For his online food and wine event with The Tasting Club, the Brasserie Sagana chef and owner Mark Aubrey shares his no-nonsense approach to pairing his food with fine wines, ECQ-style.
During this time of great uncertainty, we find ways to keep our sanity by indulging in simple joys. Many have taken up new hobbies, such as baking. People have used the free time to get into shape or at least maintain their physique by staying active. While those who long for company have turned to technology to keep in touch with family and friends.
Online events have truly filled a void, and while it can never replicate the same exuberance of a packed room, it seems to do the job of bringing people together and allowing us to enjoy a few beloved pre-pandemic activities. The Tasting Club is Kevin and Adrienne Charuel’s events company that does exactly as the name implies. They offer guests a taste of delicious food and drink while making it as much of a learning experience as possible.
The husband and wife team’s recent collaboration with Chef Marc Aubry’s Brasserie Sagana had guests sampling some of France’s highly ranked red and dessert wines. The Charuels brought in sampling tubes direct from various wine chateaux to be matched with Chef Marc’s regional French cuisine.
While our current situation might seem complicated and make a highly typical activity more of an intricate production, Chef Marc decided it best to simplify when it came to menu planning. “I pretty much left it to Kevin to decide,” he says. “I gave him the dishes that travelled well enough and he worked on pairing them.”
These dishes are plucked from Sagana’s French bistro favourites—casual, homey, and very easy to love. But, most of all, they are not overly complex to assemble so that guests at home would not have had to spend hours in the kitchen. “Because it has to be delivered, I actually tried to come up with a menu that would be easy for the participants to put together,” Chef Marc explains. “I wanted something tasty, of course, but also practical and simple. I wanted the experience to be as close as possible to having it in the restaurant.”
The package of food and wine tubes came with instructions from both Marc and Kevin regarding food preparation and wine storage. While the food and wine stayed chilled in the refrigerator, participants enjoyed a quick run-through of the evening’s components. When that was done, the event guests were free to indulge in their dinner at will.
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With the first course being foie gras and mushroom friand with Salad, Kevin paired it with an exuberant Bordeaux—Chateau La Rose Figeac 2007. If the name sounds familiar, it is because it is owned by the same family of the famous Chateau Figeac from Saint-Emillion, the largest wine estate in that appellation. This particular La Rose is lush and expressive, with dark berries in the nose and a velvety mouthfeel. While a pretty Bordeaux might not be your typical pairing with foie gras, it works particularly well with this dish, complementing the earthiness of the mushrooms and that rich, peppery sauce.
The pairing of the pork and duck confit cassoulet with the Chateau de la Gardine 2013 was more forthright. The hearty and homey dish of white beans, sausage, and brined leg of duck stands up to the fruit-forward and jammy Grenache/Mourvedré/Syrah blend from the dry and rocky hillsides of the Chateuneuf du Pape appellation. So nicely balanced and refined, it left the impression that it had been decanted. “We do not have anything to do with the packaging,” Kevin reassures. “All these tasting tubes are packed and sold directly from the chateaux.” With its nuanced peppery finish and restrained minerals, this lovely red was an indulgent match with Marc’s beloved cassoulet.
To end the meal, Kevin offered a dessert wine from the Loire region— Domaine de la Roche Moreau, AOC Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume 2014. The golden yellow nectar is 100 per cent chenin blanc sweetened by noble rot. The intoxicating aromas of honey and apricot were perfect for a summer evening, especially when served extra chilled. Beguiling on its own, but it did not hurt that it was served alongside a delicate Grand Marnier Gateau with White and Dark Chocolate Sauce.
While the multi-sensory experience of dining out is impossible to recreate at home, the online events of companies like The Tasting Club allow us a semblance of our former lives. Chef Marc’s no-fuss and straightforward approach to his food extends to his philosophy when it comes to wine pairing. “While some wines seem to have been made to compliment this or that dish,” he says, “I like to keep it simple. There are obvious no-no’s (such as a powerful red with delicate fish), but overall I have rarely been in a situation where I did not like the pairing put in front of me.”
So, if he had to choose just one wine to pair with anything, what would that be? The Frenchman replies, “here I’m going to be a good Champenois and say that you can find a champagne to match any dish on offer.” We tend to agree.
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