I have found that it takes three things to make a perfect meal: good food, good service and good company. Of late, I have been disappointed with the absence of one or the other, usually the good service. Saturday’s pre-NAC dinner at Play Food and Wine was perfect in every way…even the shoes and outfit worked!
Sarah, our waitress, explained to us that Play is a “small plates” restaurant. I prefer to think of the “small plates” as reasonable portions; they were enough to enjoy the tastes and textures but not so much as to leave no room for the next course. A sampling of three or four “small plates” is a far more reasonable meal than the usual three or four course dinner. The smaller portions had the added benefit of allowing the ten year old, whose birthday we were celebrating, to enjoy the food she likes without wasting half (those of you who know us know that the ten year old eschews the “kids’ menus”…who can blame her? Why have mechanically deboned, deep-fried chicken nuggets with frozen french fries when the delights of sauted green beans, filet mignon and goat cheese potatoes au gratin await the adult diners?) .
While my companions stuck to the tried and true: beer and a prosecco, the minor and I went out on a limb: a fruit concoction including grapefruit and fig juices and a glass of a Greek White (Assyrtiko, Wild Ferment, Gaia 2009). The former was declared “yummy”; the latter a nice alternative to a Sauvignon Blanc. A creamy yellow in the glass with light smokey oak on the palate, it was a light lemon in the mouth with a lovely, refreshing finish….in short, “yummy”!
I started my meal with a mixed charcuterie plate: duck speck, Bershire chobal, Pingue prosciutto and a glass of Rosé Brut, Crémant de Loire, Moncontour as recommended by Grayson McDiarmid, Play’s Wine Director. Despite the fact that my companions kept stealing my food (yes, even the adults – you know who you are!), I managed to determine that the pairing worked well. The Crémant is a pretty wine, with a nice colour and structure; it held up well with the spicy sausage, the salty prosciutto and the smoked speck.
Unfortunately, I must have been distracted by the food, conversation and the rather spirited game of twenty questions we were playing, as I neglected to photograph either the Greek white or the Crémant. But, trust me, they were lovely to look at!
I do, however, have a photograph of the Rosé that was paired with my grilled romaine, beets, watermelon, cashew and chèvre (while I try to stick to the wine, let me mention that this dish is a fantastic creation). The Rosato, Bastianich 2008 (Italy) did not have much bouquet on the nose but its light dryness with hints of citrus contrasted nicely with the smokiness of the romaine and the sweetness of the watermelon. As an added bonus, the wine was the same pink as the fruit: now that takes talent!
My guests both ordered the hanger steak with a Niagara Syrah, Triomphe, Southbrook 2008. The one is a die-hard Pinot Grigio drinker, the other an imbiber of Valpolicella. They both loved the Syrah: a sign of a good pairing,
The revelation of the evening was a Lebanese red Grayson recommended with the cheese plate (being a table of cheese fiends, we chose to have a taste of each of the seven cheeses on offer that night). According to him, it is rare to find Lebanese wines and he “scoops” them up when he can. The Musar Jeune, Chateau Musar 2008 from the Bekaa Valley was deep red in colour, with an earthy, chemical quality on the palate. The wine softened out when paired with the creaminess of cheese. This was a remarkable wine, not only for the fact that comes from an area most often associated with strife and political unrest, but because the avowed white wine drinker at the table asked for a second glass.
Although I tasted four desserts, mine was officially the Chocolate Pâté with Miso-Caramel and Toffee. To accompany this delectable concoction I tried both a Recioto della Valpolicella, Righetti 2008 from Italy, and a Maury, Domaine Fontanel, Roussilon 2004 from France. The key to these pairings was to have a wine that was sweet, without being cloying, with enough alcohol and acidity to balance out the dried fruitiness of the concentrated wine. Both fulfilled their promise: they were complex, unctuous without being treacly and underscored the deep, semi-sweet chocolate of the pâté.
All in all, the evening was a success: good food, good company, good service and great wines!
For some, wine can be intimidating and the thought of choosing wines to pair with dishes, daunting. Play is approachable and a great place to learn. With dozens of wines available by the glass from $5 to $14, it a wonderful place to question, to experiment and to discover.
So, before you say: “I’m a white wine drinker”, consider that what you might really be saying is “I haven’t yet tried a red wine I like” and ask Grayson for a challenge.
Wine is fun – Play!
Play Food and Wine
1 York Street