What a foodie fantastic evening! Ten chefs outdid themselves with wonderful creations and, I'm proud to say, every one of them filled their menu with Saskatchewan ingredients - from pickerel cheeks to wild boar belly, from lentils to wild rice cracker, from black pansy syrup to pea shoot foam.
I had the wonderful opportunity of sitting on the judge's panel. A tough decision, to be sure, but the clear winner was Chef Dan Walker of Wizceria, a restaurant in Saskatoon's Broadway district. Here are pictures of the winners with mouth-watering descriptions by fellow judge, the food and wine writer James Chatto.
Taking the gold medal by a unanimous decision of the judges was Chef Dan Walker of Weczeria Food and Wine in Saskatoon, by far the smallest restaurant in the competition. His strip of wild boar belly was perfectly textured – crisp where it needed to be, unctuous elsewhere, and richly flavoured. An almost undetectable scattering of crumbled pecans added an extra dimension. Beneath the belly we found some pulled leg meat from the boar, moist and sapid from a well-seasoned marinade. Two purées – one of carrot, the other of jerusalem artichoke – were delightfully lightweight but also full of flavour, matched by crisps made from the same vegetables. Two soft, pan-fried potato gnocchi were exemplary in texture and useful for mopping up a finishing flourish of green herbal oil. The winning wine was a great match – a wine that has already captured gold elsewhere in this year’s campaign – Rockpile 2008 from Road 13 winery in the Okanagan
The silver medal was awarded to Chef Ryan Marquis of the Delta Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon. Front-and-centre on his plate stood a hen’s egg shell filled with a spectacularly luxe foie gras crème brûlée that many of the judges deemed to be the single most delicious item of the evening. Beside it stood a big square-cut slab of smoked pork belly with a maple molasses glaze and more dots of the black, deeply flavoured glaze decorated the plate. A stripe of parsnip purée and a crisp parsnip chip represented the vegetable kingdom. Chef’s wine choice worked well – the awesome 2008 Nota Bene from Black Hills winery in the Okanagan, British Columbia.
Our bronze medallist was Chef Anthony McCarthy of the Saskatoon Club. He braised Berkshire pig cheeks to the point of tenderness and sauced them with the braising liquid and a pork demi-glace made from the pig’s bones. The lean meat stood beside a small and elegant pirozhki filled with a purée of semi-dehydrated Prairie Sensation apples, touched by a subtle hint of black truffle. A fava bean purée added lovely colour to the plate and a delicate apple cider cream picked up the flavour of the pirozhki. Chef had twisted a very crisp, lightweight strip of crackling into the Q of a pig’s tail and the dish was finished with a couple of perfect little golden chanterelles foraged in the Whitefox area by a gentleman called Lorne Terry. “Call it ‘pork and beans,’” said McCarthy. So we did. The wine was a good match – the dry, aromatic 2008 Pinot Blanc from Peller Estates in B.C.’s Okanagan valley.
This was the first Gold Medal Plates chef's competition held in Saskatoon, and it raised the most money in the history of Gold Medal Plates - $400,000 for elite athletes. Way to go S'toon!
"Out of Old Saskatchewan Kitchens" celebrates the colourful people and recipes that populated our province. It follows my first book "Prairie Feast: A Writer's Journey Home for Dinner." Saskatchewan tastes great -- I wrote the book on it!!