Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Salut to New Zealand Wine Makers Dinner

I was invited by the lovely people at Salut Wine + Food Festival Series to attend the Salut to New Zealand Wine Makers Dinner last Wednesday, May 11th, at Victor Restaurant & Lounge, located at Hôtel Le Germain. Before I go on any further I just want to say a big THANK YOU to Salut Wine + Food Festival (@SalutToronto) for inviting me!

In case you haven't heard of Salut Wine + Food Festival, let me give you a bit of background info first. Salut Wine + Food Festival, which took place in Toronto this year from May 7 to May 14 (they were previously in Calgary from April 7 to 17) offers us Torontonians a week full of exciting and entertaining events catered to food and wine lovers, and events that bring you up close and personal with leading international and local winemakers, chefs, and food producers.

These amazing events are obviously right up my alley. And well, just my luck (or lack thereof), I came down with a sore throat + runny & stuffy nose combo exactly when the Salut Wine + Food Festival started =( I contemplated skipping this dinner altogether as I was feeling groggy the whole day at work, but...but...being the foodie that I am, I couldn't resist!

So I headed to Hôtel Le Germain right after work. Hôtel Le Germain is located right at the heart of the Entertainment District on Mercer Street, near King and John. Once I stepped into the lobby, I was immediately given a glass of Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvee Brut~

The reception took place in this beautiful room beside the lobby - it had glass walls that stretched all the way up to the second floor. The room also had a double-sided fireplace, a library, a cappuccino bar, and as you can see, a lot of big comfy sofas in the middle.

The room got filled up really quickly as more and more guests arrived. Everybody was soon sipping on these great reception wines (clockwise, from top left):

Blind River Pinot Noir Marlborough 2009
Elephant Hill Viognier Hawke's Bay 2010
Ostler Audrey's Pinot Gris Waitaki Valley 2009
Kim Crawford Small Parcels Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2008

Hor d'oeuvres made their way out as well:

Mushroom and Mozzarella Tarts with Nettles.

Lake Fish Brandade with Lemon Mayo.

Kimchi and BBQ Short Rib Hand Rolls.

After the reception, it was time for dinner at Victor Restaurant & Lounge

Elliot Faber (@flywineguy), Wine Director and Operations of Salut Wine + Food Festival Series, gave us an introduction about the different New Zealand wines featured that night as well as the extraordinary gourmet meal that we were all about to enjoy.

Throughout the dinner and before each course, wine principals direct from New Zealand guided us through a brief history of their winery, region, and the characteristics of the particular wine chosen for each course (clockwise, from top left):

Glenn Cunningham, Export Development Manager, Kim Crawford
Debbie Sutton, Owner, Blind River Wines
Gordie Felt, Director, Ostler Vineyards
Guenter Thies, Managing Director, Elephant Hill Estate & Winery

Let the feast begin! 

As I've already mentioned, I was suffering from a horrible cold which severely impaired my taste buds; I simply couldn't taste anything at all (not even goat cheese...yeah, it was that serious). So unfortunately, I cannot comment on the dishes that night. Geez, can you imagine how frustrated I was seeing everyone around me enjoy their wines and meal while I couldn't taste a thing, and had to keep going to the washroom to blow my nose? *Sigh*. Such is life.   

But hey, no worries, a sore throat + a stuffy nose did not stop me from taking pictures of my meal!

Seared Scallops, Shaved Sunchokes, Poached Oyster and Mint 
Paired with Kim Crawford Small Parcels Riesling Waipara 2006

Wild Leek and Goat Cheese Terrine with Warm Potatoes, Bacon Vinaigrette
Paired with Blind River Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2010

Roasted Quail with Zucchini and Tomato Confit Tart, Radishes and Duck Fat Hollandaise
Paired with Ostler Caroline's Pinot Noir Waitaki Valley 2009

Roasted Bison Striploin with Celeriac Puree, Morel Mushroom Jus
Paired with Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah Hawke's Bay 2009

Before dessert, Chef David Chrystian of Victor Restaurant came out and spoke to us about the various components and flavours in his dishes and how they complement with the wines. Chef Chrystian is a well-known local talent recognized as one of the top 10 Chefs in Toronto by The National Post

Dessert was a Compressed Kiwi with Coconut Milk Custard and Macadamia Nut Crumble

Although I wasn't feeling 100% that night, I am so glad I attended this Salut to New Zealand Wine Makers Dinner; not only did I learn more about New Zealand wines, I also had great conversations with the people I met that night, and that alone totally made up for my inability to taste food. 

OK... maybe not "totally", but close enough =P