Monday, June 25, 2012

Judgement at Algonquin

Of all the ways that I can think of spending a Monday evening, judging 13 different wine and food matches, put together by students of the Wine and Food Matching course at Algonquin College, ranks high on my list.  All that’s required in return is that I offer my opinion on the merits on each match and award a medal to deserving participants.  Easy peasy.

So when the course instructor – Liam Doody – again invited me to be one of the judges for the Wine and Food Matching final exam, I happily accepted, because not only is it fun but it means I didn’t screw it up the last time.  (You can read about my previous experience here.)

For the final exam of the Wine and Food Matching course, teams of students prepare a food dish and match it with the wine that they think works best.  The teams submit a paper that describes why they chose the food dish, how they chose the matching wine, and why they think this match is the best. 

The final exam isn’t just a paper exercise.  The teams must prepare the food dish, either at home beforehand or in the kitchen at Algonquin's Restaurant International, and serve it with their chosen wine for judging by recognized me.

After tasting each dish with its matching wine, the judges award "medals" based on the following criteria:
  • Gold:
  • The wine and food pairing adds to the enjoyment of the wine AND the cuisine.
  • Silver:
  • The wine and food pairing adds to either the enjoyment of the wine OR the cuisine, but not both.
  • Bronze:
  • The wine and food pairing does not add to, nor detract from, the enjoyment of either the wine or the cuisine.
  • No Certificate:
  • The wine and food pairing detracts from either, or both, the enjoyment of the wine or the cuisine.
My judging partner this time around was fellow sommelier, Geoffrey Skeggs, a man with fingers in many pies.  He founded the Beer course and the Whiskey course at Algonquin College and has his own company, Zymurgy Wines and Beers.  Geoffrey was also the judge when I completed the Wine and Food Matching course.  (Really, no hard feelings about that Silver Medal, Geoffrey.)  Geoffrey has considerably more judging experience than I do and it was a great evening as he brought his experience to the table, literally.  

Here are the interesting food and wine matches that we sampled and upon which we rendered our verdicts.  Outstanding efforts!

Mexican Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Cono Sur Viognier 2011
Pacific Rim 3-part harmony makes for a delicious app

Aloo Tikki with Studert-Pruem Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spaetlese 2007
Delicious Indian spice mellowed by soothing Mosel Riesling
Oui, aloo? Oui aloo!

Chicken Jalfrezi with Konzelmann Pinot Blanc 2010
A classic Indian dish matched with an underrated crisp summer wine...refreshing!

Carrot Ginger Soup with Toasted Head Chardonnay 2011
Rich soup meets richer Chardonnay...Trump that!

Roquefort and Green Apple Tart with Gisselbrecht Riesling 2010
This food-friendly Riesling hits the right notes with the roquefort...
...and the green apples...
...and the walnut crust. 

Cauliflower with Bechamel Sauce and added Gruyere Cheese with Collavini Prosecco NV
A surprisingly good match that fit the definition for a Gold Medal: each makes the other better

Gourmet Mac & Cheese with Sileni Pinot Noir 2011
You know what happens when you're 25 minutes late delivering your dish to the judge?
He forgets to take a photo. :-(  But he doesn't forget to comfort food.

Spiced Flank Steak with Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Reserve 2009
Big Chewy Steak meets Big Chewy Wine
Who says there's no such thing as Canadian cuisine?

Greek Ribs with Clos La Coutale Cahors 2010
This rubbed me the right way.

BBQ Korean Beef with Red Knot Shiraz 2010
Classic combo...marinated grilled beef with a big bold Aussie Shiraz.  Always delicious.

Spetzofai, a classic Greek dish (Spicy sausages with tomato sauce and peppers) with Papaioannou Agiorgitiko 2007
There's a reason why regional dishes and wines work so well together...centuries of experience.  And it doesn't break the bank.

Pavlova with Bottega Petalo Il Vino dell'Amore Moscato NV
Wow...after all that meat this was a real treat.
A light refreshing dessert with a light refreshing sparkling.  I'm still dancing.

Pecan Pie with Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat NV
Stunning!   It makes you want a whole pie and a bottle all to yourself.
Flavours and textures keep sending you back and forth between the pie and the wine.
Best in show!
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