Wine and fine dining. Beer and dining finely.
These are matches made in culinary heaven, and Elliot Brass, executive sous chef at the Grill and Vine at the Westin Whistler, has the delicious task of pairing wines and beers for the restaurant's special winemaker and beermaker dinner events.
Two winemaker dinners were held in July and August this summer, and next is a hoppy night out for diners, with the beermaker's dinner taking place on Friday, Sept. 12.
It is part of the Whistler Village Beer Festival, which takes place throughout the resort from Sept. 11 to 14.
Brass specifically asked to take on the planning and executing the events on behalf of the Grill and Vine. Why? Because they're fun.
"You get to think outside the box and get the creativity of the team going," he said.
"It's a chance to better yourself and it's good publicity for the restaurant. They are very informal. During the last winemaker dinner, I came out to talk to everyone at the table. I asked for their feedback on certain things.
"It's kind of extra to what I do, but I like it. I'll say, 'I've got this crazy idea' and they tell me to go for it. It's super sweet."
Brass has been with the Westin for three years, previously working for the Fairmont and running the now-closed Copperhouse Restaurant by Shannon Falls, just south of Squamish.
He was heavily involved in the kitchen design and menu creation of the Grill and Vine, which opened at The Westin late last year.
In July, the restaurant partnered with Burrowing Owl, the Okanagan winery.
"The nice thing is that when you partner with a winery, they will often bring something special or secret with them on the night. Burrowing Owl brought a port-style wine... you can't buy it in the store; you can only get it through select people. It's a special treat, you can only get these things at these dinners."
Brass said each winemakers' dinner needs a theme. July's was Spain, it was Italy in August, and the beer event in September is Barley, Yeast and the Beast, featuring beers from Deep Cove Brewery.
"The fun thing is that you get to try something not on the menu, something that people wouldn't normally order. For example (for one event) we wanted to do spaghetti bolognese, but instead of beef we had octopus. A traditional Italian dish, but not something you'd see every day."
The Grill and Vine also held two winemakers' dinners at culinary tourism company Edible Canada on Granville Island in Vancouver earlier this year.
"We sold out both of those... It was fun because the dinners for those were maple syrup-themed. Every single course had a maple syrup component and matching wines to balance out the sweetness," Brass said.
It takes around a month to six weeks to pull together a menu for a pairing night, Brass said.
With tickets at around $75, including both food and wine or beer over five courses, Brass says it is good value.
Brass said some of the courses at Barley, Yeast and the Beast include an Italian-style flatbread with butternut squash and Gruyère cheese for the first course paired with Deepcove's Trapper John lager, along with later courses being curried fish, and a braised beef and blue cheese main course.
"It's all about finding something that pairs well or contrasts like sweet and sour or salty and icy. Different things like that," he said of his pairing technique.
Brass didn't want to give away the dessert for the night, but said it would be paired with the brewery's stout, replacing the dairy in the sweet with the beer.
It's not the first time he has made a dessert with beer — while preparing the wedding day meal menu of a coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was told the groom did not eat dessert.
"He said to just give him a beer. So I made an entire dessert component out of beer. I made a jelly with the Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale from Whistler Brewing. I made a Molson Canadian foam with candied oranges and stuff. It was great. He was giving high fives to the best man."
Tickets for Barley, Yeast and the Beast are $65 and available at wvbf.ca or at Grill and Vine.
Apart from Barley, Yeast and the Beast, Brass says the Grill and Vine is still nailing down its fall plans, which it hopes to have out soon.
6 egg yolks
250g dark chocolate
1 litre whipping cream
6 shots espresso
Whip the egg yolks and sugar like crazy until you get ribbon stage (at least 5 mins on high speed). Melt the chocolate
Whip the cream until soft peak to peak
Let the coffee cool. Fold the coffee, chocolate, and egg yolks together
Fold the whip cream into the mix.
Pipe into ring moulds (3" works well) and freeze for 4-6 hours.
When the mousse is frozen punch it out of the rings. Garnish with whipped whipping cream and black berries.
Enjoy with a Smooth Criminal stout!
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