In the hands of Belgium’s best sommelier

21-02-2014 09-56-44

I had been looking foward such a long time to have dinner at Sir Kwinten, the restaurant from the 2013 Best Belgian Sommelier (my blogpost)… but when the day was finally there I was feeling sick or rather at that moment not 100%  Not that this stopped me from going.  The partner in crime joining me was the one and only Bram Van der Aa (Also one of Belgium’s best sommeliers)… So 1 thing was already clear before coming here, I wasn’t going to pick the wine myself :-).

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When ordering our food, I was still convinced I was able to manage it all. To open our taste buds they served us some smoked duck with young goat cheese accompanied with a glass of Argentinean sparkling wine made from 100% malbec grape (the colour was slightly pink) by Bodegas Alma Negra.  I could also have taking a glass of champagne, but when they suggest something special like this I’m always keen on trying it. Anyhow this was already a good start.

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As First course I choose the catshark (funny that if I would translate its name from Dutch to English it would be dog shark 🙂 ) with a parsnip cream, Thai soup and sot l’y laisse. I was a big fan of the Thai soup, it had the coconut cream/light curry taste I like. Bram took the Beef cannelloni with crab, razor shell, a cream of artichoke and wakamé. By the look of his empty plate it wasn’t a too big struggle 🙂 with this our friend Yannick paired what looked like a bottle of Matteüs wein, (but luckily wasn’t) he paired a 2012 Hans Wirsching Silvaner.

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As “in-between” dish was prepared according to a authentic recipe they had learned in Bologna: Ravioli stuffed with lobster, organic vegetables served with a consommé. Here Yannick want to test us (mostly Bram I think) on serving us to wines without telling us which ones… these (at the end) seemed to be a 2010 Bon Baron (a Belgian wine of high class I must add, we never guessed it was from Belgium) and a Sauvignon Blanc by Gross

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For the main course I had the Guinea fowl with sweetbreads, a cauliflower and parmesan cream and hazelnut. Bram on the otherhand took a 2 months aged Holstein with béarnaise, hand cut fries and a garden salad both paired with a 2011 Dolcetto d’Alba Giuseppe Mascarello.

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Unfortunately I was only able to taste all the dishes and wines and not able to finish all of them as otherwise my way back home would have become more adventurous as a safari 🙂 We also didn’t have dessert, what we did have was a glass of Riesling (Docil) by Niepoort (which really made me feel better that evening, but didn’t cure my illness unfortunately). I’m still feeling bad for not finishing everything 😦

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The above did look tempting I must say!

The fact that the food tasted good now that I was feeling sick, I’m sure if you are healthy it can only be better :-)… But just to make sure I’ll have to come back and try Sir Kwinten, again when I’m feeling 100% 🙂 😉

Restaurant Sir Kwinten

Website: www.sirkwinten.be

Address: Markt 9, 1750 Lennik – Belgium

Phone n°: +32 (0)2 582 89 92+32 (0)2 582 89 92

The 2013 Best Belgian Sommelier Trophy

What a day!! My respect for professional sommeliers got bigger by the second during the annual Belgian Sommelier Trophy. First things first, before I start talking about anything else I want to clear out something. The title of “Best sommelier of Belgium” given yearly by the Belgian Sommelier Guild is the one and only real title as they are the only association recognized by the ASI or “Association de la Sommellerie Internationale” to hand out this title. During this competition there is also no favoritism as this contest gets observed by a bailiff to make sure the whole contest happens correctly. Secondly, during this contest every participant gets thoroughly tested on his/her knowledge and get judged by an international jury with special guests like Bernd Kreis (Best Sommelier of Germany 1990, Best Sommelier of Europe 1992, Semi-finalist Best Sommelier of the World 1992), Jan-Willem Van der Hek (Best Sommelier of Holland 2013, Candidate for World and European championships 2013), Cees Vos (Past president of the Dutch Sommelier Guild), Louis Havaux (Past president of FIJEV, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles…), international winemakers, me 🙂 and a few more… so basically people who know what they’re talking about. I (together 5 other judges at my table) had to evaluate the participant’s handiness, efficiency, politeness and professionalism during his tests. It might seem an easy task, but it really wasn’t!!

Gilde Sommeliers

Now you know the above I can continue with talking about the actual competition. Last Sunday 3 young sommeliers (remaining from the 11 candidates that participated the semi-finales) Yannick Dehandschutter (Restaurant Sir Kwinten), Antoine Lehebel (Restaurant Villa Lorraine) and Jan Rots (Restaurant Brasserie Latem) competed against each other to become the this year’s Best Sommelier of Belgium . I was really honored to be part of the jury and glad I was at the good side of the table as it wasn’t easy competition :-).

3 participant together with Louis Havaux

To give you guys an idea how difficult a contest like this I’ll give a few examples of tests they had to do. The first test they had to do might seem like a very easy test, but don’t get fooled!! They had to serve (according to the rules of the art) my table of judges a 2006 Telmont Blanc de Blancs Champagne and also tell us more about this champagne… to make it more difficult they also put a 2004 Blanc de Blancs and a totally different champagne in the ice bucket and to do this all they had 5 minutes. Only 1 of the 3 participants’ served us the correct bottle… it did cost them a point, but this way I got to try 3 different champagnes 😉

Antoine Lehebel

Competition

The most difficult tests were  saying from 6 glasses of alcoholic drinks which kind of alcohol it was and the country it comes from or maybe telling from 3 glasses of wine as much as much as possible and which wine it is… all this just by looking at the color, smelling and tasting again for which they only had between 5-9 minutes to accomplish. Or was it the 7 course menu for which they had to give 7 different wines from 7 different countries and tell us why? Although finding the mistakes in a wine list also didn’t seem like child’s play as the mistakes could be typo’s, but also references to wrong regions or vintages… so if after this test your respect doesn’t get bigger for them I don’t know what will?! Next time I’ll see a title like this given by some magazine or guide I’ll think twice and wonder on what they based themselves to determine the winner of their title!!

Yannick Dehandschutter Photo : Jean-Marc Brasseur

Jan Rots

Yannick Dehandschutter Photo : Jean-Marc Brasseur

Grading the 3 finalists wasn’t an easy task as they matched on many levels… I mean they all had parts they did less or better, but in the end it evened out. I waited until I had seen all 3 participants before grading. I personally didn’t know as there were around 20 judges each judging a different aspect so it could go every direction… but in the end the best man won, the 2013 Trophy of Best Sommelier of Belgium went to Yannick Dehandschutter from restaurant Sir Kwinten

Yannick 3 Photo : Jean-Marc Brasseur

Check the following link for a little video of the awarding ceremony

With every victory there must be a good meal and celebration and boy did we eat and celebrate, but I’ll talk about that another time 😉

Congratz Yannick and see you soon @ Sir Kwinten 🙂