scallop mousse & pea puree

Earlier this month, thanks to Pronosher, I got to attend two events in the Salut Wine & Food Festival. The first was the Fetzer Great Beginnings Appetizer Challenge at Bram & Bluma Appel Salon in the Toronto Reference Library. Eight of the area's restaurants came to offer their best appetizer to pair with Fetzer's Pinot Grigio.

I'll go more in depth into my three favourites, but here's an overview of what the other five contestants had to offer. The chefs from Crush made a foie gras tourchon with Pinot Grigio gelée and rhubarb compote. While this had a nice texture and the gelée was interesting, the sprinkling of sea salt on top just overpowered everything else for me and actually gave the wine a bitterness at the back.

Brassaii's octopus carpaccio with chorizo and white wine jelly was good, but I thought the delicate flavour of the perfectly sliced octopus was taken over by the spicy sausage. The sausage element, however, did do well with the wine. The pan roasted Ontario pickerel from Four with smoked ham hock, wild rice vinegarette and jerusalem artichoke chip was really lovely and showed a good balance of flavours that complemented the pinot grigio nicely.

Then there were the two dishes I couldn't sample due to my previously mentioned and tragic crustacean allergy. There was the intensely complex looking torched drunken prawns from Sen5es. The other was Splendido's spotted prawn sashimi on cracklin with a lime juice reduction, which caused at least one of my companions to have a foodgasm.

Now on to my faves. First, there was the sumptuous scallop mousse in green pea pureée with marscapone cream and sturgeon caviar from Langdon Hall. Silky and fresh, I went back for a few servings of this one. The sweet spring-ness of the peas went so well with the minced scallops and the hit of salt from the caviar, and it all brought out some fantastic elements in the wine. The acidity of it was well served by this dish.

bacalao alla nonna

Via Allegro's bacalao alla nonna hit my nostalgia centre in the best possible way. Salted cod is a huge staple in Trinidad, so I have a soft spot for anything featuring this. I've also been an italophile for most of my life. My dad used to call me Luigi when I was little and first learning to cook and showed a real love for Italian cuisine. The bacalao was stewed for hours with tomatoes, capers, olives and served on a lemon herb polenta. To my palate, this was the dish that best complemented the pinot grigio. I'm not sure whether it was the acidity of the tomatoes and brine of the capers and olives that so perfectly smoothed out any sharp edges of the wine, but that's my theory and I'm sticking to it. I also could have eaten buckets of the polenta on it's own. Yummmmmmm.

Seared Scallop with White Wine Ravioli

The people's, and judge's, choice was the incredibly creative offering from 17 Noir. A seared scallop was served atop a slice of king crab (removed from mine) and pistachio purée, accompanied by a white wine ravioli. The ravioli made my eyes bug out. It was so mad genius it gave me the giggles. When you bite into the pasta, a gush of slightly thickened white wine explodes into your mouth in a way that surprises and delight. More importantly, it tasted good. The sweetness of what I assume is the reduced wine matched very well with the sweet & salt of the sea creatures on the plate.

I feel very lucky to have been able to attend this event, as I don't know if or when I would have been exposed to these restaurants otherwise. Stay tuned for Salut part two, in which I discuss the Terroir event at George Brown. Also, check out more pictures from the Fetzer event in my Flickr set, Salut 2010.

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