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Winery Spotlight Series at the Edmonton Expo Centre

With his extensive fine-dining culinary experience with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts globally, including Edmonton’s Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, it is no surprise that Chef Jiju Paul launched a Winery Spotlight Dinner series at his new culinary home – the Edmonton Expo Centre.

While the venue may spark images of concession food or banquet-plated dinners from the list of sporting, music, or trade show events that frequent the Edmonton Expo Centre, chef Paul is eager share just how memorable a dining experience at the Edmonton Expo Centre can be.

When chef Paul invited me to his second dinner in the Winery Spotlight Series, I was overjoyed to learn the evening would feature Spanish wines, especially as The Spanadian would be joining me and he would be able to have a taste of home.

Although I know chef Paul is talented, my expectations for the event were not high because I had a preconceived notion about the venue. How good could a wine dinner at the Edmonton Expo Centre really be?

Well, I have no problem admitting I was wrong. From the glass of Segura Viudas Bruta Reserva Cava I sipped as I nibbled on an assortment of Meuwly’s charcuterie at the welcome reception, to Gull Valley Greenhouses tomato tartare plated whimsically on a garden hoe, to the moment I cracked into the lifelike apple dessert shaped from chocolate, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Our four friends who joined shared similar positive sentiments on the evening, also impressed by the quality of the food, the intimate experience of having each dish presented by Chef Paul, and of course – the wine.

For each course, our pairing included unique stories from winemaker Nathalie Bonhomme, a Canadian expat who has spent the last 28 years helping to share Spanish wines with the world. I found Bonhomme’s smile and charisma infectious, and hearing her personal connection to each wine that evening was a delightful addition to each pairing.

A lamb course followed by a cheese course made for one very happy Spanadian

While chef Paul certainly incorporated elements of Spanish cuisine, the use of so many local ingredients gave the Spanish-inspired menu a bold Canadian flavour. Repeatedly Chef Paul shared his commitment to using and highlighting ingredients like Alberta lamb, and local producers and artisans such as Meuwly’s, Gull Valley Greenhouses, and Irvings Farm Fresh Alberta pork.

Here are some of the highlights of our dinner:

Wine: Segura Viudas Brut Reserva
Reception: Amuse Bouche (including Meuwly’s charcuterie and lobster with caviar)

Wine: Kentia Albarino
Gull Valley Tomato Tartare
parmesan chips, celery leaves, micro radish, evoo, frozen white balsamic

Wine: La Bonhomme Rose
Irvings Farm Pork Belly & Pork Cheek
sunchoke puree, grilled green onion, chili oil, mojo reduction, chicharron

Wine: El Petite Bonhomme Blanco
Octopus Terrine
potato cubes, harissa Spanish olives, bouillabaisse vinaigrette

Palate Cleanser – Cucumber lime Granite

Wine: Juan Gil Silver Label Monastrell
Alberta Rack of Lamb
peas, morels, asparagus, merguez sausage & Manchego croquetas, lamb jus

Wine: Honoro Vera Garnacha
Cheese Platter
Iberico, mahon, cabrales blue, black current jelly, corn bread, pear gel

Dessert
Apple
An apple-shaped white chocolate ganache, apple gel with cinnamon apple, pecan nougatine, white chocolate caramel centre on a cookie, passion fruit gel, raspberry microwave sponge, lemon meringue, almond chocolate streusel.

Chef Paul hasn’t released the date for his next Winery Spotlight Dinner in the fall, but he hinted the series will feature Argentina wines in the fall. For $125, I feel the experience is a good value for the quality and quantify of food and wine.

I spent a six weeks backpacking and eating my way across Argentina so I was excited to learn about the next destination in the series. If chef Paul has lamb on the menu again, I’ll have no problem signing The Spanadian up to attend again.

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