A spirited education

So I attended another MLCC chef session (a well planted foodie gift idea), this time at the Grant Park store.

These are great! For about $40 you get chef’s table treatment and a gustatory gamut of expertly paired drinks (usually around 8).

Presiding, or should I say performing on this evening, Roger Wilton, executive chef for Winnipeg’s MTS Centre.

On the menu, cervus canadensis (that’s smarty speak for Elk). And serve us they did–Elk tenderloin with Portobello Duxelle and Blueberry Icewine Demi-glace followed by Ginger Fried Elk striploin with Rice Noodles.

Pretty spectacular ingredients. The tenderloin sells for $44 a kilo and the striploin a more palatable $11/kg.

Pairings included wines (both red and white) which, although wonderful in their own right, ended up forgettable beside the ales.

Yep…that’s right, the brewskis reigned supreme on this occassion and not to brag, but as luck would have it I ended up sitting beside a chef and he agreed wholeheartedly. I gotta tell you, beer is becoming the new wine, but that’s an idea for a different post.

With the tenderloin, the selected Rochefort 10 (a Belgian trappist beer) foamed violently in spite of the MLCC rep’s light touch with an opener. A pinch hitter, the Belgian Gulden Draak (Golden Drake) suffered the same fate, signs of contamination we were told. He refused to serve either (probably for the best) but I was nonetheless disappointed. I’d tried neither before and when a familiar Leffe proved fine, my heart sank. But it turned out a great pairing, really bringing out the butteriness of the portobello. The wines (Balthasaar Ress Riesling Spatlese and Odoardi Savuto) paled by comparison.

The Morocco Ale (incongruously brewed in the Yorkshire Dales of northern England) featured dark malt flavour with a hint of spice and was a perfect marriage to the ginger fried striploin and again outdid the wines (Tulloch Semillon and a Marsannay).

But before long the food took second billing and the evening de-escalated into a bit of gong show.

The burner on the range simply couldn’t deliver enough BTUs and instead of crisping, the striploin merely boiled in oil. Chef Roger saved the day by splitting the batch over several pans.

Then one of the igniters went ballistic, serenading us with a constant clic clic clic as it tried to spark an already lighted burner. And the convection oven wouldn’t come to temperature delaying the tenderloin.

Chef filled the gaps with a witty reparte, a well-seasoned routine full of humour that would easily serve as the main course at Rumours. He completely saved the evening by regaling us with stories of living in the Yukon (where he had the chance to eat bear), his battle with WeightWatchers (he’s lost 20 pounds but still craves the occasional Whopper which would cost him an entire day of points), and his penchant for cussing in the kitchen.

Regrettably, the general public can’t tap into Chef Roger’s talents (culinary or otherwise) because he’s usually behind the scenes cooking for the stars who grace our stage at the MTS Centre. I didn’t post the Elk recipes because I find them over-complicated and Elk is rather expensive and not so easy to come by. But I did put up a recipe for Chef Roger’s delicous Sweet Potato and Smoked Gouda soup which I clipped from the October/November 2007 issue of Ciao! Magazine.

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