Chef Results

Gold

Briana Kim
Café My House

Pairing: Ontario Spring Water Sake Company

Silver

Yannick LaSalle
Restaurant Les Fougères

Pairing: Norman Hardie 2015 Unfiltered Chardonnay

Bronze

Steven Harris
two six {ate}

Pairing: Casa-Dea Estates 2016 Embrace Reisling

Best of Show Results

Gold

Mission Hill 2012 Compendium

Silver

Norman Hardie 2015 Unfiltered Chardonnay

Bronze

Arterra 2016 Pinot Noir

Culinary Report

We were promised snow in Ottawa, penultimate stop on the Gold Medal Plates marathon, but though the weather was bitterly cold and blustrous the sky was delightfully blue. At least, it was this morning as we all awoke to memories of last night’s triumphant gala in the glamorous Shaw Centre. Isabelle Charest was our brilliant MC and Sylvie Bigras led the Olympians’ question-and-answer on stage, the sold-out audience of 600 guests hanging on every funny, charming, inspirational word from Farah Jacques (athletics, Rio 2016), Erica Wiebe (wrestling gold medallist, Rio 2016) and Ashleigh McIvor – (skicross gold medallist Skicross, Vancouver 2010). Did I mention the band? They rocked the house led by Neil Osborne of 54-40, Jeremy Fisher, Devin Cuddy, Sam Polley and, making her GMP debut, singer-songwriter Kandle Osborne.

It has been eleven years since I first sat down beside author, editor and restaurant critic Anne DesBrisay to judge Gold Medal Plates, and it’s always a highlight of my year to see her again. With us last night was local industry leader and owner of Thyme and Again Creative Catering, Sheila Whyte; Chairman of the Canadian Culinary Federation and executive chef of the House of Commons, Judson Simpson CMC; the only chef in history to be named Canadian Culinary Champion twice, Chef Marc Lepine of Atelier; publisher, food writer and culinary historian, Dr. Janet Boileau; and last year’s gold-medal-winning chef, Joe Thottungal of Coconut Lagoon. We had a fine old time tasting a broad range of highly original, very Canadian dishes that started with seal and ended with elk osso bucco. There was so much sea urchin in the room I fear for the species.

It was certainly front and centre and everywhere else on our bronze-medal-winning dish from Steven Harris of two six {ate} restaurant. On one side of his plate we found a glistening sausage that Chef described as an urchin hot dog, made of juicy, finely ground pork belly infused with urchin. On the other side was a dome of aspic made from a kelp and mushroom dashi. Chef had dried urchin to resemble bonito and then shaved flakes into his broth before turning it to jelly. He had also used the same ingredients to create a pungent powder which he sprinkled across the rim of the plate. Hidden inside the aspic was a runny urchin cream with a gloriously intense flavour that was off the charts in terms of umami. Two moments of actual raw urchin reminded us of the source of all this deliciousness. As a vegetable component, Chef proposed smal white drums of pickled kohlrabi while a green squiggle of sprouted wheat emulsion was mirrored with a drizzle of sweet whey-fermented ground cherry molasses. Fresh tarragon was a fragrant flourish beside the sausage and the requisite crunch came from a delicate tapioca crisp dyed black with squid ink. “Sea urchin always reminds me of foie gras,” Chef Harris told us, a parallel that led him towards his wine, the bright, off-dry 2016 “Embrace” Riesling from Casa Dea Winery in Prince Edward County.

Our silver medal went to Chef Yannick La Salle of Restaurant Les Fougères in Chelsea, Quebec. His central protein was wild arctic char from Nunavut, cured very briefly in salt, rinsed and then cooked sous vide with lemon oil for 15 minutes at just 43o until the flesh was soft but still possessed of its fresh, glistening colour. A host of miniature elements were crowded on top of the small piece of char including toasted sesame seeds and puffed wild rice for crunch and two of three distinct treatrments of buternut squash – a brunoise of the vegetable roasted with brown butter and crisp, tissue-thin shards of a dehydrated squash “paper” that had first been brushed with maple and ginger. The third squash element was a stunning purée enhanced by brown butter, maple syrup and a splash of oloroso sherry to bring out its natural sweetness. For a moment of savoury bitterness, Chef pickled red endive leaves and laid them like petals on top of the other garnishes. Two or three scarlet cranberries finished the dish, their tartness mitigated by more maple syrup, their flavour concentrated by gentle dehydration. They were dressed with a vinaigrette “dissocié” made with reduced cranberry juice, squash oil, maple and ginger that spilled out onto the plate from a dimple pressed into the surface of the squash purée. It was a dish that surrounded the fish with rich, bold autumnal flavours, all of which were contrasted by a very precisely focused, complex wine, the 2015 unfiltered Chardonnay that Norman Hardie Winery produced from fruit grown on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench.

