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When beer meets wine meets food: The ultimate showcase of Niagara hospitality

Best Niagara wine

By Monica Kosior

Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute  (CFWI) hosts a beer, wine and culinary student directed event every semester appropriately named Caps, Corks and Forks.

Imagine a six-course menu 100% created by culinary students, with influences from their own cultures. The wine team, consisting of Wine Business Management and Winery and Viticulture Technicians, is hand chosen to pair only Ontario wines for each course. And a beer team, from the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program, selects only Ontario beers to also pair with the meal.

Now, you’re probably thinking why both wine and beer? Well, this is not just a regular six-course meal, this is a head-to-head competition. It is wine vs. beer for every single plate. From the amuse-bouche all the way to dessert, attendees decide the ultimate fate of which team will win.

The courses are served with the selected wine and beer and attendees will sip and bite while determining which beverage pairs best.

As they are tasting, the students plead their cases. At the front of the stage each team member representing their course and beverage will explain why they made their selection. Whether it was strategic or a pairing with a back story, you are taken on a spoken journey.

Both teams will then have the opportunity to walk around the tables and answer any questions from the audience, and to also further secure their votes.

As the plates and glasses are cleared away, “eaters” vote with a cap or a cork to signify their choice. After each round, the vote counters will tally the caps and corks, and the winner is announced.

You’re probably thinking: this event is pretty amazing, and it is, but it gets even better. Co-hosts Chef Anna Olson and Chef Michael Olson (Niagara College Chef Professor) were invited to MC and offer their comedic relief between rival teams. Halfway through the dinner I asked both Anna and Michael, why should anyone attend this event? Their answers depicted the scene perfectly.

This event brings together three faculties, in a non-judgemental setting, appreciating what the students have chosen, they explained. Tasting wine, beer and food together that may not be available in another setting — it’s an opportunity to celebrate the students in their area of expertise.

Beer vs. Wine, the menu:

First course

Best Niagara beer

The dish: Fire and ice consommé shooter. Smoked duck breast “a l’orange,” confit leg with sour cherry foam
The wine: Back 10 Cellars, Smitten Cuve Close Method Sparkling Wine 2016 VQA Ontario
The beer: Amsterdam Brewery Toronto, KLB Amsterdam Wheat Ale

Second course

Best Niagara food

The dish: “Tom Yum Goong” Soup. Spicy aromatic shrimp, mushroom and vegetables.
The wine: Vineland Estate, Elevation Riesling 2008 VQA Niagara Escarpment
The beer: Exchange Brewery, Grand Cru

Third course

Best Ontario wine

The dish: Sabudana salad. Green apple, pomegranate, chillies, coconut, mint, spiced pumpkin seeds and mango jeera chutney.
The wine: Tawse, Growers Blend Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula
The beer: Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery, Clementine Pale Ale

Fourth course

The dish: “Taste of the Sea” Seared Scallop. Dashi, celery root and creamed spinach puree, pickled cucumber rolls, watermelon radish and apples.
The wine: Pearl Morissette, Cuvée Mon Unique Gamay 2014 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore
The beer: Innocente Brewery, Waterloo Rye Saison

Fifth course

The dish: Whole roasted squab breast and leg, beet sunrise “pave”, sprout petals and Red Hairy Skunk Currant Jus.
The wine: Stratus, Syrah 2012, VQA Niagara-on-the-lake
The beer: Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, St Luke’s Verse

Sixth course

The Dish: German chocolate mousse bombe, triple lemon, almond slice with Lemoncello glaze and sticky toffee date pudding with toffee sauce.
The wine: Niagara College’s Teaching Winery, Dean’s List Prodigy Icewine 2012 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake
The beer: Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery, No Porter Given

The culinary students did not make it an easy task. But ultimately after six hard fought rounds, the Beer Team was victorious.

Student volunteer and past Wine Team member, Amelia Keating-Isaken serving up some Rosé.

The event was held at Niagara College, with the help of the Benchmark Restaurant and 86 student volunteers, they were able to serve over 2,000 glasses of wine and beer, and over 900 plates of food within the two hours.

Dean Craig Youdale with MC’s Anna and Michael Olson announcing the winner.

This event is truly unique, and after speaking with Craig Youdale, dean of the CFWI, he knows that everyone who attends once wants to come back. “The passion and commitment of the students is contagious” and with an atmosphere that isn’t too technical, you are able to enjoy the local food, wine and beer, he told Wines In Niagara. It’s an insight not typically seen into the wine and beer industries and it is one Niagara College is proud to offer.

The next date of Caps, Corks and Forks has not been released yet. Keep a close eye on the Events page of the CFWI webpage available here.

Note: Monica Kosior is an alumni of the Wine Business Management graduate program from Niagara College. She is also a past Wine Team participant and winner for the Caps, Corks and Forks event Round 9.