Thursday, April 9, 2015

An Evening of French Food and Drink with Barton & Guestier

By: Alison Silveira

I enjoy watching the Food Network and seeing both professional and amateur chefs getting to exercise their creativity in the kitchen. Since most restaurants have their kitchens behind closed doors, it is rare to see chefs executing their signature dishes or sharing personal tips with curious guests. So when I was invited to take a culinary class hosted by Barton & Guestier (B & G) at Nella Cucina Kitchen, I jumped at the opportunity to work with an experienced chef in a professional kitchen. 
What's more is that special guest, Clementine Queraux, the Export Manager and Global Brand Ambassador for B & G guided us through wine and food pairings. Founded in 1725, B & G is the oldest wine merchant in Bordeaux, France. 
As I mingled with my peers, I was offered a glass of B & G Passeport Bordeaux Blanc. This light wine had floral notes combined with vanilla and fruity aromas. Served with fig and cheese crostini, it was the perfect prelude of delicious indulgences to come! 
Brianne Nash (of Chopped Canada fame) led our team in preparing the entree, which was grilled organic New York strip loin from Beretta Farms
Under Nash's instruction, we salted and grilled the steaks to a perfect 120 degrees. 
She also taught us how to make a flavourful wine reduction using B & G's Domaine La Gardie. The combination of wine, shallots, beef stock and rosemary produced a heavenly aroma while simmering away. I really enjoyed the hands-on and interactive component of preparing a meal with the other guests. I could not wait to sample the other dishes that were prepared. Once we finished cooking, we sat down and enjoyed the fruits of our labour together. 
Growing up on her family's vineyard in the Bordeaux region, Queraux has seen firsthand what it takes to produce high-quality wines. So it is a natural fit that she imparted her knowledge of B & G wine to us and did so in a most charming and entertaining manner.
The first course on the menu was a fresh beet, fennel and apple salad with honey-mustard dressing made by my peers. The wine pairing for the salad was a medium-bodied B & G Partager La Gardie Merlot, which had hints of herbs and the sweet scent of raspberry and currants. It was the perfect complement to the crisp and refreshing salad. 
I eagerly anticipated sampling the main course that my team and I prepared. The steak was served over truffle roasted fingerling potatoes and glazed beans. Although not as tender as other cuts of beef, strip loin is arguably the most flavourful. It is best cooked medium rare, so that it does not become tough in texture. I thoroughly enjoyed the steak, as it was juicy and bursting with flavour, even though it was sparsely seasoned. The vegetarian accompaniments provided a fine balance to the meal. Paired with a glass of dry B & G Partager La Gardie Cabernet Sauvignon, the medium bodied wine revealed notes of blackcurrant, cherry and plum aromas. 
To end the experience, we enjoyed a dark chocolate brownie with sour cherry compote. Dessert was paired with Les Charmes de Magnol M├ędoc, a Bordeaux blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot. Fruity aromas wafted from my glass of the smooth, tannic wine. Aged in French Oak for six months, it had a bold and distinctive flavour. 

My first foray in cooking French cuisine and learning about recommended wine pairings was an excellent learning experience thanks to Nash and Queraux. I look forward to hosting my next dinner party with an air of sophistication and French flair! 

To learn more about Barton & Guestier, visit barton-guestier.com/
To learn more about Nella Cucina Kitchen, visit nellacucina.ca

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