Earlier in August, Toronto's Group of Seven chefs visited Niagara wine country for the first time, to host a unique Visa Infinite dinner at Jackson-Triggs winery that showcased wines from all across Ontario.
The Group of Seven chefs formed in Toronto in early 2011. A small collective of Toronto chefs decided to come together to break the template of restaurant dining, and host a number of unique communal dining events. In the past the group has focused on sustainable seafood, fowl, and a dinner inspired by chef and author Jennier McLagan's cookbook "Odd Bits". Recently this year, the group held a 'Prohibition' themed party at Cowbell, and a Perth pork themed multi-course dinner with Derek Dammann at the Evergreen Brick Works.
The core roster for the group includes chefs; Kevn McKenna (Taboo Resort), Chris Brown (The Stop Community Centre), Bertrand Alepee (Tempered Chef, formerly of Amuse Bouche), Mark Cutrara (Cowbell), Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour), Scott Vivian (Beast Restaurant), and Marc Dufour (Earth), with occasional guest chefs like Nick Liu (GwiaLo), and Rob Gentile (Buca). The dinners have developed a cult-like following over the last year, leading to an invitation to cook at the James Beard house this month.
A reception was held in the Jackson-Triggs ampitheatre complex with a trio of appetizers from guest chefs, paired with three different sparkling wines from JT. The Silver series Classique Sparkling Brut 2007 ($22.95) – a very successful, affordable, floral sparkling wine with green apple notes. Great by itself and with canapes. Followed by Entourage Methode Classique Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($29.95), and the Entourage Methode Classique Sparkling Merlot 2007 ($29.95).
Unlike most wine dinners where guests are treated to a suggested wine pairing per course, during this year, guests were presented with two local wines per course. Host Anton Potvin (formerly of Niagara street cafe) led guests through the concent of wine pairings and the many misunderstandings when it comes to presenting certain varietals with certain types of food. For example, a plate of smoked confit of pork shoulder was served with bacon creamed corn and Niagara peaches.
Suggested pairings included the 2009 Riesling from Hidden Bench Winery, and the 2011 Gamay Noir from 13th Street Winery. One on hand the fattyness of the pork and creamy elements were lifted by the crispness and acid in the Riesling. On the other, the gamay noir added depth, and softened the fatty elements, and corn. They were both winners, but no two guests could agree on one pairing. This dance continued throughout the night as guests relished the fact that they could choose their favourite mix instead of a predetermined, 'forced' pairing.
A dish of smoked mackerel, cured roe, and mornay sauce was presented with Cuvee Catharine Brut from Henry of Pelham, and Stratus White 2008. The bubbly again playing with the fatty and rich elements of the dish, while adding cherry and yeasty notes. The Stratus white going in a different direction with its composition (Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Semillion, Chardonnay) adding depth and oaky and tropical fruit elements to the fish. One wine lifted it and the other added deeper flavours to the plate.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir faced each other for the main course. Short rib served lobster, bathed in Nick Liu's tom yum beurre blanc. A fantastic surf n' turf composition that was paired with Le Clos Jordanne Talon Ridge Chardonnay 2009, and Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2010. Both wines offering a great amount of depth to different elements on the dish.
In total 14 Ontario wines were showcased with seven different courses.
The Group of Seven Chefs
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Written by Suresh Doss
Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag.com. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America.