Innovative dining with cider

To most people in the Cayman Islands cider is standard pub-fare: dark yellow to brown in colour and drunk by the pint or straight from the bottle

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It is not a beverage typically associated with fine dining. But last Saturday evening, those who attended Cayman’s first ever Cider Dinner at the Lobster Pot restaurant, were quickly reviewing this impression.

Eight years ago Gunter Gosch, the restaurant’s manager, decided to bring a new element to the dining experience in Cayman by importing Austrian wines, an innovation that has proved extremely popular. Last year, while on a wine buying trip in Austria, he was introduced to some unusual ciders originating in the Styria region. “I was blown away by these ciders,” he says and began to import them to Cayman.

The single apple ciders, each of which is named after the variety of apple from which it is made, are produced on a small scale by artisan Leopold Boden in southern Austria. These ciders are far more refined than the version one might typically find in the UK or France and have a delicate, smooth flavour. The cider is never aged in oak, but stored in steel tanks and then filtered, making them pale in colour and sparklingly clear.

Sold in elegant half-litre bottles and standard wine bottle sizes, these ciders are served chilled in wine glasses for maximum enjoyment.

The delicate pairing

Seeing the potential for enjoying such ciders as part of the dining experience,

Gosch set about creating a four course menu that paired ciders with different dishes. However, rather than selecting a menu and then finding the right drinks to match it, he approached it from the opposite angle: first deciding on the ciders he wanted to showcase and, based on these, working with the chef to compose dishes that would enhance and complement the ciders. They also had to take care to find just the right balance, so that neither food nor cider would be overwhelmed by its corresponding pairing.

This is a practice he encourages anyone to try when eating out. Selecting what one wishes to drink first, and then choosing a meal to fit wit this is a simple change, but one that can breathe new life into the dining experience.

The first cider served was Jonagold, a medium dry cider, very light in colour with a crisp, refreshing taste. This was paired with a fresh first course of scallops sautéed in vanilla butter, served over an asparagus salad and drizzled with pumpkin seed oil.

The next course started with a taste of Maschanzker cider, the fruitiest of the four. Made from a very unique variety of apple that is not cultivated anywhere else in the world, it had a very distinctive apple flavour. This was accompanied by the chef’s unique creation: turtle ‘cake’ which was crispy on the outside with a soft, mousse-like consistency on the inside, served over crunchy potato rosti and topped with caramelised apples, which perfectly underscored the fruitiness of the cider.

Different twist

In a different twist on the surf and turf tradition, the entree paired a lobster tail with hollandaise sauce with a choice of chicken breast or pork chop served over creamy polenta, sautéed spinach and crushed walnuts. The corresponding cider, Braeburn, was a dry variety, with sufficient acidity to cut through the heavier creaminess of the dish.

The final cider was the Rubinette, a sweeter and fruitier choice, perfect with an unusual dessert of brie dusted in brown sugar and lightly panfried, served with slices of poached pear and a sweet and sour onion jam.

Overall the response has been very positive, says Gosch. “The British tend to drink a lot of cider and they were over the moon to discover these ciders,” he says. For those accustomed to pints of scrumpy in the local pub, Austrian cider is a far more elegant choice, and with half the alcohol content of wine, weight watchers and designated drivers can all enjoy it.

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