The Fifth Ticket
Pairing: Split Rock Brewing Co.
St. John’s Fish Exchange
Pairing; Jost Vineyards Selkie Rosé
The Reluctant Chef
Pairing; Gaspereau Vineyards 2016 Riesling
Best of Show Results
Norman Hardie 2015 Reisling
Tawse 2013 Quarry Road Chardonnay
Gaspereau 2016 Reisling
St. John’s under scudding cloud and occasional rain, the taxi driver from the airport bringing us up to date on all the local goings-on. Just time to change into party clothes and then we were at it again, over in the new Convention Centre, meeting this year’s competing chefs (almost all of them new to Gold Medal Plates), hugging old friends and sitting down to taste. It was a good showing – on a sensational evening. Multiple Olympic medallist Adam Van Koeverden perfectly mastered all the ceremonies, kept the energy high and the whole night moving, while our band – Jim Cuddy, Barney Bentall, Anne Lindsay, Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley – were on fire. Anyone who has been to a Gold Medal Plates event where Anne Lindsay has played will understand completely when I report that her solo during Jim’s song Five Days in May brought the entire room to their feet in breathless, adoring applause. Ditto when Jim and Barney sang Bobcaygeon – most beautifully and poignantly – in memory of Gord Downie, bringing back memories of Blue Rodeo’s 2016 tribute to the Hip. Scores of people were dancing in the aisles and by then the winning chefs had been named, summoned, greeted, lauded and applauded, and still stood high on their podium behind the athletes and musicians as the songs ended. The evening wound down most reluctantly in the Convention Centre, only to rekindle itself moments later for the after-party down at The Martini Bar on George Street. I don’t know where the after-after-party was this year. Perhaps I should ask my panel of judges for St. John’s, led by our new Senior Judge, a chef who has loyally competed for GMP almost every year since we first came to Newfoundland, Chef Roary MacPherson, most ably abetted by the Chef To Go himself, Bob Arniel, by the super-popular broadcaster and avid culinarian, Sharon Snow, by hotelier and restaurateur Wilma Hartmann, and by two past GMP St. John’s champions, Chef Mark McCrowe and Chef Shaun Hussey.
We awarded the bronze medal to Chef Jeremiah Stafford of The Reluctant Chef. His presentation curled dramatically around one side of the plate, elements posed on a dashing stripe of scallop-caramel jus. Scallop featured twice more on the plate – as crunchy, very flavourful scallop and as a single, whole beauty, gently cooked sous-vide. It sat on a thin slice of pressed pork belly, moist and tender, the fat and the lean of it in a loose relationship. Paying court to these proteins was tomato – as dots of pungent tomato jam, as quarters of tangy cherry tomato and as crispy, semi-circular tomato tuiles. Two big dabs of celeriac purée provided an earthier note while a dash of gooseberry gastrique proved to be more sweet than sour. Dainty little foraged greens were the final garnish – wild chickweed and tiny wood sorrel leaves like little shamrocks. Chef paired his creation with a wine from Nova Scotia – the refreshing, acidic 2016 Riesling from Gaspereau Vineyards in the Annapolis Valley.
Chef Maurizio Modica of St John’s Fish Exchange won the silver medal. He too built his dish around a scallop, this time perfectly pan-seared and crusted with a very tasty powder made from porcini and pea shoots. It was as splendid a scallop as you could hope to find, sitting atop a clever sauce made by puréeing some of the scallop’s less familiar anatomical features (the bits around the adductor mscle), seasoned with garlic and herbs. The second element was a “swollen gnocchi,” generously sized and generous in its potato flavour; the third was a moist, flavourful ragout of pulled pork belly and carrot brunoise that was exactly what the gnocchi needed. Chef decorated the plate with a real scallop shell dusted with beet powder and pea shot powder and garnished it with pea shoots, strips of dried porcini and a little hank of deep fried carrot threads. His wine choice was another Nova Scotian, the sparkling Selkie Rosé from Jost Vineyards, off dry but refreshing and nicely judged against both the scallop and the pork.
Chef Nick Jewczyk of The Fifth Ticket won our gold medal. Everything on his plate was delicious and harmonious, sometimes surprisingly so. At centre stage he placed a slice of braised beef cheek, moist, tender and not gooey the way beef cheek so often is. It tasted spectacularly meaty, sharing a little of its black garlic demi-glace with the nicely chewy wheat berries that lay beneath. The second protein was a thumb-sized slice of smoked beef tongue, silky and delectable, and the third was tuna – not as a piece of fish but as dabs of a tonnato sauce. Veal tonnato happens to be one of my favourite dishes; I now know that smoked tongue with tonnato sauce is every bit as scrumptious. That tongue was placed on a heap of tangy, lightly fermented “sauerkraut” made from Brussels sprouts and was topped with onion foam and half a teaspoonful of grainy mustard. Dots of yellow squash purée added further colour and the final flourish was translucent potato crisps that chef referred to as “potato glass.” Like everything else on the plate, they were flavourful and honest and part of a thoughtful creativity that made sense to the eye and the palate. Chef’s chosen bevvy was a brown ale called Alli’s Big Brown Ale from the Split Rock Brewing Co. in Twillingate, Newfoundland – a natural match for the braised beef cheek.
