When one thinks of France, two things inevitably come to mind – food and wine. On April 1st, we had the opportunity to sip and savour France – with a selection of wines from Barton & Guestier, paired with French cuisine we would prepare under the guidance of the chefs from Nella Cucina.

When we arrived on the second floor of Nella Cucina where the cooking school resides, we saw Chef Brianne Nash and her team hard at work preparing hors d’oeuvres. Nash was a Chopped Canada winner in its first season, and also won the Discovered Chef competition at Nella Cucina in 2012. The first glass of wine we would try is the B & G Passporte Bordeaux Blanc, which derives from the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grape varieties. This one was crisp and fruity and delicious. Pairing with wine was a delicious roasted fig, wine-infused caramelized onions, and ricotta on a crostini. During this time, we were also introduced to Clementine Quereax from Barton & Guestier, who came from the U.S. for this event.

After some opening remarks from Quereux, it was time to cook!  The attendees were divided into three groups handling the salad, the main, and the sides.  The mains were New York striploins provided by Beretta Farms. I love to grill so I was very happy to be in the group handling these steaks.  Nash taught us how to judge by touch the doneness of a steak using the fleshy part of our palms.  You can also use a meat thermometer, and at 120 C the steak will be at medium rare.  She also explained the importance of resting the steak after it’s been grilled; to do this properly, it should be placed on a rack uncovered so that it doesn’t continue to cook in the heat it’s releasing.  I can’t wait till the summer grilling season to put this knowledge to good use. We then made the jus for the steak using a bottle of B & G Partager La Gardie Cabernet Sauvignon, shallots, butter, and a fresh sprig of rosemary.

The other two groups were just as busy and surely learning just as much we were. One group was making a beet, fennel, and apple salad with honey mustard dressing. The other group was making the sides for the steak, which included glazed beans and truffle roasted fingerling potatoes. Once all groups were finished, we were led to the private dining room where we would enjoy the fruits of our labour.

We began with the dinner with the salad. This was paired with the B & G Partager La Gardie Merlot ($9.95 at the LCBO). This wine balanced well with the sweetness of the dressing, and the tartness of the beets and green apple. Next came our mains; the steak now was plated beautifully with the glazed beans and potatoes prepared by the other group. The B & G Partager La Gardie Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.95 at the LCBO) was the pairing wine. This was also used in the jus, and having a glass alongside the steak definitely served to further enhance the flavours of both. Both dishes were delicious – kudos to the attendees and the instruction given by the Nella Cucina team!

In between courses, Quereux mingled with the guests and gave a brief description of each of the wines. The guests engaged in enjoyable conversation and were having a good time. The two dishes we had so far were already great, and then the dessert arrived – a dark chocolate brownie with sour cherry compote. With it came a glass of the recently released Les Charmes de Magnol Médoc ($18.95 at LCBO). I don’t normally like dry wines, but this one beautifully complemented the sweetness of the brownie and the tartness of the compote. It was a great way to end the evening.

There are few things better in my mind than a perfect food and wine pairing, and tonight proved this again. We enjoyed the time we spent Nella Cucina learning how to cook, savouring our creations, and sipping the wines from Barton & Guestier. Thanks to Clementine Quereux and Barton & Guestier, Chef Brianne Nash and the Nella Cucina team, and Butter PR for a memorable evening.

For more information about Barton & Guestier:
Twitter: @BartonGuestier #ItsBGTime
Instagram: @BartonGuestier #ItsBGTime
Facebook: BartonGuestier

Nella Cucina is located at 876 Bathurst St., just north of London St. For more information:
Twitter: @NellaCucina
Instagram: @NellaCucina
Facebook: NellaCucinaToronto

Photos by John Tan

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John Tan

John is an avid traveller, but equally loves being a tourist in his own city. With camera in hand, he enjoys discovering the sights, sounds, tastes, and everything else that Toronto has to offer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@iam_johntan) to see what he's been up to lately.