By Michael Lowe
The Cuvée Gala 2012 held Friday night proved to be an exciting event, but not only because of the wines. Some of Niagara’s finest chefs were on hand preparing sumptuous dishes that easily stood up to the fantastic wines on show. Guests were treated to an amazing display of culinary talents, represented by some of the region’s best culinary minds.
Fallsview Casino Resort hosted the event again this year, and in my opinion, provided some of the tastiest dishes they have offered in the past 3 years.
Their presentation was also one of the more splashy displays of the night.
The colourful setup included a delectable selection of coronets (top photo) filled with a variety of seafood accompanied by additional toppings for guests to dress up their choices with. An unusual take on fish and chips showcased a delicious potato-wrapped tuna with edamame and ponzu.
Chefs from the Canadian Food & Wine Institute at work (all photos by Michael Lowe)
Over at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute (at Niagara College) student chefs assembled four tasting plates.
One, a sweet, oven-cured tomato and seared “Guernsey Girl” cheese on bread made from the spent grain from the Niagara College Teaching Brewery, was a particularly nice appetizer.
Compressed Salmon, beetroot 'sponge', goat cheese ice cream from Peller Estates.
Icewine Duck “Sous Vide” from Peller Estates.
The Peller Estates Winery Restaurant team, led by Chef Jason Parsons, prepared an imaginative, colourful composition of compressed salmon, beetroot sponge and goat cheese ice cream.
Other dishes included succulent duck breast, cooked sous vide with icewine, on butternut squash with bacon and traditional raclette (cheese) on hazelnut bread with quince jam.
Executive Chef Collin Goodine from Ravine Estates.
Chef Paul Harber from Ravine assembles grilled vegetable poutine.
Pan-Seared Lake Erie Pickerel from Ravine Vineyards.
Making their first culinary appearance at Cuvée, Ravine Vineyards Estate Winery Bistro’s team of Executive Chef Collin Goodine and Chef/ Proprietor Paul Harber were a delight to watch in action.
Pan seared Lake Erie pickerel with roasted fingerling potatoes, oven-dried tomato, and pine nut buerre noisette was one of the best fish dishes of the night. They covered the comfort food base by offering up a grilled vegetable poutine with Upper Canada Cheese Company curds.
Chef J Mark Hand from Hospitality on Hand.
Salmon Tartare from Hospitality on Hand.
Speaking of comfort food, Chef J. Mark Hand dished up heartwarming plates of tender, moist cabernet-braised lamb shanks on winter vegetable and barley “risotto.”
The rich flavors and textural contrast combined to create one of the most satisfying samples available. In cool contrast, his refreshing Atlantic salmon tartare perked up the palate sending me off in search of a suitable wine for pairing.
Seared tuna, flank & shallot crisp, avocado puree from Vineland Estates.
Executive Chef Justin Downes of Vineland Estates Winery treated guests to smoked veal sweetbreads, Benedictine and ricotta gnocchi and seared tuna options, which demonstrated his years of training and influences from his time spent in Italy. I very much enjoyed the rare-seared tuna with flank and shallot crisp, creamy avocado and Asian-inspired emulsion.
Eggplant Cannelloni from Casa Mia Ristorante.
Tuna Tonnato with Citrus Air from Casa Mia Ristorante.
I was pleased to see Casa Mia ristorante represented at the gala because you can always count on uncomplicated dishes that express clean, precise flavors. This year chef Claudio Mollica pleasured the palates of the guests with a lovely eggplant cannelloni, a delectable combination of braised veal cheek with creamy polenta and gremolata, and a stunning tuna with velvety tonnato sauce and airy citrus foam.
The night would not be complete without desserts to match with the sweet wines being poured.
Criveller Cakes Showpiece.
Chef Andrew Vergalito from Italian Ice Cream.
Perennial favorites at the gala, Italian Ice Cream and Criveller Cakes of Niagara Falls, were on hand to satisfy sweet cravings. Criveller’s display always includes splendid showpieces of their art that are fitting monuments to the importance of this event. Italian Ice Cream built an eye-catching ice sculpture on which to display their ice cream “lollipops.”
The icy cappuccino flavor provided a fantastic finish to this evening of decadence.
The chefs of Cuvée 2012 did the Niagara region proud by creating dishes that illustrate why they truly are culinary stars and gave guests plenty of options to pair with the stunning wines showcased at the event.