Monday, October 27, 2008

::He ain't heavy. He's my father::

So, a few days ago I posted about the *Urban Element* event I was taking my Dad too. {See *HERE*} It turns out that it was AMAZING! It far surpassed my expectations. If I had the time and money I would book an event every few weeks.

Dad and I walked into the small red brick building at 2:50 p.m. and thought we had mistakenly interrupted a private dinner. In front of us was a long, elegant table brimming with appetizers in white square dishes, bubbling champain, and twenty people chatting away as if they already knew one another. We actually left the building again to make sure we hadn't walked in the wrong door. Upon re-entering, the hostess apologized for not seeing us the first time, and took our coats.

Once we were seated, we saw that there were papers at each place setting with maps of the wine regions that would be represented over the next few hours. While we introduced ourselves to the people around us we nibbled on white bean dip and baguette, candied nuts and fresh olives. We soon discovered that the entire west end of the table was composed of seven sisters having a reunion of sorts. Seven! Dad and I were enveloped into their family within minutes. In fact, dad was co-opted as a stand-in for their absent brother.

"Is your brother short?" I had asked them. Pointedly seeking a comparison between my dad and their true brother.
"Nope. He's actually a fairly tall man," sister #6 replied.
"Is he heavy?" My dad persisted, poking fun at his own stocky build.
And then one of the sisters executed the most perfect line, in the most deadpan way:
"He ain't heavy, he's my brother."
{If this little nugget of humour has escaped you, see *HERE*}

Across from us were two women who were getting down to business. One had out an official looking booklet and was scribbling madly as she tasted each wine. It turns out that these two were enrolled in Algonquin's *Sommelier Program.* I was fascinated by the older woman who invariably guessed the identity of each undertone and grape variety correctly. For example; "This one definitely has oak undertones with a hint of blackberry and chocolate," she would surmise. What?! But, sure enough, our guide would quickly follow up, minutes later, with a detailed description of the wine that matched the burgeoning sommelier's. The ladies assured us that it's just a matter of memorization. The wines all fall under certain categories, and once you know one variable the rest tend to fall into place.

In this friendly atmosphere, we were guided by a wonderfully knowledgeable woman who stood at the head of the table and talked us through the regions and qualities of each of the wines. We began with three whites. One of which tasted like vanilla, while the other had citrus/tropical fruit undertones. We were taught how to "trill" our wine to best taste the flavour. This involved swishing the wine in our mouths, bringing it to the front of our tongue, shaping our lips into an 'O' and sucking air "up over top of the wine." It works! The wine suddenly bursts with flavour. It looks ridiculous, but it's another little factoid that will elevate my wine snobbishness to new heights:

We moved on to reds. My favourite. Our first wine offered us an interesting experience. It smelled funky. I think my dad put it best when he suggested it smelled of cheese and cardboard. It turns out this became an impromptu lesson in "corked" wines. *Cork taint* is something I had heard of but never experienced. Now I have, and I would rather not again. Ugh.

Somewhere between tastings we were all given a beautifully pretentious plate of appetizers. Each plate was large and divided into four gently cupped quadrants. The young chef came over from the kitchen to describe the delicacies to us. They had so many adjectives attached to them I have no hope of repeating them. I know that one was a a roasted tomato tartlet that set my Dad to chuckling beside me, {a Friends episode starring John Lovitz, apparently}, while pine nut terrine was unanimously rejected by the seven sisters. Vegetarians? "Nope," confirmed the nearest sister. Hmm. My favourites were the smoked gouda with apple compote and the creamy fish morsel in a tasty sauce. It was fun discovering which wines were best paired with which food.

The last surprise was a chocolate dessert the defies description, paired with a red sparkling wine. I had no idea sparkling reds existed, but I will be sure to try and find this one again. Mmmmm.

The time flew by. We felt we were leaving a new-found family. But we had a far more precious family awaiting us at home. "Dad, I have a birthday too you know. Feel free to return the favour."