Food and Wine Pairing Review

Epcot's
2003 International
Food & Wine Festival

Restaurant Marrakesh

Monday, October 20, 2003


Course 1

Seafood Bisteeya and Tomato and Green Pepper Salad
Wine: Guerrouane Les Trois Domaine Blanc

Course 2

Moroccan Lemon Chicken and Seven Vegetable Couscous
Wine: Pinord Clos de Torribas Blanc

Course 3

Beef Shish Kabob and Roasted Eggplant
Wine: Christian Moueix Merlot

*****

Review
by Dotti Saroufim


I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about attending the Food and Wine Pairing at Restaurant Marrakesh on Monday October 20, 2003. I'm very much a wine novice, still at that stage of the learning process where the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. Would it all be over my head? Would I be expected to swirl and sniff like an expert? Was this really an activity for one so unsophisticated?

We arrived at 4pm to Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot's Morocco and were seated up a few stairs, in the area to the left of the stage. Tables were set to accommodate eight, and were positioned a bit too close together for my taste. As this is one of the least expensive of the special dining events, I was expecting more in the line of "samples" than an actual meal, but the lovely presentation of three forks, three knives and three wine glasses clued me that this could be more food than I was prepared for. Maybe our noon lunch at Le Cellier wasn't the best idea after all.

Tammy, previously the food manager at Narcoossee's and Citricos, and now a representative from National Distributing Company, was the hostess of the event. A very knowledgeable woman, and a certified sommelier, she gave a little background about herself, and a brief description of the wines to be tasted. We learned that Moroccan vineyards are located in either the coastal cities or the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, and that North African wines have strong European influences. Tammy assured our enthusiastic group that we could sample these flavors as much as we'd like. She then introduced Ron, our chef, a long time veteran of Restaurant Marrakesh, who gave us an interesting history of Morocco and of the restaurant itself, and described the tastes and ingredients of the three courses to be served.

Our first course was an amazing seafood bastilla; seafood and eggs wrapped in a delicate filo dough, and lightly browned. It was served with a fresh, cool salad, made with tomato, green pepper, cilantro, cumin and garlic. The wine served with this course was a Guerrouane Les Trois Domaine Blanc from Morocco, a light citrusy wine that went extremely well with the bastilla, even to my uneducated palate. We were told that this wine consisted of three types of grapes: Ugni Blanc, Claret and Sauvignon Blanc.

The second course, accompanied by a Pinord Clos de Torribas Blanc from Spain, was Moroccan Lemon Chicken, made with onion, cilantro, lemon and olives, served over a delicious couscous, made with seven vegetables and seasoned with its own broth. As little as I may know fine wines, I make up for in my taste for Middle Eastern foods, having a few Lebanese restaurants in our family. I am not a big fan of couscous, but have to concede that this particular one was outstanding although my dining companion found it too salty. The lemon chicken was also perfectly seasoned and prepared.

Lastly, we were served a small beef shish kabob, over a lightly roasted slice of eggplant. The very tender beef was seasoned with cumin and paprika, and had a bit of a kick to it - just the way I like it. The wine was a Christian Moueix Merlot from France, not my favorite of the three, but a nice complement to the spicy beef.

We were encouraged throughout the meal by Tammy to drink as much as we'd like, but to save a bit of each wine until the end for comparison purposes. I may have compared just a bit too much, because somehow I found myself and one of my tablemates on the dance floor, performing with the belly dancer. (Don't you just hate when that happens?)

Final thoughts: Would I do something like this again? In a heartbeat! It was a fun, learning experience and I didn't feel at all out of place. Our tablemates were entertaining and friendly, the servers were as kind and as accommodating as could be, and Tammy was knowledgeable and accessible throughout the meal. The only small drawback was that the remainder of the restaurant was still open, creating quite a bit of background noise, and making conversation more and more difficult as the event progressed.

I still may know what I like but not why I like it, but I'm planning on many more of these events in the future to educate myself. Someday I'll swirl with the best of them - but not on the dance floor!