Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Report from ... 5th Annual 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs @ Huff - June 24, 2011

Welcome to the 5th Annual 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs
With rain in the forecast every day leading up to the event the folks at Huff did not want to take any chances, so up went a tent and instead of a walk through the vineyard to collect your food and wine pairings you were warm and dry under the big top.  As luck would have it, the rains held off so you could eat with the sun at your back on a variety of benches and tables outside the confines of the tent... though there were tables also set up inside, just in case you did not want to leave the cozy confines of the tented area.  I'm talking here about one of the most unique (uniquest - can something really be more unique?  That's a question for another day) events I have ever, and continue to attend and be enthralled with.  Six renowned chefs are paired up with 6 barrel samples of unfinished wine - they cook outdoors in the vineyard and create some of the most deliciously inventive dishes you'll ever see come off a hot plate.  This year's event had an international flair as one of the chefs was from Ireland ("I just had to take part," Denis Cotter said to me).
Under the tent - see no barrels in sight

The Chefs ...
Denis Cotter - from Ireland
Tonight's chefs were: Ryan Crawford (stone Road Grille, Niagara-on-the-Lake); Chris McDonald (Cava, Toronto); Denis Cotter (Cafe Paradiso, Ireland); Michael Potters (Angeline's, Bloomfield); Hiro Yoshida (Hiro Sushi, Toronto) and Jamie Kennedy (Giolead Cafe & Bistro, Toronto).

The Wines ...
6 barrels are on hand for these chefs - but the barrels aren't  actually around the place, they have been left behind at their respective wineries of origin and only bottled up samples are on hand.  This year 2 Chardonnays from Huff, 2 Pinot Noirs from Norman Hardie and one each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Closson Chase ... of course they are all 100% County wines.

And the top prizes for Best ____ go to ...
At an event like this it's hard not to talk about your favourites - all are good, some are better and only one is amazing and transcends the food and wine experience.

Top Three Food Offerings (as chosen by our distinguished panel of two)...
3) Jamie Kennedy's - pristine poached pickerel with Hillier chive soubise .... what a stunning piece of fish.

2) Michael Potters' - pan fried Bay of Quinte yellow perch with lovage remoulade ... the lemon vinagrette elevated the fish from good to great.

1) Denis Cotter - pan fried haloumi, beet braised puy lentils, harissa, walnut crumb and fava shoots ... who would have thought the out-of-towner would outshine the locals and he's a vegetarian cook to boot - but really who can resist fried cheese, even if it is pan-fried?
Mmmmm ... fried cheese

Top Wines ...
Best White: Closson Chase 2010 Chardonnay in a 1st fill (new) Carriage House Cooperage (Prince Edward County) 228L medium toast barrel ... buttery vanilla and creamy texture that still has fruit holding it all together; a beautiful sipping Chard right now.

Best Red: Norman Hardie 2010 Pinot Noir in a 2nd fill Mercurey (French) 228L barrel with medium toast ... great spice on the red and some lovely black cherry and subtle cranberry notes; this is a lovely wine to be.

Finally ... Best Pairing of the Night ...

After careful thought, much chewing and sipping this award goes to the Michael Potter pan fried yellow perch paired with a Huff Estates 2010 South Bay Chardonnay in a 1st fill Dargaud et Jaegle (French) 228L barrel with a medium high toast.  I talked about that lemon vinaigrette earlier, well this wine made the lemon sing in the mouth and then washed everything clean away and ready for the next bite - on the next bite that song started up again - a match made in heaven.
"Pair this with the Huff Chardonnay"

Dessert ...
Chef Bryan Steele of the Old Prune in Stratford rocked it with a rhubarb & pecan streusel with strawberry ice cream ... this was a killer of a taste sensation and a great way to end the food portion of the evening.
Dessert to die for ... thank you Bryan Steele

Thanks to Huff for having the foresight to have this event every year ... the real winners are the guests who get to enjoy this little bit of learning heaven and to see how a wine tastes in its formative years ... if there were awards for best event of the year this would take one of my top three prizes every year.  Hope to do it again next year.

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