Yesterday marked the start of Festival du Voyageur, everyone's favourite celebration of all things Franco-Manitoban. While there's a little bit of everything for voyageurs of all ages to check out at the Festival, it's the food that typically lures me in. Whether you like sweet or savoury, food at the Festival du Voyageur rarely disappoints.
But first, a beverage-related note -- specifically, the infamous Caribou. This concoction is a Festival favourite -- according to their website, it's a mixture of red wine with whisky. However, it was also suggested to me that port can be used instead of red wine to kick it up a notch, so to speak.
Instead of buying the pre-made stuff at a Liquor Mart, I was intrigued enough by Caribou to have a go at making my own. There are a whole pile of recipes out there, but like any good journalist, I started at Wikipedia, employing their suggested ratio of three parts red wine to one part whisky.
I modified things slightly, and the final concoction came out at about three parts red wine, one part whisky, a dash of cinnamon and maple syrup for a splash of sweetness. For the whisky (or, as the case may be, brandy) component, I tried three options -- Gibson's Finest, Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey and Courvoisier Connoisseur Collection 12-year-old cognac. The Gibson's wasn't bad, the Jack Daniels honey/whiskey liqueur brought major honey notes and was sweetest, while the Courvoisier brought intense orange peel notes.
Now, on to the wine and Festival food pairing...
This hearty Festival favourite features ground meat, potatoes, onions and spices all mixed up and baked in a pie -- quintessential hearty winter fare. A wine needs to have enough body to stand up to the pie's filling, and should also work well with spices like cinnamon or cloves that are often mixed in. Try a Rh¥ne Valley red -- a wine typically made from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and other grapes, there's an earthiness and spice to Rh¥ne Valley reds that will complement this dish. Other red options include Spanish or Portuguese wines, while aromatic, spicy Gewürztraminer or Viognier should work for a white.
Nothing takes the edge off a chilly Manitoba winter like a nice bowl of soupe aux pois. It's typically a hearty, savoury soup that can get a little salty with the common addition of salted pork; as such, a hint of sweetness in the wine can go a long way in balancing things out. An off-dry Riesling. Gewürztraminer or Austrian Grüner Veltliner should do the trick.
French fries, cheese curds and gravy, poutine is either a match made in heaven or a devilishly high-calorie snack. Regardless, there's a lot of fat to cut through in this dish, and there are the savoury gravy notes to take into consideration when considering pairing poutine with a drink. To be honest, I'd go with a beer with poutine -- a crisp lager or pilsner will temper all that fat.
Maple sugar pie:
Holy sugar rush, Batman. Maple syrup, brown sugar and heavy cream drive this concoction. Some add crushed nuts to this decadent dessert as well, which makes pairing this sweet treat with wine an enticing proposition. The trick with wine and dessert is to ensure one isn't far sweeter than the other; go for a late harvest dessert wine, a medium-sweet German white, or bring some gusto with a tawny port.
LA VIEILLE FERME 2010 RED
(Ventoux, France -- $12.39,
Liquor Marts and beyond)
Deep cherry, spice, raspberry and earth notes are intense and appealing on the nose of this French blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Fantastic dried cherry, espresso, black tea, white pepper and raspberry flavours on the medium-plus bodied palate are structured with some modest but firm tannin and a finish of medium length. This would certainly work with tourtière, hearty stews, Mexican fare or anything with some spice. A great value. 88/100
BLúFELD 2010 RIESLING
(Mosel, Germany -- $13.99,
Liquor Marts and beyond)
Red apple, peach, spice and lemon are the dominant notes on this German white wine. It's light-bodied and crisp, with sweet green apple and lemon candy notes on the palate. There's enough residual sugar to grapple with the saltiness of pork in soupe aux pois, with some acidity and light effervescence to cut through the soup's creamy texture. Having said that, I'd probably go with something a little higher in spice and lower in sweetness -- overall, though, not bad. 85/100