Wine upsets beer as hometown advantage comes good on a lovely evening in Niagara.
13th Street Winery represented by sommelier Peter Bodnar Rod versus Mill Street Brewery and brewmaster Joel Manning, paired with fabulous gourmet street food from El Gastronomo Vagabundo and Amaya Express, who were in a friendly competition of their own.
Surprisingly, at least for me, the lighter weight wines carried the day, possibly because of the formidable heat and humidity in the air, not the heat in the prepared dishes, when clearly something bigger was called for with all of the bold spiciness bursting forth from most of the food on offer.
This called out, nay, screamed, for an IPA, a double IPA or a generously hopped pilsner, for those who prefer lagers on the beer side of things. While for wine I would have preferred a fruity, dry red wine to provide balance to the spiciness and heat and to properly cleanse the palate, say a peppery Zinfandel? But maybe that’s because I like bolder flavours in beer, wine and food.
I met a lovely couple from Montreal, clearly wine devotees, but they said beer was the better match with the food, except for the seared scallop, twice-cooked pork belly, with chili caramel, coconut tapioca, kaffir lime, Thai basil, crispy shallots, crispy garlic paired with 13th Street White Palette 2011 and Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer. They won a prize for correctly naming this as the best match of the evening.
I’m allergic to bivalves so I just tasted the 13th Street White Palette 2011 and Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer on their own. The 13th Street White Palette 2011 provided a sharp citric attack that may well have been the perfect counterpoint to the seared scallop dish but seemed a trifle harsh on its own. The Mill Street Lemon Tea, very refreshing solo, served up lighter but still bright citric notes, which usually pair well with seafood.
For the two spicy dishes described below, Mill Street Tankhouse was clearly the better match for me, cleansing with hop bitterness and renewing the palate with a pleasant malt presence for another tasting of the spicy, piquant food.
The cheeseburger samosa curry puff with fresh brisket, garam masala, spicy chutney paired well with Mill Street Tankhouse Ale rather than the 13th Street choice of Pink Palette Rose 2011.
The Chicken Tikka Masala, cooked in a heavy moveable tandoor, was served on fresh garlic naan topped with cilantro chutney, again came up trumps with the Tankhouse Ale. The Red Palette 2011 started nicely with fruit forward but trailed off after several bites of the pungent food, and while this pairing was close, Tankhouse prevailed.
I might have used Tankhouse Ale for the smoked chicken tostada, avocado, candied jalapeno, green papaya salad but it paired equally well with the crisp 13th Street June Vineyard Riesling 2011 and Mill Street Hellesbock.
So, that would have been three out of three for Mill Street Tankhouse then but for the absence of the Mill Street IPA?!
Crispy tofu, rice noodles, Asian herbs, chili caramel, roasted peanuts (vegan and gluten free) paired with 13th Street Red Palette 2011 and Mill Street Barrel Yard Brown Ale. This was a sawoff, with wine and beer about equal on the palate.
The banana fritters were damn tasty on their own but, matched up nicely with the Ambre de la Chaudiere, a fine Biere de Garde from Mill Street’s new brewpub in Ottawa. The wine offering was 13th Street 13 Degrees Below Zero Riesling, a fine wine in its own right but not quite right for me.
See also winesinniagara