Everybody has certain friends in their life for certain reasons. Like the friend you see during the day for lunch or walks with the dog, or your workout buddy who motivates you, or the friend you call on when you need someone to cheer you up, or the friend you party with because you can’t stand being around them unless you’re pissed drunk. They all serve a purpose. For some wonderful reason, I’ve been blessed with a group of friends who are just about the best anyone could ever hope for. They pick me up when I’m down. They watch all my stupid shows and support me in everything I do. They fly to various parts of the world when I’m working just to keep me company. They’re honest with me when I really need them to be. They laugh at my jokes, they put up with my theatrics, they encourage me and love me unconditionally. I call them my Wives.
But let me tell you specifically about my Jenny, otherwise known as Wild Wife. We met through our mutual exes at a party in a random hotel room years ago, drank our weight in vodka, and promptly fell in love. Jenny’s the type of girl you call for advice when what you really want is someone to validate the mistakes you’re making. For instance, if I were to murder someone, I’d call Jenny first, because she’d probably say something like, “Yes, but don’t you feel better now knowing he’s gone?” She calms me and puts things in perspective, somehow finding the words my idiot brain is always trying to grasp and voicing aloud the conclusion I’m stretching to reach. She’s a glam, gorgeous, tall drink of water, and if Jenny and my left hand were simultaneously eaten by a grizzly bear, I’d miss Jenny more.
Although here’s the thing: Jenny “Wild” and I are trouble together. We get a real tickle out of egging each other on, and wine doesn’t help that scenario. I’ve found myself in some pretty special predicaments listening to Wild, most of which concluded with me on my hands and knees looking for the conscience I must have dropped. There may have been pirates in one of those scenarios. But anyway. Jenny’s also my go-to girl when I feel like spending some cheddar on a fancy dinner, because Wild can’t say no to fancy. Or Frisky, which is what they call me. No idea why.
Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay has two restaurants in Vancouver, the dignified and elegant Ensemble specializing in refined west coast cuisine, and Ensemble Tap serving pub style comfort food down the street. Both are pretty great, and Chef Dale is known to be no dumb-dumb when it comes to executing stellar eats– this guy’s worked under the tutelage of Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulud, and was granted the Youngest Grand Chef award after serving as executive chef at Vancouver’s famed Lumiere restaurant. Not to mention he’s pretty easy on the eyes. (Just trying to live up to my nickname.) My favorite thing about being subscribed to Ensemble’s newsletter is there are usually a whole slew of special events happening at both restaurants, spotlighting British Columbia winemakers and brewmasters, or even just showcasing seasonal ingredients like fresh oysters in all their glory with vodka cocktails to go alongside. Which was how I found out about Ensemble’s Silkscarf Winery Winemakers Dinner, a four course meal with wine pairings for $70. Holla!
Silkscarf is an amazing award-winning boutique winery tucked away in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, home to a ton of wineries producing excellent takes on varietals like pinot noir, rieslings, buttery chardonnays, and even a few heavy-duty cabernet-francs. (Stay tuned for that blog later, cuz I be dragging up all my wives to wine taste the hell out of that place). We started off with a could-be-a-tad-more-generous pour of their Ensemble Blanc 2010, an Alsatian blend of pinot gris, riesling, and gewürztraminer, fresh and crisp with a kiss of honeysuckle at the end. Delish. Cutie pie chef served dungeness crab to go alongside, rolled up in daikon with a little pineapple and lime drizzle, the perfect summer pairing. In February. Something tells me Chef was craving a beachside daquiri-infused vacation almost as much as us girls.
Next up we sipped on a crazy-lovely 2008 Cabernet-Franc, all plum and jammy blackberry goodness, and just because he can, Chef decided to serve a luscious piece of arctic char to go with, sitting on a bed of lentils and topped with a crisp apple and hearts of palm salad. It just wasn’t fair how good this was, and that nutso pairing was so strangely perfect, I dare say I swooned. Good old Wild made eyes at the server until we were poured a second glass while I licked my plate clean. What a coupla ladies!
Thirdly, we were poured a 2008 Shiraz-Viognier blend. Traditionally up in the Rhone Valley in France, Shiraz/Syrah was blended with Viognier to liven up the colour and brightness of the wine, and Silkscarf’s decided to bring it back. This wasn’t a typical Shiraz by any means, with heavier tannins and a deeper finish on the pallet, but that just meant it was gonna get along like a house on fire with Chef’s pairing of braised beef shin atop a carrot puree with a side of sautéed watercress. If I was being nitpicky, I’d say it was a touch over salted, and braising it in its own juices, which is what I suspect cutie Chef did, only further contributed to that salt content. But hey. He gave us a bowl of the best french fries my mouthy lips had seen in awhile, and for that, we’re cool.
Our last course was a pairing of Silkscarf’s Poplar Grove 2009 Late Harvest Riesling and an orange pavlova dusted with cardamom and served with a yogurt sorbet. The Riesling was in ice wine territory, sweet and cool with notes of honey and mango, but I gotta rant for a quick sec about pavlovas. I don’t get it, Chefs of the world. There are just so many other delectable things to serve in a dessert course, and especially if there’s only one dessert happening within the meal, it’s best to make it a showstopper, no? Give me some chocolate, or some caramel, or something flakey and gooey. Not a meringue-like wafer with some candied fruit on the side. This was more of a palate cleanser than anything, and I was left wanting more. Which is why Jenny and I ended up taking down a hefty slab of chocolate cheesecake a half hour later.
In all, I’d say Ensemble’s got it right with these winemaker dinners. Wine and food pairings are always fun, especially seeing how the winemaker and chef collaborate, whether it’s a hit or a miss. $70 is a teeny bit steep, though, especially if the wine pairings aren’t full glasses of wine and the dessert’s an afterthought. Maybe include tip and tax within that $70, or give us a cheese course in there after dessert with a little sip of port. Or maybe just tell me to shut up, that’ll work too.
Stay tuned for more adventures. Wild’s got a hankering for a girl’s weekend in Whistler soon. Let’s see if we can cause an avalanche, shall we?