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Venison brings Pinot Gris out of the woods

Non-conformist Jean-Marie Hemmen (who runs Restaurant “An der Tourelle” in Stadtbredimus) opens a bottle of white rather than red wine to accompany a game dish with sauce. This is partly down to global warming, which has enabled Pinot Gris grapes to ripen to such an extent that they gain a level of richness and potency that was not possible just a few years ago. The proof can be seen in this Machtum Ongkâf Vignum. 

The Restaurant “An der Tourelle” is an institution on the Moselle. It is set in an annex to the Château de Stadtbredimus, the executive headquarters of Domaines Vinsmoselle. Moreover, the cooperative still owns the premises, having acquired the former home of the poet Dicks (the pen name of Edmond de la Fontaine) in 1971, five years after it was founded through a merger between the cooperative cellars of Grevenmacher, Stadtbredimus, Greiveldange, Remerschen and Wellenstein.

Back then, the Restaurant “An der Tourelle” did not exist. It was only built and officially opened six years later in 1977. At the time, it was used as a large tasting room rather than a restaurant, and people came here to try vintages produced by Luxembourg’s biggest producer. Not much was served with the still and sparkling wines apart from plates of ham and cheese. Although nowadays, almost all producers have their own (wine bar), they were rare back then.

La Tourelle became a restaurant in the early 1990s, but has taken a little while to achieve its current fame and popularity. Indeed, it was not until Jean-Marie Hemmen took the reins in October 2006 that the eatery finally became a firm fixture on the Moselle fine dining circuit. The fact that he is a local lad is no doubt partly responsible for its success: “I’m from Stadtbredimus and previously ran the Auberge du Château just next door for a long time.” In fact, the only thing separating the two establishments is the Aalbach (a stream)!

The reason that tables at the Restaurant “An der Tourelle” are in such high demand (booking is a must, something that has not changed during the Covid crisis!) is that customers know exactly what they are getting: “generous portions of reasonably priced traditional Luxembourgish cuisine made with fresh produce.” Rest assured that a meal in this restaurant, beneath the beautiful wooden beams, will not leave you feeling hungry! The chef, Jeff May, who has been running the kitchen for the past eleven years, is the guardian of its identity anchored in the Moselle region. 

In terms of the wine list, the eatery is unique in exclusively serving crémants and white wines from the Vinsmoselle cellars. The selection is vast with half a dozen different crémants (the Pinot Noir and medium-dry cuvées are served by the flute) and around thirty white wines representing the diversity of wine on the Moselle (all Grands Premiers Crus except Rivaner, as well as the Jongwënzer, Vignum, Côteaux de Schengen, Charta Schengen Prestige, Vieilles Vignes, and Fûts de Chêne ranges). Also on offer are the cooperative’s Pinot Noir rosés (including Pinot Noir vinified as white wine) and Pinot Noir reds (Edmond de la Fontaine, Barrique and Charta Schengen Prestige). A straw wine (Auxerrois) and a Vendanges Tardives (Pinot Gris) are served with desserts. To supplement the red wine range, the list furthermore includes around twenty reds, mostly from France, but also from Italy and Portugal.

For his pairing, Jean-Marie Hemmen has chosen a seasonal dish that hadn’t yet been included on the menu – braised venison cheeks served with a red wine and dark chocolate sauce accompanied by kale and lardons melted in butter, and topped with Spätzle and a Gieser-Wildeman pear cooked in wine. We weren’t lying when we said the dishes are substantial! “I admit that venison cheeks are new to me – I wasn’t aware of them just a few months ago!” smiles the owner. “They’re tasty and very tender – I really like them and didn’t hesitate to add them to the menu.”

In his choice of pairing, Jean-Marie Hemmen has gone for an element of surprise. One might expect a red wine such as a Pinot Noir bolstered by maturation in barriques, but that would be too conventional. Instead, he uncorks a bottle of white – a Machtum Ongkâf Pinot Gris from the new Vignum range, a prestigious Vinsmoselle limited edition intended specifically for gourmet restaurants. “While many people prefer a red wine with game, I think a pleasantly rich wine with substance works very well,” he asserts. “In recent years, Pinot Gris grapes have been very ripe. These are not lightweight wines and are sufficiently potent to complement a dish like this one.”

picto_ingredients

Ingredients

For four people

Venison cheeks

• 24 venison cheeks
• Vegetable mirepoix (carrots, leeks, celeriac, onion)
• Tomato purée
• Red wine
• Star anise, cinnamon
• 100g dark chocolate

Kale

• 1 head of kale
• 100g smoked lardons
• Butter, flour

Pears in red wine

• 4 Gieser-Wildeman pears
• Red wine
• Cinnamon, anise, cloves, juniper berries, cardamom
• 150g sugar

Butternut purée and cubes

• One butternut squash
• 250g butter
• Gingerbread spices

picto_recette

The recipe

Trim the venison cheeks and sear them at high temperature in a large cooking pot.
Remove the cheeks and brown the mirepoix well in the same pot, then add the tomato purée, anise and cinnamon.
Put the cheeks back in with the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, then deglaze with red wine.
Simmer with the lid on for about 2.5 hours.
Once it has cooked, remove the cheeks carefully and pass the sauce through a fine mesh conical strainer.
Melt the dark chocolate in the sauce, then thicken it with kneaded butter.
Put the cheeks back in and keep them warm in the sauce.

Finely chop the kale and blanch it in a saucepan with salted water.
Heat up a second saucepan with the butter, and to brown the lardons in it, add the flour, then the drained kale with some of the kale’s cooking juices.
Season.

Peel the pears and chop off the pear bottoms with a knife.
Cook them in red wine with the sugar and spices.

Peel the squash, then scoop it out with a spoon.
Chop a third of the squash into small 0.5cm cubes, then blanch them in salted water.
After they are cooked, brown the cubes in butter.
Chop the rest of the squash into pieces and cook it in the water before mixing everything together with the butter and gingerbread spices to produce a nice smooth purée.  

Plate up all the ingredients.

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