of us, the value is there.

If some of you attend, I would like to meet you — as most of my readers stop me in supermarkets or wine stores, and I seldom get a chance to interact over a delicious meal.

I can be reached via e-mail if you have any comments, questions or suggestions. My e-mail address is Justin@compassnews360.com