It’s a bold chef who decides to offer a vegan dish at a Gold Medal Plates competition, though we have awarded two silvers to vegan creations in other years in Ottawa. Last night a vegan dish won gold, the work of Briana Kim, chef-owner of Café My House. In her written description of the dish, she described its principal component as “steak” but in fact it turned out to be mushroom. Chef Kim had made a dense cake of chopped miso-marinated crimini mushrooms and set two or three little cubes of it into her bowl. She added some whole smoked mushrooms, leaves of chared cabbage the size of large postage stamps, petals of pearl onion, and sweet, crunchy balls of Asian pear. A short length of blistered shishito pepper, some dots of citrus honey and a touch of shiso added attendant flavours, all brought together by a piping hot broth scented with Kombu and charred onion that Chef poured into the bowl. Micro greens added bright colour and resting across the bowl was a long crisp made from rice studded with fennel and coriander. Her choice of beverage (on a night when the chefs had already paired up with cider, sour beer, even sourer beer and a rye whisky cocktail as well as with wine) was the delightful, fruity, forthright Izumi of the North Junmai Genshu sake from the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company in Toronto – a wonderful match.

Huge kudos to Chef Kim who will be competing for the Championship in Kelowna in February. I can’t wait to taste more of her food. And now only one last evening remains – our Toronto event, next Thursday.

Wine/Spirits Report

A Fitting Showcase for Canadian Diversity and Excellence

BY David Lawrason, National Wine Advisor

The Gold Medal Plates event in Ottawa on November 9 was a showcase of the diversity of the beverage scene in the nation’s capital, and across the country.  Over 600 guests enjoyed Quebec cider, Ontario-brewed sake and beer, cocktails, plus sparkling wine, whites and reds from nearby Prince Edward County, Niagara Peninsula and B.C.’s Okanagan Valley.

It was the most diverse selection I had seen in the nine city championships to date. Each of these categories earned votes from the six judges assembled for the difficult judging of Best of Show but it was a top wrung red from B.C. that took the Best of Show honours.

Mission Hill Family Estate 2012 Compendium, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc grown in the hot southern Okanagan Valley near Osoyoos, is proof positive that Canada can make powerful and elegant “big reds”.  It is full bodied, deep and well balanced and brimming black berry and oak flavours.  Four of six judges in the Best of Show beverage competition placed it in their top three wines, two with first place votes.

Compendium, along with Mission Hill’s excellent 2015 Perpetua Chardonnay, which tied for bronze in the competition, are more expensive wines that belong to Mission Hill’s Legacy “tier”.  A limited quantity of each were placed on guest’s tables during the Celebration portion of the event, the most expensive wines ever donated to a Gold Medal Plates event.  They were joined by Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Pinot Gris and 2015 Reserve Merlot.  Mission Hill is a Gold Sponsor this year.

Another National/Gold Sponsor is newly-named Arterra Wines, formerly known as Constellation which owns brands like Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin and other brands in B.C. and Ontario.  It rolled out its new premium Arterra Chardonnay and Pinot Noir this year in Ontario, both receiving accolades from the judges, with the Arterra 2016 Pinot Noir tying for the Bronze medal. It is a thoroughly modern, well-structured pinot that opened in the glass with about an hour of aeration.

The Silver medal went to Norman Hardie 2015 Chardonnay from Niagara, a riveting, complex and deep white made my one of Canada’s most critically acclaimed winemakers. Based in nearby Prince Edward County, but also making wines from Niagara fruit, Norman Hardie has long been a generous supporter of Gold Medal Plates, also donating a gold medal winning riesling in St. John’s this year.

