Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Report from ... Get Fresh in the Valley 2012 - May 5 & 6, 2012

Back in May I had the pleasure of touring the 24 wineries taking part in the "Get Fresh in Twenty Valley" program ... an event that pairs food and wine on a passport program.  This year the Valley wineries were also giving out the recipe cards that had the 'how to' of making their little amuse, a nice touch to add to your cookbook collection.  The Valley was broken down into two parts: East and West and that's preciously how we broke it down, doing 12 wineries one day and 12 the next, then we rated the wineries on a scale of one to ten as to their performance.  Because the event is about the food and the pairing we weigh that more heavily in amassing the scores, the wine was only considered if it enhanced (or total detracted) from the food - I already know these guys and gals can make wine, the question is: can they pair that wine with an interesting food?  (to read the full article see Newsletter #185 - published 07/19/2012) ...

Arrival at our first winery of the weekend - Henry of Pelham
To eat green apple risotto balls (7.5)
Creekside's pan of mussel on the patio. (7.5)
Inside the winery at Creekside they already had a display of their haul from the Ontario Wine Awards, held the night before.
Pizza in the vineyard at Flat Rock (8)
Sue-Ann Staff sets a mean table with cured beef tenderloin and spring sprouts (7.5)
Food so good that even the dog is barking at the door for some.
Kacaba's Cashew Pate and fruit. (8)
Peninsula Ridge's winning Parsnip and Empire Apple soup ... the rose wine was too light a pairing, but the soup was awesome. (9)
Another impressive and winning dish at The Good Earth: Lamb Braciole. (9)
Rosewood's Honey Carmelized Onion and Bacon Tarte (flat bread pizza) - (7)
At Aure, Braised Ox Tail Stew served with their 2010 Umoja. (8)
Outside the walls of Magalomaniac - still wondering about the name?
Mediterranean Seafood Delight bundles (7.5)
Malivoire brings smiles to faces with their Lavender and White Chocolate Cookie - one to eat and one to take home (9)

 To read the full article about the entire weekend see Newsletter #185.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Report from ... Huff Estates 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs 2012 Edition - June 29, 2012

Our host for This evening:  Huff Estates Winery
The buzzword food of the night was "peas", as it seemed everybody was using them - well 3 of 6 chefs did anyway - and with 50% of participants highlighting one ingredient I see a trend emerging.  The one thing for certain is that after the night was all over 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs remained one of the premier wine and food events in Ontario and in my opinion the best in Prince Edward County (that also takes into account the all-encompassing Terroir and Taste events)
The new enclosed patio at Huff - now you can enjoy the great outdoors rain or shine.
This year's 6th Annual event seemed like the best yet - and there have been 4 previous version where I've thought the same thing. Instead of touring the vineyard and having stations set up along the way, as they did in the first few years of the event, the folks at Huff seem to have settled into a tented affair - to their credit this year's edition felt roomier than any of the previous staged under the big top - I'm told that's because it was a larger tent then last year's and it truly made all the difference as you didn't feel like you were stepping all over your neighbour to get your plate, or that you were sitting in someone's lap or worse, being rushed for your chair so the next person could sit and enjoy theirs for a few minutes.  Casual and relaxed was the atmosphere on this beautiful evening where the weather co-operated to perfection.
The much roomier tent
The wineries remained the same from last year: Huff - with 2 Chardonnays; Closson Chase - featuring both a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; and Norman Hardie - with 2 Pinot Noirs.  The premise of the event is that these wineries pull some wine out of barrel (unfinished wine - still aging back in the cellar) and the chefs pair a food to the match with the wine they have been assigned.  All the wines this year were from the 2011 vintage.
Starting with a glass of Huff's award winning bubbly

Best Barrel ...

Huff's best barrel was a 2011 South Bay Chardonnay hosted in a Radoux 2nd fill, 228L with a medium toast ... it was a softer and fruiter wine than their other offering.

Closson Chase's 2011 Pinot Noir from a 3rd fill Ermitage 225L medium toast barrel was their best offering.

But this year Norman Hardie had the honour of pouring the wine of the night with his 2011 Pinot Noir hosted in a 1st fill Mercurey Special Toast 228L barrel ... Norm was super excited about this 2011 wines, but also found time to talk up his 2010's (just being released - review upcoming) ... I tried his 2010 County Pinot Noir the next day at the winery and can taste why he's so excited and he's promising the '11's are on the same track.

The Chefs ... The Food ... The Flavours ...

Three new chefs joined the fray this year, along with three veterans for the event.  Founder Bryan Steele (Stratford Chef School) was there along with Chris MacDonald of Cava (Toronto), Ryan Crawford of Stone Road Grille (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Craig Harding of Campagnolo (Toronto), Rocco Agostino of Pizzeria Libretto (Toronto) and Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich.  Jason Sharpe, General Manager of Huff, said he had no idea Carl had won when he booked him in for the event. 

Knowledge or not Carl was quite the coup, as he provided one of the most talked about and loved dishes of the evening.  His Monforte Summer Sausage, crushed potatoes and peas was delicious in its rustic simplicity - almost made you feel like it was a dish you could make at home - but elevated just out of reach.  Delicious.
Carl's winning dish - I used the sausage like a taco shell and wrapped everything inside - delicious.
Tying Carl for plate of the night was Ryan Crawford, who's complex flavour combinations wowed.  Where Carl's dish left off in its simplicity Ryan's took over, throwing lots on the plate and making it all work:  House cured 21 month Feathershire prosciutto, local pea textures, Meg's egg ravioli ... this dish was fresh and enjoyable with a surprise inside (the ravioli).
Ryan's tied for the best dish of the night ... complex and yummy.
6 Barrels for 6 Chefs continues to impress with its caliber of food and chefs that it entices to bring their talents to the table.  Returnees step up their game while the newbies always seem to bring their A-game.  If this event can't get you out to the County, then nothing will.

Here are some more pictures of the event ...

Bryan Steel with his Lobster Ravioli, lemongrass, citrus
Ryan Crawford carves while the pork considers having a drink
The Band: Northern Voodoo - plays away the evening
Stars in Attendance: Godfather of Canadian Wine Writing, Tony Aspler, and Top Chef Canada winner, Carl Heinrich
Even Tony gets a little star struck on occasion as he takes a pictures of Carl working.
Another fabulous 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs is over ... but the memories linger on of great food and interesting wines ... hope to see you all again next year.