Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Beauty and the Beast at the Pied
What Exactly does one Eat with Alsace Wines?

For those of you who are not local, Au Pied de Cochon and its chef Martin Picard are the purveyors of what may be loosely termed ‘contemporary cuisine québécois.’ The food, like its chef, is rich and unrefined, sometimes bordering on the grotesque. But at its best, Picard’s food is a salute to both the culinary history of Quebec, the phenomenal quality and variety of its regional ingredients, and of course the extraordinary and sometimes twisted imagination of the chef himself.

Weinbach’s wines are made in the image of co-owner Catherine Faller; Elegant and complex at their best and, if I have a critique to make, a bit manicured at times. 100% organic with half of the vineyard bio-d, they believe in maximum ripeness and reduced yields, indigenous yeasts and low sulfitage in the chais. Just how we like them. In general the Gewurztraminers and Pinot Gris’ are some of the best that Alsace has to offer while I must admit I tend to buy my Riesling from others.

Our lunch at the Pied, in the company of Ms. Faller had as an underlying theme ‘what exactly goes with Alsace wine.’ Special thanks to Pierre and Edith for putting on one of the most orgiastic wine and food events that I have ever experienced.

Lunch began on the raw, a variety of oysters, scallops and live shrimp pulled straight from the aquarium. In the glasses were the Muscat Reserve 2002 ($51…saq) and the line of Rieslings. I found all the Rieslings way too powerful for the delicate flavors and salinity of the raw stuff. The Muscat was very Weinbach, no aromatic explosion here, just beautiful and profound fruit, as if one was biting straight into the grape. It worked best with the scallops, but I think I’ll stick with my trusty Muscadet as my oyster chaser.

Then came the onslaught. Boiled lobster; pan fried bass; deep-fried oysters, scallops and lobster; blood sausage and oysters gratinéed with foie gras. It seemed endless. But here comes the Tokays and Gewurztraminers, and Alsace shone! The best Alsace wines combine richness and spice with an exceptional freshness that can lighten up the most artery-clogging plate. In that vein, the Tokay Pinot Gris 2002, Altenbourg, Cuvée Laurence ($90…saq) is perhaps the finest foie gras wine that exists. A mix of 70% dry and 30% Botrytised grapes, this is refined opulence which can stand up to the richness of the foie gras, while its crisp acidity keeps the palette fresh.

While Weinbach doesn’t come cheap, they are perhaps the best all around vignoble in Alsace. And what to drink them with? At the Pied, at least, all that is either rich or spicy.

The best of the best…
Muscat Réserve 2002 ($51…saq)
Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Ste-Catherine 2002 ($88…saq)

A bit of minerality, a touch of exotic fruit, a hint of herbs (tisane)... great all around Riesling without all that retro-diesel stuff going down
Tokay Pinot Gris 2002, Altenbourg, Cuvée Laurence ($90…saq)
You want floral lushness, or lush floralness...hmmm..power, elegance.. it is all here.
Gewurztraminer Cuvée Theo 2002 ($54…saq)
My favorite all around gewurzt. A touch of sugar makes what is normally a difficult grape quite inviting.
Gewurztraminer Altenbourg Cuvée Laurence 2001 ($92...saq)
Beautiful mouth feel with tangerine zest and loads of spice...a huge gewurz that is actually fun to drink
Tokay Altenbourg Vendanges Tardives 2001 ($132...saq)
Loads of honey but fresh and delicate. All the sweet wines were fantastic but my mouth was in shock at this point.

1 comment:

g58 said...

Wow fantastic! The one time I went to Au Pied de Cochon, it was for a very special send-off: a friend was beginning a six-month long hiking trek in the wilderness. He wanted something memorable and substantial. Et voila! That was a year ago and the memory is still vivid. I drank white wine there too, which seems like a logical urge with their outstanding seafood menu and, well, with all that delightful pork fat one needs to cut through. I ordered a sophisticated Aligoté for that. We also enjoyed the Poutine foie-gras with a sparkling vin de Bugey. Pink, pig and poutine. It was perfect.
In the end, I loved their service and ambiance more than anything. It feels like so much more than a restaurant. Like you're at someone's home. Or at an amusement park created for the bon-vivant gourmand.
Glad you enjoyed the Muscadet. Wines like those will likely require a career move for me so in the meantime I stayed tuned to your site.