The Ottawa-Gatineau Gold Medal Plates, held on Thursday November 22nd at the Hilton Lac Leamy was the final event of a seven-city, pan-national gastronomic tour. The evening began in a ballroom filled with the delicious smells of wonderful things cooking as eleven of our region’s chefs competed for our favour and to see who would take the top prize, winning a spot at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Toronto in February.
The competing chefs were Ben Baird of The Urban Pear, Matthew Carmichael of Restaurant E18ghteen, Chris Deraiche of The Wellington Gastropub, Hector Diaz of the Hilton Lac-Leamy, Steve Mitton of Social, Michael Moffat of Beckta Dining and Wine, Richard Nigro of Juniper, Charles Part of Les Fougeres, Rene Rodriguez of Luxe Bistro, Serge Rourre of Le Baccara, and John Taylor of Domus Cafe.
The food roamed the globe for inspiration and ran the gamut, from the fairly straightforward – John Taylor’s foie gras “hotdog” strewn with truffle shavings (paired with Jackson Triggs Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Methode Classique) – to the uber complicated – Hector Diaz presented partridge three ways, including a tiny jerked leg, with a dice of roasted root vegetables, a puck of spelt “risotto” and a mollusk shell stuffed with truffled mashed potato and a ragout of shellfish (paired with Huff Estates 2004 Lighthall Chardonnay.)
The judges – James Chatto, Cindy Deachman, Margaret Dickenson, Chris Knight and I – awarded marks for presentation, texture, taste, wine compatibility, originality, and “wow” factor. After an hour and a half of tasting, sipping, dissecting, puzzling and returning to do it again, the marks were tabulated and the results were as follows:
Bronze went to Ben Baird, chef/owner of The Urban Pear, who butter-wilted kale on a soft square of ravioli stuffed with a nubbly mix of apple, cheddar cheese and duck confit, then crowned the tower with a gloriously tender, rosemary-scented and crispy-skinned quail breast and finished with a vanilla-scented duck reduction. This he paired with Prince Edward County’s Black Prince Winery’s Cabernet Franc Reserve 2006.
Silver to Matthew Carmichael of Restaurant E18ghteen. A luscious morsel of ginger-honey lacquered British Columbia black cod, set on a coconut-carrot puree, a dice of snap peas for contrast of colour and crunch. To drink, another Prince Edward County wine, the 2005 Chardonnay from Closson Chase Vineyards.
Gold for Mike Moffat of Beckta Dining and Wine. A progression of treats: starting with a “lollipop” of foie gras wrapped in a sticky cloak of apple cider bound with algae; moving on to a green tea-smoked oyster fritter topped with mango “caviar”; and finally, a mini pastry cornet, containing, from the top down – Berkshire pork rillettes, a chunk of pork belly, and at the pointy end of the crisp cone, a delightfully stinky-ripe blob of the raw milk cheese, “Epoisses de Bourgogne.” All of this was paired with Sumac Ridge “Black Sage Vineyard” 2004 White Meritage.
Michael Moffat now joins the gold medal winners from Toronto (Anthony Walsh of Canoe), Halifax (Martin Ruiz Salvador of Fleur de Sel in Lunenburg), Montreal (Roland Menard of Manoir Hovey), Vancouver (Pino Posteraro of Cioppino’s), Calgary (Paul Rogalski of Rouge), and from Edmonton (our lone woman chef, Judy Wu of Wild Tangerine), at the Canadian Culinary Championships held in Toronto from February 7th to 10th.
It should be quite a filling affair.