I’m at the 20th annual Taste Canada Awards Gala/Les Laureats des Saveurs du Canada at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Toronto. We’re here celebrating Canada’s top culinary chops and I’m at the chef-led food stations on a wine-pairing mission.
The hallway is scented with the aromas of fall as some of Canada’s best chefs prepare their culinary version of Canada. But what about the wine? What wines pair best with the earthy, savoury flavours of Ontario foraged mushrooms? Which wines will complement the maritime flavours and textures of smoked salmon and shrimp? Is there a wine to match the exciting intensity of Toronto Street food with all its international flavours and bold, brazen spices?
Wine-savvy Chefs take on Wine Pairing
1. Chef Jarret Flannigan from The Wooly Pub is next to the bar, so he’s up first. He’s serving: Rising Star Elk Farm Terrine on Sourdough toast with roasted tomato jam, pickled onions and Donair sauce.
The Wooly Pub is fiercely local in everything they do and the elk in Chef Flannigan’s terrine are raised in Rockford Ontario, about 15 minutes from Guelph. “This game meat is super lean and it has a slight liver taste, but it’s not gamey and there’s no fat, so you need a big wine with some firm tannins to stand up to the game dish, without killing it!” says Chef Flannigan. “I know this is a French dish but I think it might work best with a big, firm Italian wine – like a Barolo”. A couple of wines to consider:
Michele Chiarlo Tortoniano Barolo 2012 – Nebbiolo – $41.95 OR, if you’d like to drink Ontario, no Nebbiolo here, but you can try The Magician Shiraz 2013 – Reif Estate Winery – $29.50
2. Chef Trevor Ritchie – national winner of the Bocuse d’Or Canada is presenting: Rougie Foie Gras with Wild Rice Brioche, Cranberry & Fall Crisp. The Bocuse d’Or, btw, is the most prestigious chef competition in the world!
Chef Technologist at George Brown College, Chef Ritchie won this impressive Canadian culinary competition in 2016. He’s gearing up to compete in the Americas Regional qualifying competition in Mexico in 2018, and hopes to move forward to the grand finale in Lyon, France in 2019. Team Manager, Chef Thomas Delannoy says the exquisitely tasty (my description!!!) Foie Gras comes from Rougie Farms in Quebec, where they practice high quality and humane husbandry with free-range animals.
This Foie Gras is melt-in-your mouth delicate and oh-so delicious. The Bocuse d’Or chefs recommend a sweet wine like a late-harvest Monbazillac, to complement the rich, fatty flavours. Monbazillac, is produced in the Dordogne region of France. It’s essentially a less famous, and less expensive, version of Sauternes (but uses the same grapes: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle).
Some options: Monbazillac, Domaine de Grange Neuve, France 2011 (50cl) – $13.23 (but almost impossible to find) OR, in Canada, foie gras lovers might try – Muskoka Lakes Red Maple 2014 – $29.95
3. Chef Robert Mills from the EPIC Fairmont at the Royal York Hotel is serving: Smoked Salmon Macaron with Salmon Roe Jelly set in a mason jar.
EPIC is widely respected for their innovation and quality, enhanced with premium regional ingredients from Ontario growers. Chef Mills says the smoked-salmon dish already incorporates Peller Estate Ice Wine to help cut through the fat and match the intensity of the indulgently sweet, Macaron.
Chef Mills – a kiwi (New Zealander) who’s come to appreciate the beauty of Canada’s ice wine thinks pairing this dish with “more Peller ice wine” makes for the perfect match.
The deets: Peller Estates Private Reserve Vidal Icewine – $27.30 200 ml
4. Chef Tawfik Shehata from the International Centre in Mississauga is serving:
Planet Shrimp Ceviche (Pacific White Shrimp raised responsibly in Ontario) with Leche de Tigre, Hominy, Sweet Potatoes and Cassava Chips.
In the wine world, there is perhaps no greater pairing challenge than Ceviche. The high acid vinaigrette has been known to confound many a sommelier. Chef Shehata’s Peruvian, Leche de Tigre lime bath and nutty corn hominy, calls for an equally tangy wine. Ideally, you want wine that complements the lead flavour of the dish.
