Toronto’s Hotel Intercontinental has launched a programme that encourages restaurant guests to bring their own wine by offering a menu that they’ll draw from to create a match for your meal. The deal is sweetened by the offer of no corkage fees from Monday to Thursday and $15 corkage on weekends.
I accepted an invitation to join a media preview of this meal in early April. As an interesting twist we were invited to bring a wine from our collection to share with the group and have paired with one of dinner’s courses.
My mischevious side in collaboration with advice from Mike Di Caro, one of Spotlight Toronto‘s wine writers, helped me settle on Malivoire’s 2009 Albert’s Honour Old Vines Foch. This is a good example of Marechal Foch, a little-grown grape that does particularly well in Ontario. Actually, Mike also suggested three or four even more esoteric Ontario grapes including Geisenhem which I didn’t recognise and the LCBO doesn’t carry. So, Foch it was and it would be a learning experience for me as well because as I admitted on Twitter before the dinner “I have no idea what to eat with Marechal Foch (other than Kaiser’s army) either.”
Our evening started at Proof, the Intercontinental’s vodka bar, with Sauternes (the most welcome drink I have been served in a vodka bar’s shot glass) paired with a generous portion of foie gras on a flaky, light brioche. Before we left Proof we were plied with a glass of sparkling paired with apple-wood smoked salmon on a chive
Once settled at a large table in Signatures we were ready for the serious eating to begin as we worked our way through the paired-down portions of the chef de cuisine Joe Rabba’s wine-pairing menu. Chef led off with a (sustainable) Sea Bass Thai yellow curry paired with a Sauvignon Blanc from Kim Crawford and a (guest-supplied) Riesling from Cave Springs. One of my table neighbours pointed out that distinctive tomato leaf aroma from the Kiwi sauv blanc and our end of the table agreed that while we liked both wines the Riesling won the head-to-head.
Next we were given the classic combination of chicken and Chardonnay. In this case, roast chicken supreme (with memorably delicious creamy mushrooms) and a 2009 Roux Pére et Fils les Murelles Chardonnay Bourgogne.
Vanilla poached lobster with truffle risotto was our final white wine course and it was a real winner. This dish was so good that I almost forgot to taste the Chateau Maligny Chablis Carre de Cesar that was paired with it. The room filled with the heady aroma of truffles and contented sighs from those around the table.
Making comparisons became even more interesting when the olive-oil marinated lamb chops and quinoa salad were joined by an excellently-cooked piece of salmon. We were also given two different wines to match with this course: Louis Jadot’s Bourgogne Pinot Noir and the 2007 Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir–four different food-wine combinations in one course. Here lies one of the big attractions of the programme: their is no limit on how many bottles a table can bring so it’s an opportunity to mix a variety of wine with everyone’s meal selection.
My trouble-making Foch made an appearance with the next course’s peppercorn-braised bison short ribs that was served with an extremely light pumpkin puree and delicious sugar snap peas. Maybe not the best wine of the night, the Foch was definitely one of the more distinctive and stood up well beside the Jacob’s Creek Shiraz.
Our last main course was Chef Rabba’s take on a deconstructed bouef bourguignon. Here again we were allowed a New World vs. Old World comparison between the 2004 Kenwood Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2005 Château Vieux Pourret.
By the time we reached the cheese and dessert courses (and that matched Tawny Port) some appetites had begun to fade but I dutifully finished as much of mine as I could. Particular attention was paid to the Niagara Gold, one of my favourites, on the cheese plate.
This meal was an impressive display of culinary skill. If dishes leaned to the formal in terms of style and composition they also offered flawless execution and flavour. The options from the wine-pairing menu (and remember that the portions shown in my photos were reduced in size for our meal) range from $26 to $32 so aren’t a steal on paper. But when quality, wine-matching expertise, and free-corkage weekdays are accounted for I think Signatures is offering very good value here.
On Trip Atlas Natalie Taylor has her take on the meal.