Sláinte! A night of Scotch pairings made for a rousing — and carousing — success

Wine pairings tend to get the most attention in hospitality, but what about Scotch? Members of CF Winnipeg were treated to a convincing seminar on the neglected pairing, tasting four rounds of whiskey, each one representative of a method, process and region that make it special.

Gary Dawyduk, a product ambassador for the Grant Park Liquor Mart, took chefs from simply defining Scotch whiskey to examining the role of oak, blending and Scotch’s unique coastal influences, while local chef-members were instrumental in preparing the fantastic food pairings. Working with Mo Razik, president of Fenton’s Wine Merchants, Dawyduk shared his vast knowledge and experience.

First up, chef Jason Wortzman of Granny’s Poultry prepared Dijon-herb tartlets with Granny’s cranberry-chipotle sausage and Manchego cheese. This was paired with Famous Grouse Blended Scotch and Glenmorangie Original 10 year, which Dawyduk used as a benchmark for the evening.

While Dawyduk broke down how the Scotches interacted with the food, chef Jared Lavallee, of Assiniboia Downs and Via Rail, prepared the next accompaniment: seared veal meatballs seasoned with fresh herbs, which he skewered alongside roasted bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and red onions, and served with a toasted walnut demi-glaze. Two favourites, the Lowland Auchentoshan 12 year and Johnnie Walker Black, made for bold — and educational — accompaniments.

Chefs Jesse Friesen and Ian Shapira, both of the Merchant Kitchen and Pizzeria Gusto, put together a heady dish of smoked salmon, beets, horseradish, candied turnips and a winter truffle puree. The smoke and heat highlighted the briny coastal influence of Orkney Isles’ Highland Park 12 year, as well as the peat from the Bowmore 12 year, a classic Islay dram. The islands are off the north and west coast of Scotland, respectively, and are known for producing smoky, ponderous whiskey. But Dawyduk saved the strongest stuff for last, pouring a final tasting of Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 59 Cask Strength, which doesn’t get watered down to the usual 40 per cent ABV.

The night showed the chefs the finer points of the whiskey, and the processes employed to produce the unique tastes and characteristics of small-batch products. Special thanks to Razik, the Manitoba Liquor Mart and the chefs for their efforts in making this a great event.

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