We all know of High Tea, the little break in one’s day for enjoying a light refreshment, but how about High Wine?
The first time I learned of this intriguing offering was at the The Dylan Hotel in Amsterdam. High Wine is the hotel’s play on the traditional ritual, and it consists of a four course wine and food pairing.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Executive Chef Dennis Kuipers of Vinkeles, the Dylan’s intimate Michelin starred restaurant. Chef Kuipers is also the mastermind behind High Wine, a concept that has proven so popular it has been replicated throughout the city. In fact, it’s been copied so many times, he’s had to apply for its copyright.
When asked about the origins of High Wine, Chef Kuipers prefaces that the time between lunch and dinner is usually a quiet one. Wanting to give life to this lull, he tested this idea as simple and elegant dining experience that would marry his culinary expertise and his sommelier’s knowledge of wine. Served between the hours of 3-6pm, he jokes that part of its popularity comes from “the shopping ladies who are tired and need a break.” In truth, patrons range from the starry eyed couple to small groups of friends to businessmen, and depending on whom you’re talking to, High Wine at the Dylan can be a casual break or a very special occasion. And while the novelty of the ritual is a big sell, there’s another reason it has done so well. “Good food, good wine, and an enjoyable environment” is the chef’s winning trifecta.
In choosing ingredients, Chef Kuipers looks far and wide. Though his forte’ is a classic French style, he incorporates flavors from every corner of the globe including spices from Egypt and Indonesia, fish from the North Sea, exotic fruits from the East. I curiously ask him what sorts of foods are classically Dutch, and with a laugh he affirms, “nothing is typically Dutch” and that Dutch food is a product of all its influences. He continues, “the world is getting smaller each day, each minute.” It’s a good thing for us food lovers, who can explore the world through our plates, all in one sitting.
For Chef Kuipers, there is no compromise on quality. He enlists a local baker who mills his own flour for bread, and takes to the local Dutch markets to hand pick fresh fare. When dealing with imported and seasonal ingredients, he is careful to choose selections of the highest caliber, even if that means there will be only a small quantity. “If the best cuts of lamb are gone, there’s no concession…if it’s not there, it’s not there.”
Before long, it is my turn to experience High Wine. Below is the menu I had the pleasure of enjoying:
First course: Poppadum with smoked salmon, avocado, radish and anchovy mayonnaise paired with Hothum, Riesling trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany
Poppadum, a paper thin crisp, is the bed for salty, fresh smoked salmon. The creamy avocado and mayo nicely cut the saltiness of the fish, and the wine is as light as the whole course itself.
Second Course: Sauteed plaice with gnocchi, sugar snaps, shiitake and salt pickled lemon sauce paired with Vernaccio di San Gimignano “Vigna de Solatio,” Casale Falchini Toscany, Italy
A tasty, herb infused gnocchi is served along with perfectly cooked plaice, a light white fish with a texture in between that of cod and mahi mahi. The light lemon sauce is simultaneously rich and light, and the white wine is a little sharper and more full-bodied then the one before.
Third Course: Roasted lam fillet with chickpeas, corn, bell pepper and a ras al hanout sauce paired with Chateau Guiot “Cuvee Vermeil.” Costieres de Nimes, Rhone, France.
Delicate cuts of young lamb make for splendidly tender and melt in your mouth bites, and the locally grown vegetables alongside are lightly sautéed. The red wine holds up nicely to the heartier lamb.
Fourth Course: Trifle made of peaches, almond crumble, white chocolate and pistachio paired with Chateau de Stony, Muscat de Frontignan, Lanquedoc, France
This last course is made for the sweet tooth. A creamy pudding and buttery crumble mixture is balanced with tart peaches and raspberries, and complimented by the ever so sweet moscato. (Small sips are suggested.)
By the end of High Wine, I am perfectly satisfied. Not too full, but just right, I conclude that High Wine is not just a meal, but also a memorable travel experience in itself. The next time you’re in Amsterdam, make sure High Wine at the Dylan is on your list of things to do. Your stomach will very much thank you.