Chef Shehata suggests an exceptionally bright, flinty, white wine to evoke the flavours of the sea. His recommendation: a slightly effervescent, citrusy Vino Verde with pronounced mineral notes. Or, for those who haven’t quite come around to the joys of pairing “spritz” with a main course, a flinty, medium-bodied Pinot Gris works beautifully too. The key is to find a wine that’s lean and highly acidic or the Ceviche will make the wine taste flat. A couple of zingy wines with a mineral streak:
Portal Hortas Vinho Verde White 2015 – $17.45 OR, if you prefer to drink Canadian –Norman Hardie County Pinot Gris – $29.20
5. Chef Matt Basile is the creative genius behind the Toronto street-food company, Fidel Gastro’s. Today he’s sampling: Singaporean Crab and Corn Fritters.
The sweet and spicy Singaporean barbecue sauce adds fantastic, zippy flavour to these bite-sized, deep-fried morsels. Chef Basile has been part of Toronto’s street scene since 2012. The meteoric success of Chef Basile’s food truck was followed by Lisa Marie, a bricks and mortar popup restaurant in Toronto’s fashion district. Chef Basile has hosted “Rebel Without A kitchen” now available in 55 countries and The Food Network’s “Eat Street”. He and his partner Layla also published “Street Food Diaries” last year. Fidel Gastro’s business philosophy is that food should be fun and to stand out, you need to be memorable. Chef Basile is well on his way to serving up gastronomic good times.
His wine recommendation? “Something really zesty to complement the bold, smoky tomato based flavours of Singapore bbq, but it also needs generous acidity to cut through the fat.” Perhaps a fruity Pinot Noir from a warmer vintage that offers up a bigger style, but’s still delivers critical freshness OR a low tannin Zinfandel with enough spice and acidity to take on the bbq.
Try Ontario’s – Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012 – $24.95 OR, Novy Russian River Zinfandel 2015 – $39.65
6. Chef Dan Craig of host hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Toronto is responsible for the umami aromas wafting through the room. He’s serving: Foraged Mushroom Consommé, Ricotta and Chanterelle Mushroom Agnolotti with Pickled Apple.
Chef Craig and his team have wowed hungry foodies with their repurposed Hario Siphon glass coffee pot, which is percolating a rich and rustic mushroom consommé.
This dish is loaded with earthy, savoury flavours and a buttery agnolotti, while the pickled apple adds a hint of sweet and sour. While Chef Craig manages the long line of eager diners, his assistant chef thinks a minerally, unctuous, dry Alsatian Pinot Gris would nicely contrast the earthy flavours in this dish and play off of the apple finish. On the red side of the ledger, a zesty Pinot Noir or Cotes du Rhone could also work to complement the “forest floor” broth and delicious flavour depth of the chanterelle mushrooms. A couple of options:
Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2014 – $21.95 OR, drink local with Pelee Island Pinot Noir – $11.95
7. Chef Jonathan Gushue from the The Berlin in Kitchener, is also looking to local fields and forests for foraged mushrooms. He’s serving a delicious vegetarian: Foraged Mushrooms with Red Kuri Squash and Sweet Corn.
This is a creamy, savoury and delicate dish…both sweet and earthy in its flavour profile. Because it is slightly sweet, Chef Gushue would like to pair it with a wine that complements this profile: a honeyed, off-dry Semillon, or an off-dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire.
Try this rare, Ontario – Legends Terroir Semillon 2013 – $13.25 OR, Bougrier Vouvray Chenin Blanc – $15.40
8. My final stop of the evening is with Chef Trevor Lui of Kanpai Snack Bar. He’s serving another crowd pleaser: Beef Tataki with Sesame Chimichurri, Root Chip and Micro Greens Garnish.
Beef Tataki is Japanese method of preparing fillet beef. The meat is lightly seared, marinated, and sliced thinly similar to sashimi. Chef Lui is serving his – not with the traditional citrus-soy sauce – but with a creamy, garlicky Argentinian inspired Chimichurri.
“This really cries for a light and fruity sake or a spicy pinot noir to complement the smoky flavours of the beef, but it needs to be crisp to take on the sauce,” says Chef Lui.
Try: Hanagaki Junmai Sake – $18.45 OR, from Ontario’s Prince Edward County – Huff Estates Gamay 2012 – $20.25
What a yummy evening of quick bites, superb Canadian fare and thoughtful assessments from the evening’s chefs.There’s been a broad array of wine styles suggested to complement & contrast the ingredients and flavours served. It’s clear wine is definitely part of the thought process for these chefs as they construct menus and culinary experiences for their guests.
I’ve tasted Canada, and I like it. Let’s drink to that!