Chef Meets Grape: Perfect Pairing of BC Food and Wine
Photos by Alex Saegert except Pair Bistro which is courtesy of the BC Wine Institute
Pairing the city’s best restaurants with the fall VQA releases from BC’s best wineries is a recipe for success. Hosted by the BC Wine Institute, this year’s Chef Meets Grape event took place on September 20th, 2007 at the Rocky Mountaineer Station. The event featured a competition between 11 of Vancouver’s top restaurants, including Lumiere, CRU and Diva at the Met, all providing creative appetizers paired with BC wines. In addition to the food and wine pairings, guests sampled dozens of new releases from over 35 BC wineries.
Most of the dishes featured fish – not surprising considering the involvement of Ocean Wise, the Vancouver Aquarium program that promotes sustainable seafood options for chefs to include on their menus. You can visit Ocean Wise for a full listing of program partners. The Salmon Marketing Council was also on board, and provided five different kinds of wild BC salmon from their stunning station.
Judging the small plate challenge was a panel of local food and wine experts: DJ Kearney, Jamie Maw and Stephen Wong. DJ is a chef and International Sommelier Guild instructor, Jamie Maw is the food editor for Vancouver Magazine, and Stephen Wong is a chef and restaurant consultant. The panel evaluated dishes on texture, innovation, presentation, the use of BC ingredients, and – of course – the wine pairing. Guests also got their say with two People’s Choice Awards, for best pairing and for favourite wine of the evening.
CTV’s Colleen Christie announced the awards, which included the Judges’ Choice for Best Food and Wine Pairing Award which was a tie between Chef Roger Planiden from the Fairmont’s Globe @YVR and Chef William Tse from Goldfish, the new concept restaurant from Bud Kanke of Joe Fortes. The organic duck terrine and pickled chanterelles created by Planiden was paired with Quails’ Gate Family Reserve 2005 Pinot Noir, and the lemongrass and maple-cured wild BC salmon gravlax created by Tse was paired with Tantalus Vineyards 2006 Riesling.
It was a big night for Tantalus, which won The People’s Choice Wine of the Evening for their 2005 Old Vines Riesling – for the second year in a row. Riesling was the focus of this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, and Tantalus has some of the oldest Riesling vines in BC, dating back to 1978. Jane Hatch from the winery thinks Chef Meets Grape is “a fantastic event. It’s great to get people thinking about food and wine pairing. It’s not easy to do. It’s a super good way to connect with people.”
The People’s Choice Award for best small plate went to Chef Shaughn Halls from Pair Bistro who presented sablefish with chanterelles, lobster mushrooms and bacon. Todd Hodgins owner of Pair focused on the synergy of the pairing, saying that “what we’re able to do with the food is because of the wine pairings.” Pair features only BC products, and Hodgins’ confidence and pride was clear as he told me, “we have a great bounty within our province. Why source from outside what we have here?” Pair’s dish was matched with Wild Goose Mystic River Chardonnay, but the winery just pulled out all their Chardonnay wines (which are soon to be replaced with another grape variety) so get your hands on this wine while you can.
Chefs were unanimous in their excitement for this event. Rob Feenie of Lumiere has been involved for all three years, and said that “fifteen years ago you’d have had six wines, and now it’s really about the wines.” Even so, Vancouverites were clearly keen to take advantage of the opportunity to taste specially prepared dishes from the city’s best chefs, and most bee-lined to the chefs’ stations, saving the wine booths for a little later in the evening.
David Scholefield, consultant to the BC Wine Institute was pouring a special selection of BC reds ranging from $17-$70, and had high praise for BC’s wines. “The vines are getting older, farming is getting better, wine making is better, and every year the wines are getting better. It’s about the learning curve we’re seeing, the real potential of the Okanagan. We’re getting some focus. We’re getting our own identity.”
In pairing BC wines with creations by the city’s top chefs the BC Wine Institute has created a dynamic event. They also succeeded in choosing a venue that made it easy for chefs to execute, and allowed enough room for guests to sample and sip comfortably without over crowding. Having released all his big wines at the event, one rep reflected back at the end of the night telling me that Chef Meets Grape gets better every year, and that he believes it will “grow to become the premium wine event of the season.” Cheers and bon appetit to that.
By Becky Solomon whose favourite BC fall wine releases can be found on www.beckysolomon.blogspot.com.
Articles on Food Vancouver: