I am no expert on Scotch, but thanks to Nigel Manley and the Slow Food Saratoga Region benefit dinner at Max London's Restaurant in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., I am a little more knowledgeable, a little more experienced and a lot more enthusiastic about the "water of life." Nigel poured three different Scotch whiskeys and one Irish whiskey at the dinner with each whiskey paired with food with the pairings orchestrated by Max London's Chef de Cuisine, Clifton Booth. The first pairing, Auchentoshen from the Scottish Lowlands with a duck terrine with mustard and greens was superb with the relatively mild Lowland Scotch providing just enough body and character to match the terrine. Manley next poured an 8 year old Single Malt from Glen Garioch from the Scottish Highlands. This moderately smoky, malty and slightly sweet Scotch was well received by the attendees and worked very well with Booth's daring Slow Roasted Beef Fatcap on grilled bread. The latter was daring because of the large proportion of beef fat served on the toast. The overall effect was similar to eating marrow on toast and quite delicious. The whiskey proved a fine complement.
My favorite pairing of the evening though showed real synergy to me. Manley brought a ten year old Full Cask strength Laphroaig Single Malt. 110 Proof, this whiskey on its own was a medieval beast, a dragon exhaling fire until tamed by a touch of water in the glass. The smoke of this Islay beauty was enough to make Booth's Stufffed Pig's Trotters with house cured Guanciale and lentils a competitor to Benton's bacon. Both the Scotch and the trotters were great on their own, but together, the effect was sublime. A bite of the crisp trotter skin followed by a sip of the Laphroaig was exactly what one hopes for in a pairing.
For a change of pace, Manley finished with a wonderful ringer, a single malt Irish whiskey from Knappogue Castle, that was served with Wendy London cookies including a sublime rosemary and pinenut shortbread, bodacious bourbon balls and a lovely linzer torte. The Knappogue Castle, all green apples and Jolly Rancher candy on the nose made a lovely dessert in its own right.
With Manley's selections, informative and entertaining commentary and Max London's always excellent food, the evening couldn't have been anything but a great one. An excellent turnout of a great crowd put it over the top. While the entire evening was memorable, the pairing of the Laphroaig and the Trotters really stood out to me as having been particularly exceptional and therefore, is my "taste of the week."