Friday, April 21, 2006

Crabfest ‘06

Not much rivals the pure, unadulterated joy that is the first week of real spring weather; when the sun actually warms, the snow starts to melt, the crocus flowers. Bliss me Ma Nature! But close on the heels, and yet another hopeful sign that summer is nigh is the start of snowcrab (Chionoecetes opilio) season. There are few seabugs whose meat can match the snow crab’s delicate sweetness and silky texture. When prepared (steamed) with water that has the right salinity, the sweetness is balanced by almost a ‘briny’ flavour reminiscent of walking the beach in Matane, with that cool, salt laden air breeze coming off the St. Laurent.

The key is to get them live as freshness counts (even 2 days later after being cooked, they started to get a touch rank). However, unlike lobster, snow crab needs to be ‘de-leggified’ while they are alive (if they are cooked whole, the meat is sullied by the release of a dark, inky substance). Last year, I found our technique a bit barbarian so welcomed Karl’s new precision killing system which involved a chef’s knife penetrating straight between the eyes.

In previous years I have drunk a single wine, concentrating on the white Pinot family which has been a proven success. So in the spirit of innovation, this one was left to chance, I guess one could call it a ‘pot drunk.’

Alsace 2004, Domaine Marcel Deiss ($24…importation)
This was so good we drank two. A classic assemblage of Rielsing, Pinot Blanc with a touch of Pinot Gris and Sylvaner are put together by the mix master Jean-Michel Deiss. Nobody does it better in Alsace. The ’04 is a little greener than the ’03 but both the finesse and freshness are there; one had the sense of biting into a juicy green grape. And like always, organically grown with the bare minimum of sulfite.

Sicilia Igt 2004, Anthilia, Donnafugata ($18…importation)
A mix of the indigenous Ansonica and Catarratto grapes, this is yet another great wine from Sicilian producer Donnafugata. It reminded me of an unoaked Rousanne, rich and spicey but with a hint of melon. Nice wine but would have been better with a smoked salmon.

Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Kim Crawford ($16…saq)
They make 70 000 cases of this stuff but it remains a great buy. Crisp acidity and thankfully not overly aromatic, what it may lack in distinctiveness it more than makes up for in easy drinkability. If only all the corporate wines were produced with the same skill and care. The super ripe fruitiness was a nice compliment for the crab’s natural sweetness.

Gewürztraminer 2004, Dopff & Irion ($18…saq)
We drank this with a cheese plate before the dinner. The cuvee ‘Sorcières’ has always been one of the better inexpensive Gewurztraminers on the SAQ shelves and this entry level follows in a similar vein; bright litchi, grapefruit and rosehip aromas with a slightly ‘honeyed’ finish. A very easy, user-friendly gewürztraminer and perfect for introducing this noble Alsace grape to the uninitiated.

No comments: