If your Dad is anything like mine, he’s impossible to buy for. Literally impossible. I’ll ask for ideas for Christmas and birthday, and I get the same, “I don’t know.”
When it came to Father’s Day this year, it was the usual process of racking brains. Then I remembered a work trip to Porto, learning some tips about port tasting and food pairings. Did my Dad like port? Yes. Did my Dad like cheeses/chocolate. Of course. Was port gluten free? Hell yeah. Present done.
Popping home for the weekend, I set up a mini food pairing station, with a bottle of Special Reserve and lots of gluten free snacks. What’s great is I’ll often go to a friend’s for cheese and wine, or have a cheeseboard after a family meal, but never thought to pair it with port.
At the Cockburn’s lodge in Porto (above), we learnt everything we needed to know about port. The way it’s made, where the family business began (1815 FYI!), and what best to pair with different ports. There are the rubies, the tawnies and vintages, all of which have their very own flavour. I was quite taken with the rubies, which actually turned out to be the cheapest, but colleagues were big fans of the vintages, which depending on the year, changed in flavour.
Of course we had this view on our side when we travelled into the Douro Valley, which I can’t even begin to tell you just how beautiful it was. I was determined to put on a good show however, even if this was hosting the tasting from the dining room of my parents’ Southend-on-Sea home.
Much to my Dad’s disappointment, yoga not included.
I decided to take on a similar port tasting experiment with my parents when home for Father’s Day, setting up a chopping board of cherries, 99% dark chocolate, dark chocolate mousse, brie, edam and wensleydale, with a bottle of Special Reserve (ruby port). What’s interesting is that each person had their own take on what works well based on their taste buds.
Here’s what we found –
Mum – 8/10 – Made the port taste smoother.
Dad – 7/10 – Made the cherries taste sweeter.
Loriley – 8/10 – Really complimentary.
Mum – 9/10 – The sweetness of the chocolate is enhanced with the port, even with 99%!
Dad – 3/10 – Really don’t like the bitterness of the chocolate, which ruined the combination.
Loriley 9/10 – Enhances the flavour of the chocolate. Avoid chewing the chocolate for a smoother flavour.
Dark chocolate mousse
Mum – 7/10 – Slightly bitter.
Dad – 5/10 – Port tastes sharp.
Loriley – 9/10 – The dark, richness of the chocolate, as well as its light fluffiness, works really well.
Mum – 9/10 – Lovely combination. This is my favourite.
Dad – 6/10 – Sweet and strong flavours.
Loriley – 7/10 – Smooth & sweet.
Mum – 8/10 – Not sure how to describe this one, but I like it!
Dad – 6/10 – Port tastes sweet and stronger.
Loriley – 8/10 – Port overpowers the cheese, but in a nice way. I keep going back to this one.
Mum – 6/10 – Sharper/tangier flavour
Dad – 8/10 – Compliments nicely.
Loriley – 5/10 – Sharper, lingering taste.
Overall the cherries were the winner, as agreed by all. It’s interesting to see how along the 99% chocolate was extremely bitter on its own, but with the port, made it far more enjoyable. My Dad on the other hand, who has a proper sweet tooth (two sugars in tea!), couldn’t stand the intensity of the dark chocolate and so was put off from the start.
Each of the cheeses worked really well in their own way, as they were all quite smooth. I personally was a big fan of the dark chocolate mousse with the Special Reserve.
I’d love to hear if you’ve ever tried a port tasting session and what food pairings you liked. It’s a great idea for the end of a dinner party, family celebration, or just at the weekend in the lounge with friends.
On a side note, who knew Mum & Dad made such good hand models!? Cheers.