Next fest's creamy bubbles already beckon
The dust has settled, the glasses are washed, flying corks have been retrieved, and the 29th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival has been put to bed. Nobody's slumbering, though, because next spring's 30th promises to be (aren't they all?) bigger and even better, with the Italians sending us some of their greats as the principal focus, and bubble–sparkling wine, vin mousseux, crí‰mant, prosecco, spumante, sekt, cava, Champagne–being the "varietal" selected as the fest's focus.
Time to get training now, especially with the bubble.
Best news for festival organizers and Playhouse people is the fact that the Bacchanalia Gala Dinner and Auction topped even last year's pretty impressive total–now we're up around $450,000 in terms of revenue realized from this glitzy charity event. It was fun to cohost this year after a long absence, with my colleague and frequent Straight contributor–he'll pardon the term!–Bill Richardson.
Some things to note from the awards list that scrolled by my e-box the other morning: the Sommelier of the Year award went to Chris Van Nus, pulling the corks and unscrewing the caps down at Yaletown's Blue Water Cafí‰. Nobody tells me anything–had I known that he was there, doing the wine thing, I would have listed him among my top bunch of city sommeliers in our Golden Plates issue some weeks back, because that's precisely what he is. Next time, then”¦
The second annual SIP award–stands for Spirited Industry Professional–went to major wine brain and wine-event organizer David Scholefield. Good choice. The 19th annual Quady Dessert Competition was won by Tamara Currier, who plies her sweet craft at Thomas Haas Patisserie.
And the Fetzer Great Beginnings Wine & Appetizer Challenge made history this year with a win by Melissa Craig from Whistler's Bearfoot Bistro, who became the first person in the 10-year history of the competition to win both the professional judges' gold award and the people's choice vote. Her winning entry has a name that reads more like a shopping list: Chili Pink-Grapefruit-Glazed Berkshire Pork Belly, Dungeness Crab Cilantro-Mint Salad with Coconut Jelly. Some mouthful. I'd ask for it by name–if you can remember it–at the bistro next time you're up that way. Clip this page”¦
And then there are the Wine List awards, always eagerly anticipated. A lot of gold medals this year–alphabetically: All Seasons Cafí‰ (Nelson), Blue Water Cafí‰, C Restaurant, Chambar, CinCin, Cioppino's, Cru, the Fish House in Stanley Park, Raincity Grill, La Terrazza, Tramonto (in the River Rock Casino), Vij's, and West Restaurant.
Silver went to Caffí‰ dí‰ Medici, Joe Fortes, Joey's, Nu, Pearl on the Rock (out White Rock way), and Provence Marinaside. Bronze: Bravo Restaurant (Chilliwack), the Cannery, the Flying Tiger, Hart House on Deer Lake, Haus Uropa (Gibsons), Restaurant 62 (Abbotsford), Seymour Golf and Country Club (North Vancouver), Tomato Fresh Food Cafí‰, and the William Tell. So where are all those new West 4th places, then?
Whistler gold went to Araxi and Rimrock Cafí‰; Vancouver Island gold to Il Terrazzo and Sooke Harbour House; and Interior B.C. gold to Oliver's Toasted Oak Wine Bar. The Playhouse judges even sent a little gold to Calgary: one medal each to Catch and the Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro.
Best First Time Entry went to Sergio Cocchia and David Richards and their grand crew of servers at Beyond Restaurant + Lounge in the Century Plaza Hotel & Spa. Its Jaime Kowan–designed list is wonderful–this is the place to try your first bottle of Pí‰trus, if you have the nerve, the cash reserve, and a worthy palate or two to share it with. Me, I'd be doing it all by myself in a corner, reading a new Stone Barrington thriller–but that's just the kind of wine grinch I am sometimes.
If you're in the 'hood, check out Andrey Durbach and Chris Stewart's major-buzz-about-town La Buca (4025 MacDonald Street; www.labuca.ca/) for glorious grills and pastas and sauces–Italian with a coastal twist. Try their take on green eggs and ham: fresh asparagus in both official colours, grilled and sauced, atop a slice of real prosciutto, topped with a perfectly poached egg, and bitter lettuce (with a different vinaigrette) along the side. Order two and go straight on to dessert.
Go with one of the best buys on their small but impressive wine list, the Villa Chiopris Pinot Grigio–brilliant, fruity, crisp, and fresh, very versatile. I don't see it in the LDB's current product guide, so it might be a one-off for La Buca; I'm drinking it till they run out.