Cornucopia Food and Wine Festival

November 20, 2011 at 10:43 pm Leave a comment

If you ever have a chance to marry someone who works in the wine industry, I would recommend it. I happened upon this quality by accident and after the fact, but I think if I had to do it over it would be requisite. There are no obligatory rubber chicken dinners in that business; it is all champagne and truffles, amuse bouche and demi-glace, sparkling water or still. I am always delighted to be the tag along spouse, especially when it means going to events like Araxi’s 30th anniversary bash at the Cornucopia food and wine festival.

30 years is a big milestone for a restaurant and Araxi did a beautiful job of celebrating with a packed house for their event “The Big Guns: Icons of the Wine World.” I’ve noted the wine pairings below for the connoisseurs among you. As you may know, I follow a pescatarian diet, which means I am a vegetarian who occasionally eats fish and seafood, but no poultry or meat. I know a couple of my table mates agreed that the pescatarian options at Araxi’s Big Guns dinner were at least, if not more outstanding than the standard menu chef James Walt created for the room. Add to this that all of the wine pairings were excellent, and this is not always the case. So often, even at dinners like this one, the way the wine pairs with the substitute vegetarian dish is a minor consideration, if it’s a consideration at all, and at Araxi I was impressed that they took the time to care about this.

We ate twice at Araxi during Cornucopia weekend — once for the extravaganza below and also the night before when we tried their “five courses for $30” special, which was again in celebration of their 30th anniversary. It was a fabulous deal for a fine dining restaurant and like with the Big Guns dinner and like my first experience dining at Araxi, the ingredients were beautiful, food near perfect and the service was always polished and friendly.

Here was the feast at Big Guns. Part of it anyways, there were eight courses in all and I only snapped photos of six of them for some reason. I am also sorry that I left my proper camera behind – apologies for the cell phone snaps. You can see beautiful images of the meal (meat eater’s version) at this blog.

We were met at the door with a glass of champagne (see it sparkling in my glass in the top picture) and tiny ceramic mugs of satori oyster veloute (yummy oyster soup) floated around the room along with a couple of meat-based appetizers (I hope fois gras goes out of style soon). This dish above is an organic ocean spot prawn salad with salsa verde, house smoked wild salmon and oyster beignet.

Seared scallops with Pemberton beets, spinach, chanterelle mushrooms and a delicious sauce that I should have written down.

Alba truffles were the star of the whole dinner for me: this dish is truffle stuffed gnocchi with housemade ricotta cheese, potato foam and quail egg, and lots of shaved white truffles on top. I have a special spot in my heart for Barolo and Barbaresco wines and the Barolo match with Alba truffles was amazing.

There were already a couple of envious comments about my scallop dish and a sablefish dish while the rest of the table was enjoying duck and venison, and then this came out in place of the lamb: a small lobster resting on a bed of rich butternut squash risotto.

Okanagan poached pear with rustic arugula and blue cheese. Three favourites in one lovely dish.

I am not a huge chocolate fan, but this was easy to love, even after seven courses: Valrhona Nyangbo chocolate with agassiz hazelnuts and vanilla bean ice cream.

Taittinger ‘Comtes de Champagne’, Blanc de Blancs, 2000
Joseph Drouhin Chablis Bougros Grand Cru, 2002, Chablis, France
Remelluri Gran Reserva, 1999, Rioja, Spain
Michele Chiarlo ‘Cerequio’ Barolo, 2004, Piemonte, Italy
Mission Hill Oculus, 2007, Okanagan Valley, Canada
Inglenook ‘Rubicon’, 2008, Napa Valley, USA
St. Urbans-Hof Riesling, Leiwener Spatlese, 2006, Mosel, Germany
Quinta do Noval Port, 20 Year Old Tawny, Douro, Portugal


Entry filed under: Cooking, Life, Local food, Restaurants, Travel. Tags: , , , , .

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