There is absolutely nothing pretentious about winemaker Ann Sperling. She walks the walk and talks the talk on sustainable, organic and biodynamic grape growing and takes a minimalist approach to making wine in the winery. Continue reading
By Michael Lowe
The fourth annual Iron Chef Niagara competition, held Feb. 29 at Johnny Rocco’s in Niagara Falls, got off to a rousing start with four chefs going head-to-head hoping to secure a spot in the semi-final round. Continue reading
NOTE: A popular spring event in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the Wine & Herb festival taking place on weekends this May. Here’s a news release on the event and how to get tickets. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The annual Cuvee awards, that celebrate the best in Ontario wines, were handed out in Niagara Falls last night to an industry-heavy crowd at the Fallsview Casino. Continue reading