One of the best parts about being a sommelier is eating at other restaurants. Whether they are in my own city or another, I am always keen to see what is happening in other places. There are a million ways to do that same thing, and I love seeing the variations.
A recent trip to Ontario had me planning to visit wineries and chat to winemakers. But I was hijacked for hijinks by an old friend and ended up in Montreal for a few nights. There are few better places to be enjoying variations in eating and drinking.
We got to the city late in the afternoon and were both hungry and thirsty. We found a new wine bar called Furco, quickly settled in and started with a bottle of Georges Descombes Régnié from Beaujolais, a wine made from the Gamay grape.
There are 10 crus of Beaujolais and Régnié was the last one to receive such status in 1988. The Gamay grown there tend to be softer and more forward wines.
Georges Descombes only has 2 hectares of grapes in Régnié and he knows how to use them. Thankfully his wines are imported into BC by Racine Wine Imports.
Furco’s open kitchen, funky displace of food items and impressive layout made it a good people-watching bar. Full of the after-work crowd having a cocktail or glass of wine, it was a welcome place after the drive across a provincial border.
From there we were getting hungry so we found our way to Joe Beef. It was cold and raining outside that night and I was eager to eat what they are best known for – rich food. Foie Gras burgers anyone?!
The website describes it as “seaside cottage charm and bustling oyster counter. Old world wines and good market French cooking. A great club house feel.” We felt right at home, even before our Negroni’s arrived. Both the wine and food menus are written on a chalkboard so there was no book of wines to read from. Instead the sommelier engaged us, asked what kind of wine were in the mood for and the price point we were comfortable with. He brought us three bottles and we opted for Arianna Occhipinte’s Frappato from Sicily. It is a natural wine that showed a true sense of place and expressed the warmth of Sicily in the 2010 vintage. Its bright, fresh acidity helped cut the rich food we were eating. The most interesting fact (to a wine geek) is that it has a 50-day maceration period – sold!
We were lucky that the one day we were actually walking around the city it was relatively warm and sunny. And after a few hours of wandering aimlessly, we thought it time for a glass of wine. We had both heard of a wine bar called Pullman, so we opted to check it out.
The place was packed and everyone had a glass in hand. The by the glass list offered taster sizes (2oz) and full glasses (4oz). There were also flights of 3 x 2oz pours. Each flight had a solid theme and offered the best value. This fantastic wine bar offered great selections from around the world, some large formats and even a good selection of dessert wines, a section that often gets over looked on most lists.
But dinner was waiting. Au Pied de Cochon, a place known for foie gras and over the top richness did not disappoint (even Anthony Bourdain had a hard time with all the rich food, so that’s saying something). If waistlines and high cholesterol are of no concern to you, you will find no better place to eat. An entire pig’s head and full lobster was a dinner option. No joke.
And again the wine list was well thought out, and priced fantastically. I will always migrate to a wine I have never heard of, or never had the opportunity to taste. So when I saw something from the small appellation of Cour-Cheverny in the eastern part of the Loire Valley I couldn’t help myself. I mean when was the last time you tasted a Romorantin? In 2008 there were only 180 acres of Romorantin growing in the entire world so I was thrilled to find such wine, by the glass!
I spent countless hours on the other side of the table and it is always a welcome treat when I get to enjoy the atmosphere of another restaurant. It is both familiar and new at the same time. Going out for dinner is a treat for most, and often a place to grab a quick bite, but a few nights in Montreal reminded me how much I love my job.
Originally published here in Eat Magazine