Even though we’re traveling on a tight budget, it’s still important to splash out once in a while on something we love to do. For some people maybe that’s a new outfit, a night out dancing, or a tattoo. For us, its eating. On our recent detour to Melbourne that meant eating at MoVida.
A few friends in New Zealand praised Frank Camorra’s restaurant up and down for inventive, delicious food. The days preceding our reservation were filled with building anticipation, like the days approaching Christmas or a birthday when we were kids. These are the moments that make breaking the budget worthwhile.
The food is served tapas style, so we knew we’d have a chance to try a lot of new and interesting dishes. The problem, sometimes, with tapas restaurants, is that the multitude of choices and flavors produce a disconnected and ugly contrast. To avoid this, we left ourselves in the hands of our waiter, with whom we immediately connected.
“What are your favorites?” Christina asked.
“Oh, I love that question. Awesome.” And he ran us through five or six options.
“Great, those sound good.”
“Cool, but…you’ve got three really rich dishes in a row here. I’d maybe swap out one of these for something lighter to break things up a bit. Maybe seafood?”
“Sounds good.” And later on, “can you help us with wine to match our courses?” Christina asked.
And I said something I never thought I’d say: “I’m kind of curious about sherry.”
“Oh, awesome. I was hoping you’d say that,” our server said.
At a friend’s house the week before, we mentioned we’d be going to a well-regarded Spanish tapas restaurant.
“Do they have sherry?” Our friend Steve said. He’s worked in the beverage industry, so he knows his booze.
“I don’t know, and I’m not sure if I care,” I said. Sherry was for old people and came in jugs, or so I thought.
“You should.” Steve fished out a bottle of Manzanilla from his liquor cabinet. “Here, try this.” I tried it and was impressed, but not blown away. The flavor was intense and unusual. The biting tang and sharp acidity were so different from other beverages in the class I didn’t know what to think, but I knew it wasn’t for me…yet.
Last night, everything changed. First, our server recommended the anchovy with smoked tomato sorbet to for our first course, and with it, a sherry (of course). Our trust in Steve and our trust in the server, and maybe a bit of curiosity won out.
It was perfect. The sharp tang of the dry sherry cut through the savory anchovy, while extremely salty fish was tempered by the strong flavor of the liquid. It was as if a key were fitting into a lock on both sets of flavors, opening each other to a new world of tastes. I’ll never look back. I’m a sherry convert.
It’s not often that a beverage and a food jive so well that they transform each other. It’s even rarer that a food and beverage pairing opens your eyes to ingredients you hadn’t enjoyed in the past. Our first course at MoVida in Melbourne on Sunday did both, partly because we left ourselves open to trying new things and our server led us down the right path. Good servers can immediately read customers for certain preferences. And good customers communicate their preferences clearly.
I’ll never look at sherry (or anchovies!) the same way again.