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Outdoor Dining

By Lavender May 20, 2010

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Roy Goslin of Z Wines Recommends Braaivleis Grilling

Patios swell with patrons as soon as winter coats are packed away in Minnesota. Denizens can’t wait for their favorite restaurants to put tables and chairs outside. You should feel the same excitement about inviting guests to dine in your own backyard. Offbeat flourishes can take any barbecue to the next level without a lot of extra effort.

Roy Goslin of Z Wines recommends a style of grilling called Braaivleis (pronounced “bry-FLAITH”) originating in South Africa.

As Goslin says, “Braaivleis is more about the ritual of standing around the fire.”

Conversation explores problems big and small, as the food cooks over wood or charcoal.

Goslin adds, “Anyone in South Africa who grills on gas is persona non grata.”

The ultimate fuel for the fire is grapevines. Food is eaten as it finishes—no long wait for everything to be done before guests can eat.

As Goslin explains, “Braaivleis is very informal. In South Africa, it’s a big social event with extended family and friends. It’s a way for friends and family to connect on a deeper level.”

Braaivleis is an informal event with a great deal of preparation.

Goslin states, “We very rarely do it on an impromptu basis.”

The significance of the socializing is what sets Braaivleis apart from typical American grilling, where food is cooked quietly and all at once.

Goslin notes, “Braaivleis for us is not like grilling in the United States. It’s kind of a religious thing. It has a very mellow mood.”

While beef is not served typically, meats like lamb, pork, chicken, and fish are standard fare for Braaivleis.

As Goslin points out, “Lamb is very popular.”

A unique item is boerewors, a kind of sausage that pairs well with red wine, especially a shiraz that brings out the smokiness of the grilled meat.

As President of Z Wines USA, Goslin, alongside his wife, Dianne Ferrandi, incorporates his experiences growing up in South Africa and working in wine production into his wine-import business. For safe, people-pleasing wines, he has more than a few ideas.

Goslin suggests, “The safe choice would be an off-dry white or chardonnay for sipping, and a soft, juicy red as an accompaniment to any red meats.”

According to Goslin, more daring choices would include dry white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, or a well-balanced red wine to pair with grilled meats.

Goslin shares, “Here is where our South African value reds really perform. They are inexpensive, well-structured, have some nice terroir characteristics that let you know where the wine comes from, and work really well with grilled meats.”

More sophisticated wines are gaining ground, while the overly sweet ones are decreasing in popularity.

Goslin observes, “As we see people gain exposure to lesser-known wines and/or previously ignored categories, we see them develop a taste for more classically structured wines. The ‘fruit bomb’ is a style that we are seeing lose favor. We think the process is irreversible, while it is slow but sure.”

But sophistication doesn’t have to come at a higher price.

In Goslin’s words, “Higher-priced wines, $20 and over, have taken a dip in sales, and there is more exploration at the lower price points.

Bottles in the $9 to $15 range still can take enthusiasts off the beaten path.

Goslin comments, “The budding enthusiast is slowly moving away from the ratings in magazines like Wine Spectator and the recommendations by folks like Robert Parker, and trusting their own palate more.”

While wines are vegetarian-friendly, most choices at barbecues are not. A good alternative is bruschetta, made with sliced French bread warm and toasty from the grill. Traditional toppings like cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil can be used, along with more creative options like olives, lemon or lime juice, mint, pears, or berries. With a little courage, dessert bruschetta can be as easy as drizzling honey, caramel, or chocolate on the bread, and sprinkling with sugar, sea salt, or peanuts.

The key is to use fresh ingredients. Extra virgin olive oil is an alternative to butter. Olive oil, especially the cold-pressed type, contains antioxidants, and comes in a variety of flavors. As with wine or coffee, the notes are subtle, but can impart a more complex experience.

If your local grocery store doesn’t carry a wide selection, venues like The Olive Grove Oil Company in Mendota Heights specialize in high-quality cold-pressed olive oil and balsamic vinegars that can transform almost any dish into an intriguing creation all your own.

A host can and should take pride in pleasing guests with good food and intuitive preparation. But any social gathering is successful as long as connections are forged, and everybody leaves with a feeling of satisfaction, plus a pleasant literal or spiritual aftertaste.

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