Sherry all the Way at Play Food and Wine

Tuesday, March 1, 2011, Play Food and Wine

What should you expect when you mix a top Restaurateur (Stephen Beckta), a top Executive Chef (Michael Moffatt), a 2010 Ontario “Top 30 Under 30” Chef de Cuisine (Katie Ardington) and a 2011 Ontario “Top 30 Under 30” Sommelier (Grayson McDiarmid) and hitch them up with the unbridled enthusiasm of the Guild’s co- founder, first President and sherry lover since Oxford days (J. Phillip Nicholson)? Well, FUN, for starters!
The theme was “Sherry all the Way” and we weren’t kidding—matching of a complete cross-section of Sherry styles from appetizers through dessert and beyond. Perhaps unique in Guild tasting history, every dish was custom- crafted to match the wines, rather than the usual arrangement of selecting wines to match a menu. This was achieved through an advance tasting of the Sherries the week before, drawing in an excited gang of chefs, sommeliers and servers to start creative juices flowing on the dishes to be created, and the final sequencing of the wines.

And, speaking of starters, if anyone had any doubts of the ability of Sherry to kick off a grand evening, hopefully those went quickly out the window once the tasting got underway. A mouth-puckering, austere, almost chalky Fino proved a serious counterpoint to a bright, delightful and hugely refreshing pale Cream Sherry, against which Play’s culinary team had fun lobbing three diverse and delightful canapes. Most memorable, perhaps, was the quail egg poached in the sweet Croft’s Original Pale Cream Sherry. Worth going to war over.

And it was up the food chain from then on. A single-estate Manzanilla (Fino style) and an Amontillado (aged Fino) were matched with a stunning shrimp ceviche, made all the more exotic with charred grapefruit and braised leeks. Interlocking tastes like two octopuses doing something pretty wild and wonderful. Then … proof- positive that Sherry is the perfect match for consomme, this one duck- based and graced with rabbit terrine and bacon to add some depth. Perfect.

Next up was live-brioned beef shortrib with a turffle-honey papardelle, matched with an Oloroso and—just for interest—a non-fortified wine made with the same PX grapes used for the cream (sweet) Sherries to follow with dessert. A leg-up, so to speak, before the crowning touch of blue- cheese infused bread pudding accompanied by two glorious PX Sherries, one from a Solera started in 1927.

And what better way to wind down the evening than with a Single-Malt Scotch aged in a hand-selected sherry cask (#1486 to be precise), proving that reverse osmosis can be thrilling. Want to know how impressed Sommelier Grayson was with that Sherry-spiced Islan of Arran gem? Check the liquor shelf at Play these days!

Not much doubt that a few new Sherry converts were secured at a thoroughly fun and informative event. Through Phil Nicholson’s contribution for the wines, and Steve Beckta’s generosity in making the downstairs space available exclusively for the event, the Guild’s scholarship fund received a very healthy boost.

Food and Wine List

Chef’s Choice Trio of Canapes with Croft Original Fine Pale Cream Sherry and Gonzalez Byass “Tio Pepe” Fino

Shrimp Ceviche / Charred Grapefruit & Tarragon / Braised Leeks with Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana “Pastrana” (Single Vineyard) Manzanilla Pasada and Sanchez Romate Hnos “NPU” Amontillado

Duck Consomme / Rabbit Terrine / Bacon with Williams & Humbert 30 Years “Jalifa” Amontillado and Lustau “Peninsula” Palo Cortado

Olive-Brined Beef Shortrib / Truffle- Honey Papardell / Jus with Bodegas Hidalgo “Faraon” Oloroso and Bodegas Navarro Medium Dry PX Montilla-Moriles

Blue Cheese Bread Pudding / Cashew-Rum Gelato with Lustau “San Emilio” Pedro Ximenez and Alvear Pedro Ximenez “1927” Montilla-Moriles

Single Malt Scotch Whisky Isle of Arran Distillers “The Arran Malt” Single Sherry Cask (#1486) Bottles #406 and 418 of 558 Distilled 08/12/97 Bottled 04/08/10

Hosts for the Evening

Grayson McDiarmid Sommelier Play Food and Wine
J. Phillip Nicholson Co-Founder and First President National Capital Sommelier Guild

Note from the Guild Newsletter Editor

It was an absolutely fabulous Sherry event! Phil Nicholson turned me into a Sherry convert years ago and I never miss one of his events.

I wanted to also give a shout-out to the creative team in the kitchen at Play. They did a last minute vegetarian plate for me for each of the courses, which was way above my expectations and were superb matches to the Sherries! First course they substituted beets for the shrimp and the beet itself brought out some really earthy flavours in the Manzanilla.The second course was a wonderful mixed mushroom risotto and it was amazing with the Amontillado. In place of the beef, I was served gnocchi, swiss chard and the truffle-honey and it was wonderful and went so well with the Sherries. Thank you so much