A beautiful night in Niagara-on-the-Lake at Stratus Winery for their first event in the Coast to Coast Series. Billed as not your usual winemakers dinner and it certainly was not! Host Charles Baker and Suzanne Janke of Stratus pulled off an incredible event, balmy weather included. Their intention of bringing in talented chefs from across the country who are friends of the winery and share the same philosophy of food and wine got off to a relaxed, informative and engaging start.
Vikram Vij from Vancouver's Vij's was the guest chef, with me to do the interview, which with Vij means I asked "so what's new Vikram?" and then sat back and watched him regale us with stories, anecdotes and lots of Indian culinary wisdom.
Appetizers on the terrace with naan being baked in the "portable" tandoor oven. The oven having been popped in the back of a mini van and trekked down the QEW by the wonderful folks at Amaya. I doubt the 800 degree oven went home in said mini van that night!
Stratus wines for the terrace reception were two whites, Viognier, and the Semillion. Terrific sippers for the sultry evening.
Dinner was served at one long table in the "press alley" amongst the stainless steel and oak casks with fabulous table decorations and lighting.
Chef Ryan Crawford (Stone Road Grille) and Chef Joshna Maharaj (trailblazing hospital food reformer) were there to help Vikram, and oversee the Niagara College culinary students, in an impossibly small kitchen. Amazing what chefs can produce in such confined, overheated spaces!
Dinner (and wine pairings) involved Spot Prawns ('11 Stratus Riesling), Vij's family chicken curry ('11 Wildass Rose), lamb popsicles ('08 Stratus Red or '08 White) and rice pudding with silver leaf, no not gold leaf! ('08 Stratus Icewine White).
Sitting next to winemaker J-L Groux we both concurred that reds do not pair well with Indian food and whites rule the roost when matching Indian cuisine.
Interesting news Vikram's wife Meeru is opening a new restaurant in Seattle in November. And Vikram has just launched a new food line which can be purchased at All the Best Fine Foods in Toronto as well as Mcewan's. He also was surprisingly complimentary about the availability of spices and condiments at large grocery stores!
This was a wonderful evening to be amongst the vines and the casks in a very relaxed atmosphere.
Saturday's event sold out so don't miss the next event in the Coast to Coast Series at Stratus, September 8th with chefs from Stephen Beckta's latest restaurant Gezellig in Ottawa and November 3rd chef Jeremy Charles of Raymond's in St John's.
And yes I will be back as well with all my questions.
See you there!
For more details on Sept & Nov Coast to Coast events visit the winery website.