Even in matters of food and wine pairing, sometimes the planets align.
One of the most challenging / enjoyable / filling parts of last week’s Vancouver International Wine Festival, was judging at the Vintners Brunch.
(If you’re not aware of Vintners Brunch there’s some background in last year’s post here)
Here’s how it works: 600 happy folks are busy eating and drinking in the spectacular setting of the Vancouver Convention Centre, complete with a great band and a dazzling mountain-ocean backdrop. However, we four judges are toiling away … sequestered in a gloomy, partitioned area well behind the scenes. It’s actually not that bad 😉
Vintners Brunch Judging
We show up at around 11 o’clock in preparation for the parade of small plates from all 16 participating restaurants. They start to arrive at about 11:30 AM, with one dish being presented (blind) every eight minutes or so.
We score them for execution and creativity but above all for the food and wine match. The match score is weighted to ensure that the best pairing wins.
We function well as a panel, with a good cross-section of skills and depth of experience. Kudos to my fellow Vintners Brunch judges (see below **) for such unanimity.
At the end of the day, it comes down to three distinctly superior and well thought out dishes and matches, all of which command significant support across the board.
Interestingly enough, top spot goes to a ‘restaurant’ that’s somewhat (deliberately?) under the radar.
Farm2Fork is a popup in Gastown, rumoured to be opening a permanent home in May or June. Their beautifully assembled and carefully spiced laksa (with poached BC prawns, local chicken, cilantro shoots, pickled chili and crispy wonton) proves to be the perfect partner for Hardys William Hardy Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2013.
Right off the top, we’re seduced by the aromas of the laksa. The dish is an artful balance of gentle spice, flavour and texture that marries perfectly with the wine. William Hardy cool climate Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc leans much more towards an “old world” style, more citrus than grassy, and quite textured. In fact there’s a nice sense of umami that plays between the wine and the creaminess of the coconut milk in the dish.
Not only is it gratifying to see such a well executed dish but the fact that the wine which goes along so well is another convincing ambassador for the “new” Australia” is a bonus.
I’m thrilled that Bill Hardy (one of the nicest guys in the business and a true icon of Australian wine) was in the room to see it win.
Just nudged out, the second-place dish is also truly excellent. Forage Chef Chris Whitaker’s Yarrow Farms duck breast and duck confit arancini with intensely fruity haskap berry preserve is a slam dunk with the strawberry and blueberry notes of Cedarcreek Pinot Noir 2012.
It’s always good to see at least one dessert make the cut. Bella Gelateria grabs third place with their “porch party” match. It’s a play on words for Backyard Vineyards Porch Style. The Port-like wine sports loads of black fruit wrapped in Christmas cake spices. Cue the perfect match with Bella’s Stilton and Cherry ice cream with Castle Brie gelato, chocolate cake, sugared pansy and smoked blueberry walnut tuile.
(**Jonathan Chovancek, Josh Clark and Michele Marko.)