Lunch on a Friday afternoon is good. Lunch on a Friday afternoon with a glass of wine is better. A three-course lunch with wine pairings on a Friday afternoon with the winemaker is the best!
Friday Afternoon Wine at Blink Restaurant for the Big Taste Foodie Festival
That’s exactly where I found myself on Friday, March 2, at Blink Restaurant & Bar as part of the kick-off lunch for this year’s The Big Taste Foodie Festival. An amazing three-course lunch paired with three different wines from Okanagan Valley, British Columbia winery TH Wines. If you’re not familiar with Big Taste in Calgary, it’s a 10-day marathon of lunches, dinners, and events featuring various restaurants and local culinary celebrities. The event is a great way to get out and experience some of the best food and wine that Calgary, Alberta has to offer.
The kick-off lunch at Blink Restaurant and Bar marks the third straight year I have participated in a signature event as part of the Big Taste festival, and it never fails to deliver. As always, the food is excellent and great care is taken to ensure the wine pairing is on point.
Tyler Harlton, Proprietor & Winemaker — TH Wines, Okanagan Valley
This year, the lunch at Blink just had that little something extra to it and for me, it was having Tyler Harlton, the namesake and winemaker of TH Wines at the event. There’s something about having the winemaker discuss his wines while you’re partaking in them. It actually makes them taste better! Plus, I always cherish the opportunity to meet the winemaker behind a wine I already enjoy and have the chance to tell them so!
The other thing that made this lunch that little bit sweeter, was knowing that Leslie Echino, owner and restaurant director of Blink was going to be personally pairing the wines for each course. Being aware of her ability and talent when it comes to food and wine pairing just increased my excitement for the event.
First Course, Stracciatella Salad & Viognier Wine Pairing
Our first course was a Stracciatella salad with rocket greens, herb croutons and a lemon vinaigrette, paired with the 2016 Viognier. For such a seemingly simple salad, it delivered a wonderful range of flavours and textures. Crispy yet buttery croutons and fresh peppery greens, all dressed in just the slightest hint of lemon. The choice of Viognier as the pairing was genius. Vibrant notes of lemon, green apple, pear, and papaya all served to both compliment and contrast the flavor of the salad.
Viognier can often be described as having an oily texture to it and this was definitely prevalent in the TH Viognier. In this case, that oily texture served to balance the acidity of the vinaigrette, while a sharp flinty minerality to the wine provided just the right amount of bite to offset the creaminess of the stracciatella.
Second Course, Braised Pork Shoulder & Pinot Noir Wine Pairing
The second course was a choice of either braised pork shoulder with a maple-mustard vinaigrette, parmesan polenta, smoked rutabaga puree, and spring vegetables or aged Carnaroli risotto with shitake and oyster mushrooms. I have to admit I made a mistake on this course. Being the carnivore I am, I instantly went with the pork shoulder. If I had actually stopped for one second and thought about it the better choice would have been the risotto given that the pairing for this course was the 2015 Pinot Noir. I mean, hello, mushrooms are a classic flavor profile of Pinot Noir after all.
That being said the pork shoulder was just as equally delicious. Perfectly cooked the pork was tender, salty and sweet all at the same time. As with the salad, the pairing of the Pinot Noir was exceptional. Youthful notes of cherry, strawberry, and cranberry served as a fruit backdrop against the earthy flavors of parmesan and smoked rutabaga. Yet, also present in the wine were some maturing notes of cedar and tobacco and those only served to accentuate those same flavors. While showing a somewhat milder acid profile than I expected there was more than enough acid in the wine to pierce through the salty fattiness of the pork. The softer almost velvety texture of the wine was a perfect counterbalance to the meatiness of the pork shoulder. A fuller bodied wine with heavier tannins might actually overshadow the pork rather than compliment it.
Chocolate Pave Dessert Paired with TH Wines Cabernet Franc
This brings us to dessert, a brown butter chocolate pave, cocoa nib tuile and blackberry sorbet. While I’m normally not much of a dessert person, I thoroughly enjoyed this, perhaps that’s because it was paired with the 2016 Cabernet Franc. Now yu might now think of a Cabernet Franc when it comes to pairing a wine with dessert, but in this case it works. That might be because the milk chocolate and blackberry notes in the wine play so nicely alongside the pave and sorbet.
Also lending ahelping hand is the fact that the TH Cabernet Franc has a somewhat softer body then what’s found in most Cabernet Francs, helping to heighten the rich satiny texture of the pave instead of drowning it out. Tyler himself pointed out that his winemaking style for the TH Wines Cabernet Franc steers clear of imparting a lot of oak flavour, instead focusing on more of a fruit forward wine. This much more fruit-forward, juicier style is probably why it paired so well with the dessert.
Another Glass of Wine (or two) At Bar Annabelle
With dessert served that brought us to end of our amazing lunch. Three fantastic dishes all served with three equally fantastic wines. My dining companion and I were disheartened to believe that lunch was over, we were still hungry for more. To us, the most logical thing to do was head next door to Bar Annabelle, Leslie Echino’s latest endeavor, for another glass of wine or two. That, however, is a story for another day!