Last Tuesday, on a rainy, miserable night in Toronto I pulled my damp trench tight around me and made a dash for Lee on King Street.
Off with the trench and out with my hand to grab a glass of Alsatian Riesling as it passed by. I was attending a dinner to celebrate the two winning chefs of the Vanguard Culinary Fusion and Wine Pairing Competition (let’s just call it Van-Fu Wi-Pa). The Van-Fu Wi-Pa was a competition between 9 Toronto chefs to pair dishes with specific wines hailing from the Alsace and Rhone regions of France. Head judge and host of the evening was Susur Lee in whose kitchen the two winners (Chef Shane Straiko from the Pantages Hotel and Misha Nesterenko from Marben) were preparing their food) while I sipped Riesling wondering why I drove to a wine event.
Before dinner they came out front to accept their accolades. Both were extremely gratious but looked a little uncomfortable to have to leave the kitchen and speak to a room full of flashing iPhones and chants of “where’s the grub?”. (ok, there was not chanting…. just a disquieting murmur).
I was fortunate to have some great company at my table- Renée Suen from Toronto Life and David Ort and Suresh Doss from Spotlight Toronto. We were also joined for part of the meal by Chef Lee and had a fun discussion about good pho (“that place on Ossington that’s not Golden Turtle”), food in general, travel and even a bit of cheese talk.
My fave dish was Misha Nesterenko’s braised short ribs with horseradish pomme puree, curly kale and butter glazed veggies. It was paired with a Cotes du Rhone Village Rasteau (M. Chapoutier, 2009). I took a bite, I took a sip of wine, I ate, I sipped…it was fluid. A fairly classic dish as Misha had acknowledged at the beginning of the night but it worked.
No need for me to to post my dimly lit iPhone photos, you can taste similar pairings until November 11 at all the participating restaurants (the other 7 were Ultra Supper Club, The Bowery, Le Canard Mort, Veritas, Langdon Hall, TOCA and Ancaster Mill).
As for the my new wingman? Well, his name is actually Pierre Sparr. We received a gift bag on the way out and in it were two bottles of wine (the above Riesling and a Gigondas). So far the Riesling had me looking like the best hostess ever at a small drop-in dinner I organized. I reached for it to serve with the cheese board. Suddenly people were looking me in the eye, telling me I was beautiful, laughing at my jokes…essentially distracting me any way they knew how while reaching into the fridge to get at this wine which I practically had to ration. The wine lover friend came back for more as did my friend who usually only drinks half a glass, and even people who usually just buy “white” asked for label info. If it’s like the other Pierre Sparr wines at the LCBO it’s probably under $20.
God only knows what will happen when I open the Gigondas. I’m hoping Genie.