Chef Jewczyk will be coming to Kelowna in February, laden with our congratulations and the enthusiastic approval of the St. John’s crowd. We now have five champions! Six more must be found.
Classic Ontario Whites Rise Up in Newfoundland
Two great whites from Ontario battled down to the wire for Best Wine of Show at Gold Medal Plates St. John’s. Only one point separated them. If any of the seven judges had ranked the winner one place lower, and the runner-up one notch higher, the result would have flipped.
But as it stood when the tally was triple checked, Norman Hardie 2015 Riesling (VQA Ontario) took the gold, and will represent Newfoundland at the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna in February.
Poured from stock privately labelled for a St. John’s restaurant called The Merchant, it was a riesling of great intensity, verve and complexity – with only 9.8% alcohol and an acid-sugar balance clinic on how it’s done.
The Silver Medal went to Tawse Winery 2013 Quarry Road Chardonnay, from an organic vineyard up on top of the Niagara Escarpment in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation. It is a powerful, broad and complex chardonnay with great tension and some limestone nuance on the finish. A Platinum medal winner at the 2017 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada!
The Bronze medal also went to a riesling, but this time from Nova Scotia. The Gaspereau Vineyard 2016 Riesling from estate vines in the Gaspereau Valley was a model of tension and elegance with low alcohol, and a hint of sweetness and pear fruit coiled around a bean of great Nova Scotia acidity. Very fine indeed.
The Best of Show wine, beer and spirits competition is held in each city to highlight the generous donations from Canada’s beverage alcohol producers. I invite wine writers, sommeliers and retails in each community to gather as a judging panel, exposing them to new products. And the Best of Show provides publicity.
This year Gold Medal Plates launched a new three-tiered sponsorship program to acquire premium and reserve Canadian wines for all events. The wines on guest tables for Celebration portion of the event in St. John’s were all from silver sponsor Devonian Coast, Nova Scotia’ largest wine company, which makes wines under the Mercator, Gaspereau Vineyard and Jost brands.
This night we tasted the Jost 2016 Tidal Bay, one of the best of this new category of light, fruity summery whites made from Nova Scotia grapes. It is really a very good Tidal Bay, reminding me stylistically of Spain’s Rueda whites if with more acidity.
We also tasted two, new premium price wines that sewed more richness and complexity than I have come to expect from Nova Scotia hybrid-based table wines. Mercator Sauvage Sur Lie is a blended white fermented with wild yeast and aged on its lees, while Mercator 2012 En Cave is blend that included a portion of pinot noir, aged one year in barrel and three in bottle before release. Both show very positive evolution in wine styles in Nova Scotia.
This night six prominent Newfoundland wine authorities took the afternoon off to assist me in judging all the wines poured. And they faithfully return every year.
Tom Beckett is something of the Godfather of Newfoundland’s wine scene, a collector and member of several wine and beer tasting clubs. Steve Delaney is the former wine columnist for the St. John’s Telegram and now a blogger at www.ToYourTaste.ca. Andrew Facey is sommelier and lead product knowledge expert with the Newfoundland Liquor Commission. Tracey Rowe is the General Manager of the Beverage Baron, the largest wine agency in Newfoundland. Jennifer Murray travels the world importing rarities for Art of Wine. Martin Verhoeks, who is currently studying for his WSET Diploma is also with Art of Wine.
Although the three top finishers were clear winners, a couple of other wines got very favourable notice, including the Jost 2016 Tidal Bay mentioned above, the Pelee Island 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve, and a Nova Scotia apple cider called No Boats on Sunday that his rocketing up the charts in Atlantic Canada
A full list of the wines, cider and beer poured in St. John’s is listed below. Be sure to check for full reviews on www.winealign.com
Best of Show Winners
Norman Hardie Riesling 2015
Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula
Gaspereau Vineyards Riesling 2016
Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia
The Wines, Cider and Beer, (in tasting order)
Jost Vineyards 2016 Tidal Bay
Gaspereau Vineyards 2016 Riesling
Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia
Norman Hardie Winery 2015 Riesling
Mercator 2015 Sauvage Sur Lie
Tawse 2013 Chardonnay Quarry Road
Vinemount Ridge, Ontario
Pelee Island 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve
Mercator 2012 En Cave
Jost Vineyards Selkie Rosé
No Boats on Sunday Apple Cider
Split Rock Brewing Co. Alli’s Big Brown Ale
National Wine Advisor David Lawrason is co-founder of the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada https://www.winealign.com/awards, instructor for Fine Vintage Ltd Canadian Wine Scholar course https://www.finevintageltd.com/wine-courses/canadian-wine-scholar/, and author of the Canadian Wine Report at WineAlign.com.
Please contact David for Gold Medal Plates wine sponsorship opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org
2017 Photo Highlights
Thank you to the Gold Medal Plates sponsors and supporters who provide vital support to the project!
566 Water Street
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1E 1B8