I was going to end this post with “Beauty, eh?” But the idea behind the Canadian set menu at The Cut in the Fairmont Beijing, which starts on Tuesday and runs through July, is so clever that I put it up front. And here, too: Beauty, eh?
We started with a cocktail called The Scofflaw, whipped up by Anthony Evangelista in the hotel’s Champagne Bar. Prohibition era. Likely often made then with smuggled Canadian whiskey. It includes dry vermouth, lemon juice, grenadine, bitters and Canadian whiskey: in this case, 21-year-old. Then it was time for the taste test. Here are the four main items…
The thyme-infused goat cheese with flax seed crust, beetroot and orange dressing had a nice nutty touch. And it went well with the Stoney Ridge Exellence Sauvignon Blanc 2010, which hails from the Niagara region, with Fairmont’s Faisal Afroz providing all of the details. I haven’t had many Canadian Sauvignon Blancs and this ably expressed the grape with all those herbaceous aromas — asparagus, grass, and more.
Next up: Maple syrup-glazed steelhead salmon from British Columbia, roasted on a tiny raft of redwood cedar and topped with icewine dressing. Tender and delicious with a woodsy hint.
In terms of wine, we moved to the Stoney Ridge Excellence Chardonnay 2010. I initially found it hammy, though one patron said I should stay in the event’s spirit of write down “Canadian. It then vanilla and buttery aromas and, frankly, I found it a bit weird.
After that, the highlight: A platter with Alberta strip loin, poutine (best known from Quebec) and Atlantic lobster. The strip loin is tender and juicy, though I dreamed of something twice as thick, done in the backyard and washed down with beer. Marketing director Nick Stipp scored additional meat from the plates of the more diminutive eaters at our table. It’s not something to go to waste.
And I don’t make a lot of cliched “melts in your mouth” comments here, but the lobster was in that range.
The only disappointment: the poutine. The thick cut fries were heavy, soft and lukewarm, and didn’t have enough gravy and curds for cover. That should be easy enough to change.
We had the Stoney Ridge Exellence Pinot Noir at this point. It had a fresh berry, including dark cherry, and a light dry grass smell that later expressed more toastiness and black cherry. In terms of taste, it was a bit bland, but is worth a try if you have never had a Pinot Noir from Ontario.
The final item: a beaver tail. This one came topped with cinnamon sugar, maple ice cream and chocolate sauce with Crown Royal whisky. Sugar rush. Even more so given that it came paired with a Stoney Ridge Riesling Icewine 2007, with a slightly spiced baked apple aroma, a whiff of that tell-tale Riesling diesel smell, and a body that was sweet but not so much as to be viscous or sticky.
“Canadian street food” is how chef Marcus Routbard described the beaver tail. (Well, except for the Crown Royal infused chocolate sauce: you don’t see many street vendors doing that.) On top of the cheese, steak, lobster and poutine, this was the perfect knock-out punch on a knock-out dinner. Beauty, eh?
See here for my Grade-Eh Week interview with Routbard.