Whistler's Quattro has come out on top of a new competition pairing food with pinot noir.
Head chef Jeremie Trottier has won the first-ever salmon appetizer challenge run by the Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir in Oregon.
"We were approached to submit a recipe that went with their wine, and the first thing that popped to mind when I tasted it was the sockeye salmon that we do on the menu," recalled Trottier.
The recipe for the dish (on opposite page) was something Trottier wanted to keep simple without many ingredients.
"Our style is not adding much. It's more a balance," he said.
"The recipe we submitted definitely gives you a bit of sweet with the glaze and a little bit of sour with the pickled fennel. Being on the west coast, the sockeye is available. I want people to have success when they try out something, so the ingredient is something you can find anywhere here."
They had to submit the recipe to the winery, stand back and hope for the best, Trottier said.
"We didn't cook it for them but we did try the wine. That is how we came up with the recipe idea. It was one of those things that as soon as I tasted it, this salmon dish came to mind right away."
He says that kind of understanding is hard to explain, but key for him was that he did not want the food to overpower the wine.
"For me, (in) matching food to wine, I like to taste the wine because I have all the food experience. It's harder for me to take food and then guess at the wine, I do it the opposite way. It's because I'm tasting all day, it will be something that clicks," Trottier said.
Trottier has been Quattro's head chef for 14 years. Prior to this, he had been cooking since the age of 15 and quickly realized this was his vocation.
He took an apprenticeship at the Hotel Vancouver and worked at several Italian restaurants in Vancouver as a sous chef. It was at that point he moved to Whistler.
Alison Sokol Blosser, co-president and CEO of Oregon's Sokol Blosser Winery, called their appetizer competition "a quest."
The winery was started by Sokol Blosser's parents in 1971, as a pinot noir-focused vineyard. She said they especially like working with small, independently owned restaurants like Quattro.
"Salmon and pinot noir are such a natural pairing in the Pacific Northwest. My favourite combination. The idea came up, why don't we work with the many restaurants and chefs that are in the western part of Canada, have them come up with the ultimate pairing between pinot noir and salmon and feature it as an appetizer as well. This is the first year that we tried it and it was a lot of fun," Sokol Blosser said in an interview.
"Eight restaurants from (B.C.) to Alberta took part. Quattro was the only one from Whistler.
"We got to be on the eating end of everything. It was the roughest week of my life, for sure," Sokol Blosser laughed.
Trottier's recipe caught Sokol Blosser attention thanks to the use of fennel.
"The pickled fennel was amazing! It was just so unexpected and fresh. It added vibrancy to the dish. And was also simple enough that people would want to try it at home," she said.
"Everyone just loved it. They were trying different recipes at the winery and when you hear, 'So good! So good!' so many times, I think you have a winner."
Sokol Blosser took part in a wine tasting and bottle signing at Marketplace Liquor store in Whistler on Wednesday, Jan. 14 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Trottier is celebrating their win with the wine tasting and appetizers on Thursday, Jan. 15 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
"I can't wait to come up and meet chef in person," Sokol Blosser said.
Quattro's staff is in the middle of the restaurant's four busiest months of the year and the uneven snowfall has not dampened this.
"It's peaks and valleys. It's been crazy. Over Christmas we were serving over 300 per night, flipping the room twice," Trottier said, pleased to be busy.
"There are a couple of big weekends, we're already sold out for a shopping convention later in January. It's all moving along."
Orange Dijon Glazed Wild Sockeye Salmon, Pickled Fennel, And Baby Arugula
• 1⁄4 cup vinegar
• 1⁄4 cup mirin
• 1⁄2 cup water
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 jalapeno, sliced in half
• 1⁄2 cup sugar
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 bulb fennel, core removed, thinly shaved on mandolin
Bring vinegar, mirin, water, bay leaf, jalapeno, sugar and salt to a boil. Add fennel. Remove from heat and let steep until room temperature. Fennel should have soft pliable texture.
• 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, no pulp
• 1 tbsp. shallot, finely chopped
• 2 tsp. honey
• 1 tsp. grainy Dijon mustard
In a small saucepan, reduce orange juice and shallots over medium heat down to 1⁄2 cup. Remove from heat and cool. Whisk in honey and mustard.
The pickled fennel and glaze are best when prepared ahead of time and can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.
You can portion this dish as an appetizer (3 oz.) or as a main course (6 oz.). Ideally use fresh wild sockeye salmon.
Preheat oven to 400F. Heat an ovenproof skillet on medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil then season the salmon with salt and pepper and sear skin side up. Flip the salmon, apply glaze on the seared side and place in oven. Cooking time will depend on thickness of the salmon. Place cooked salmon on a small arugula salad with light olive oil dressing. Top with pickled fennel.