The reservations went fast for the Mavrik Wine Bar and The Food Dudes second Food and Wine Pop-Up – and for good reason. Pairing an expertly curated selection of small-batch, limited edition wines with crafty edibles is a recipe for a fine eve.
Siding myself up at the dark, stone-top bar and chatting with the Mavrik crew as the first seating got into swing on June 5th, the two-day event was a chance for the collaborators to do something exciting that would still highlight the unique elements they each bring to the table, Joanne Park of Mavrik Wine Bar tells me.
At five courses, complete with wine pairings, this dinner was a steal at just $59 and managed to steal all of my palatal awareness – I wasn’t complaining.
For some reason I love the presentation of an amuse bouche on a spoon. It’s as easy to eat as it is on the eyes, and this particular preparation of fluke tartar with an umami soy glaze, mango salsa and satisfyingly crispy tempura bits brought a light, bright starter to true form. An elegant, not-too-sweet few sips of Terra Serena Prosecco complimented the lightness of the dish and played off the complimentary citrus notes. An engaging start.
Simple and satisfying, a Caesar salad with grilled jalapeno and parmesan vinaigrette, shaved grana padano and garlicky focaccia croutons was lifted up by the addition of candied cherry tomatoes. Rarely a fan of a Chardonnay, the Closson Chase Chardonnay had a lot of smoke and not too much oak, and was the show-stealer of the second course.
Next came two tantalizing semi-circles of soft sweet ravioli stuffed with buffalo ricotta and spinach. Resting on a swash of saffron tomato sauce – if The Food Dudes chefs decided to drown these in a pool of the stuff I would have offered up little contradiction – the bite of chili roasted pine nuts and tang of lemon dressed arugula made the dish worthy of second helpings.
The pairing for the pasta course was my favourite of the evening. All the wines that Joanne chose for the evening were Ontario varietals and the Lailey Zweigelt is produced in the Niagara region using an Austrian grape with dark cherry and strawberry aromas, and sweet and spicy notes perfect for the acidic salad, spiced seeds and sweet sauce with a dry finish that refreshed after each swig.
It would be hard for things to get much better after the pasta course, but a grilled Argentinian striploin with potato leek fondue, pan roasted king oyster mushrooms, grilled asparagus and a cilantro chimichurri garnished with crispy shoe-string root veg chips is pretty delicious competition. The Lotus Cab Sauv wasn’t a shabby companion, either.
Finally, a fine crème brulée with fresh berries for the finish, alongside a Lailey Muscat offered up a subtly sweet surprise that suited my palate perfectly.
One of the nicest elements of this dinner was it wasn’t one of those long, drawn out tasting menus that command as much of your patience as your time. The pace was clearly dictated by preference and the staff was admirably attentive to the diners’ desires. While my meal didn’t take too long, I hope the time between the next collaboration between Mavrik Wine Bar and The Food Dudes will mimic that.