Friday 2 June 2017

Event: Gaucho Beef and Malbec Evening

Beef vs Malbec; which is your favourite? Thankfully, I didn't have to pick when I was invited to a beef and Malbec evening at newly opened Birmingham city centre hotspot, Gaucho.

Just around the corner from Colmore Row, Gaucho is a dark and brooding addition to the City dining scene, offering up a sensual serving of wine, beef and of course some lighter options.

Under the inquisitive gaze of our fellow diners, I along with a select group of bloggers was invited into the private dining room to learn a thing or two about steak and Malbec.

Hosted by Phil Crozier, affectionately known as Mr Argentina and Fernando Larroude, Gaucho's in-house beef expert, we were able to try out different cuts of steak, as well as matched wine to go with each cut.

Starting off with a little history of cattle farming in Argentina, Fernando explained how Angus breeding was taken from Scotland to Argentina in 1879, when two cows and one bull were taken over. There are now roughly 30 million Aberdeen Angus in Argentina, all grazing freely in the countryside. 

Next, we learnt that cows are on birth control (!) and that it's better to calf in winter as there is less disease around at this time of year.

Onto the hard stuff, the male cows are castrated at a few months old because this affects the meat, making it more tender, before being slaughtered at 24 months on average.

Interestingly, beef can be dry or wet aged; whilst dry aged beef loses weight, creates a dark crust and a more intense flavour, wet ageing is used when the beef is vacuum packed and sent abroad, thus keeping the meat in its own juices.

As you can see, we were then shown a whole range of beef cuts, presented in anatomically correct order; veggies look away now!

These are; the rib eye, sirloin, the flank at the top, the skirt at the bottom, the fillet which is under the sirloin, the rump cap at the end which is coated in fat, and the rump.

Onto the wine; Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world, with 85% of produce remaining in the country. Argentinian wine represents just 2% of the UK wine market, however. The first vines were planted in in 1553; seven varieties from France including two white and five red. These vines are the oldest in the world as a disease wiped out Europe's vines. All the wine on the Gaucho wine list is from Argentina, of course.

Back to the beef; we taste tasted a rump vs a fillet, with surprising results. We took the plunge and conducted this test on uncooked beef, topped with chimichurri; and it was delicious! Both cuts were beautiful, even raw, but it was interesting that the rump was more flavoursome than expected.

Our next taste test was conducted on cooked meat, where we tried picanha, skirt and flank. Apparently, flank is the most popular cut of in Argentina, and I can see why. Although I've never tried this particular cut before, I can say for certain that I would happily order this again on my next visit.

We were then able to try even more cuts, including rump, fillet, sirloin and rib eye. By this point, we were pretty much in steak heaven. We also matched the beef to the Malbec, pairing the rump with a Aniello Mainque Rio Negro 2015/16, the fillet with Finca Sophenia Anti Synthesis Uco Valley Mendoza 2014, the sirloin with Luigi Bosca DOC Vistalba 2014 and the rib eye with Colome Lote Especial El Arenal, Payogasta Salta 2014.

For me, as much as I love all steak, it was interesting to see how much more flavoursome these cuts were at gaucho than at other restaurants. Personally, I usually prefer a less fatty cut, which can sometimes dry out easier than say a rib eye. However, at Gaucho, every cut was delicious, flavoursome and moist; this was steak perfection.

The wine matching was also interesting, as we learnt that the fattier the steak, the more tannin needed in the wine to balance it out.

Finally, after a brief sojourn to mix and mingle with our fellow guests, we were also able to try the most delicious chocolate truffle matched to a Port style Malbec; Malamado Malbec. This was a sweet, liqueur wine that I am dying to try again.

What's the verdict on Gaucho? Great food, great wine and an even better atmosphere make Gaucho a welcome addition to Birmingham. By day, Gaucho will do well with the Colmore Row crowd, whilst by night, I can't think of anywhere better for a naughty date. 

*With thanks to Gaucho and Rewired PR for hosting the Beef and Malbec masterclass.

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