Cave Spring of Niagara also stepped up this year as a silver sponsor, donating their 2015 Cabernet Franc to the Celebration in Ottawa and Toronto.  Cave Spring is better known as a riesling producer, but they are doubling down on their efforts to produce fine reds from Ontario’s most widely grown grape.  Three judges placed this highly, indeed it was my second-place candidate, and best value candidate.

And I want to give special mention and thanks to Rosewood Estates winery of Niagara that donated multiple cases of wines to two Ottawa chefs this year. Both their 2014 Origin Riesling and 2016 Pinot Noir earned top five votes as well.

As usual Prince Edward County wineries also stepped up to support the GMP event in Ottawa, which has embraced the wines of its next-door wine region with more fervour than any other.  Rosehall Run and Casa Dea each contributed racy sparkling wines.

The Best of Show judging is held prior to each event, as way to highlight the generous donation of beverage by Canada’s wineries, brewers and distillers.  In Ottawa I assembled four wine pros/sommeliers and one sommelier in training, to judge 20 beverages.

Many thanks to Asha Hingorani, a certified sommelier and Director of Government and Public Affairs for the Canadian Vintners Association.  Steve Robinson is the sommelier at Atelier in Ottawa, and a recent competitor in the CAPS National Sommelier Competition.  Tom Vigeant of Gatineau is an instructor in wine at La Cité Collégiale in Ottawa. Diane Willis is a sommelier and volunteer with Gold Medal Plates; and Allegra Heney is a wine enthusiast and sommelier-in-training who joined us for her first competition.

As you can imagine from the list below the judging of so many types of beverages proved challenging, but each had their champions, even the “Manhattan” cocktail made Elk Marrow Washed based Lot #40 Rye with fermented blueberries, which was voted number one by Steve Robinson.

Here are the Best of Show Winners (linked to full reviews on WineAlign), and a list of all the wines, beers, sake and spirits poured in tasting order.

The Best of Show Winners

Gold

Mission-Hill Compendium 2012

Silver

Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2015

Bronze (tie)

Arterra Pinot Noir 2016

Mission Hill Perpetua2015

 

The Whites & Sparklers

Rosehall Run 2016 “Ceremony” Blanc de blanc
Prince Edward County

Casa-Dea Estates 2016 Embrace Sparkling Riesling
Prince Edward County

Rosewood Estates 2014 ‘Origin’ Riesling
Beamsville Bench, Niagara

Jackson Triggs 2015 Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
Niagara Peninsula

Inniskillin 2016 Reserve Pinot Gris
Niagara Peninsula

Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Pinot Gris
Okanagan Valley

Arterra 2016 Chardonnay
Niagara Peninsula

Norman Hardie 2015 Unfiltered Chardonnay
Beamsville Bench, Niagara

Mission Hill Family Estate 2015 Perpetua (Chardonnay)
Okanagan Valley

The Reds

Arterra 2016 Pinot Noir
Niagara Peninsula

Rosewood Estates 2016 Unfiltered Pinot Noir
Niagara Peninsula

Cave Spring 2015 Cabernet Franc
Niagara Escarpment

Jackson Triggs 2015 Grand Reserve Red Meritage
Niagara Peninsula

Mission Hill 2015 Reserve Merlot
Okanagan Valley

Mission Hill 2012 Compendium
Okanagan Valley

The Sake, Cider, Beer and Spirits

Clos Saragnat Foule Bulles Cidre Fermier
Frelighsburg, Québec

Ontario Spring Water Sake Company
Izumi of the North. Junmai Genshu
Ontario.

Nickel Brook Brewing Co.Nectarine Über Berliner Style Weisse
Burlington Ontario

Dominion City Brewing 2016, Barrel Fermented Brett Farmhouse Ale
Northfield

Elk Marrow Washed Lot No. 40 Rye Manhattan with Fermented Blueberries
Canada

 

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 david@davidlawrason.com

Sponsors

Thank you to the Gold Medal Plates sponsors and supporters who provide vital support to the project!

Contact

Sue Holloway – Operations
57 River Garden Private
Ottawa, Ontario K1V 1M8
P: 613-286-3936
E: ottawa@goldmedalplates.com