Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Two Great Luncheons and Some New Wines

I've always said that one of my main benefits in being part of this industry is the ability to meet very interesting people and get to taste some of their countries' great food/wine. So it was during the last couple of months where I got to have a lunch sampling of two of the World's great wine producing nations: Australia and Portugal!

Australian Cuisine Is Far From Being Down Under!
The location was Crush Wine Bar in Toronto! Present were celebs Chef Michael Smith (The Inn Chef, Chef at Large, Chef at Home and Chef Abroad), Chef Mark Oliver (Australia's first high profile indigenous chef), Tony Aspler and a host of other famed wine writers and journalists. The event, sponsored by Tourism Australia, Wine Australia and Emirates was a gala affair that began with Australian Sparkling Shiraz, moved onto an Australian Aborigine playing the Didgeridoo (a long tube which is blown like a trumpet but making a hollow roar made by the players vocal cords) and finally a marvellous luncheon sampling of good Aussie food.
In this case The reception began with medallions of seared glazed spring lamb fillet and like hors oeuvres with the Debortoli Emeri Sparkling Shiraz and Skillogalee Riesling 2008.
The "Aussie Damper" with eucalyptus-scented honey was served on the table prior to the First course.
First Course
This consisted of the Barramundi or Asian Sea Bass which is a member of the perch family. It was served, oven roasted, with zesty citrus on a crunchy croquette.
Wines: D'Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne 2007
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2007
Both wines were well equipped to deal the fish but I thought that the Chardonnay went especially well with the full flavours of the Barramundi.
Main Course
The Main Course was the butt of many a joke. It was delicious but it was just as comical since the serving was Kangaroo. The usual play on words resulted in a flurry of "Jumpiness", "Bouncies" and in one instance, "Eating Skippy" which was a famous television Kangaroo.
The one word that I used to describe it was delicious!
Wines: Alkoomi Blackbutt 2004 ( Meritage or Bordeaux Blend)
Wakefield Cabernet 2006
Either wine went well with the meat but I found that the herbal flavours of the Bordeaux Blend was far more pleasing with the vegetable accompaniment than the straight Cabernet.
Dessert was a make your own type with cubed sponge batons and sticky tepid chocolate sauce, toasted coconut, quandong dessert sauce and whipped macadamia nut Chantilly cream. It was decadent and even more so with the Talumba Muscat wine.
A tray of cheese followed the event accompanied and rightly so with a Nugan Estates Cookoothama Semillon 2006.
In all it was a fine meal and Chef Mark Oliver has much to be proud of.

The Portuguese Luncheon
There is one thing about Portuguese, they know how to put on a luncheon. This time the event was held at the Oasi Restaurant in Toronto. This was an exhibition of Duorum or "two". The term exemplified the duality of the two winemakers/oenologists: Jose Maria Soares Franco and Joao Portugal Ramos. It also reflected the two regions, the grapes from the two areas around the Douro and grapes from different altitudes.
The luncheon was an exhibition of the great wine and food matches that Portugal can muster.
Hors d'oeuvres
Sticklebacks (fish) with Cured Lemon Aioli
Chicken Liver Parfait with Preserved Kumquat
East Coast Oysters with Seaweed Mignonette
Caramalized Onion Tartlette with Goat Cheese & Muscat Raisins.
All the above went exceptionally well with a fine array of wines especially Reserva Red from Duorum.
First Course
Assiette de Canard (Duck Melange)
foie gras & maple (duck liver pate)/rillettes & rhubarb/prosciutto & pine nut
This group was well suited to the varied tendencies of the Marques de Borba White 2008 and Villa Santa White. Both whites cut through the fat of the duck to complement the meal leaving a refreshing taste on the palate.
Second Course
Roasted Skate Wing & Barigoule with spring artichokes, Mennonite bacon and genevoise sauce
The Skate again is a fish that went well with the red wines picked since its taste was big enough to match the two reserva reds. The Conde Vinioso Reserva 2005 and The Vila Santa Red both were large wines that went well with the combined fish, bacon and sauce.
Main Course
What does one have with Grilled Lamb Chops? A big wine with ripe black and red fruit and mounds of spice. That is what was selected: Marques de Borba Red 2004 and the magnificent Duorum Reserva Red 2007. I found the Marques de Borba Red better suited mainly because it had time to integrate more than the Duorum but the Duorum is much the better wine.
The Portuguese have Port with most desserts and this is no different. The Dark Chocolate Tart screamed for Vintage Port which was supplied in the name of Duorum.
There is not much more than one can say about this event other than I can hardly wait to go to the next one. Better still, why not go to Portugal and taste the food/wine there. Funny enough that is exactly what I will be doing in July! Lucky me!!!