Hanging out with the Grand Crew at Grand Cru

October 27, 2008

Although being married to one of Canada’s best chefs delivers perks on a daily basis (for instance I often get pretty tasty samples of his new recipes!), every once in a while, I get a big pay off. Such was the case on Friday night when I got a last minute call to join Martin at one of the parties that was part of the fourth annual Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival that’s held to raise money for the Toronto General and Western hospital. He and Daniel Boulud had cooked at the $12,500 a plate Chateau Le Pin luncheon earlier that day (that’s one of the courses in the picture above) and Martin called to see if Oliver and I would like to meet him at Todd and Ellen Halpern’s Grand Cru team thank you party.

The party, held at the Halpern’s gorgeous house in Forest Hill, was easily one of the most elaborate house parties I’ve ever attended. It literally humbled my status as a Perfectionista

When we arrived there was an Asian elephant in the driveway to greet us (turns out I’m allergic to elephant spit; after feeding her, my hand broke out in a itchy rash – good thing I’m too old to run away and join the circus).  The backyard was swathed in black canvas and red carpet and, to make room for all the guests to dance to the tunes being played by the four piece band, the underlit pool was covered in plexiglass. To say no detail was spared would be an understatement.

Besides getting to hob-nob with philantropists and celebrity chefs, the party was also a great experience since it reminded me that even when you hear doom and gloom economic news all day long that you can’t  place your own acts of charity on the back burner. In fact, many Canadian food banks report lacklustre donations during their Thanksgiving food drives and other charities are concerned about the impact the current economic changes will cause as well.

While I certainly can’t host a lavish event where roses pave the guest tables and glasses are filled with first growth burgundies, I can still volunteer some of my spare time and remember the same charities I’ve supported in other years with a donation of some kind.  After all, when times are tough our donations and support are more necessary than ever.

Will you be changing your charitable habits due to changes in the economy?

My paint by number portrait of a sommelier

April 23, 2008

Many people imagine that being a sommelier is a dream job; after all, who wouldn’t like to taste wine for a living and match chef prepared foods to their perfect drinks?

Turns out, it’s a numbers game like most other jobs. Up and coming sommelier Jonathon Gonsenhauser gave me an inside view of his work life when we chatted on the phone the other day. (FYI: Jonathon is the sommelier at my husband Martin Kouprie’s restaurant. I chose to talk to him about his profession not only because I have easy access to him — unlike other people who can avoid me, Jonathon could get fired for not returning my calls — but also because he’s been distinguished by the Ontario Hostelry Association as one of the Top 30 young performers in the hospitality industry under 30 years of age.) He told me what it takes to be a top-notch sommelier and I’ve attempted to encapsulate our conversation with the following numeric list.

24 — Jonathon’s age.
19 — Age he started to study wine.
3 — Level (out of four) of sommelier status he’s attained.
640+ — Number of wines on Pangaea’s list.
75 to 80 — Percentage of those 640+ wines he has personally tasted.
3 — Number of days per week he meets outside work hours with his wine study group.
9 — The number of hours per week this group spends together.
6 — Number of bottles of wine made from one grape varietal that he and his study mates taste blind each Sunday.
2 to 3 — How many of those 6 bottles he and his study mates usually need to taste before someone correctly identifies the grape.
7.5 — Number of other hours Jonathon spends reading about wine on his own.
2 — Number of years before he hopes to attain master sommelier status.
17 — Number of candidates (out of 55) who usually pass the master sommelier exam on the first try.
167 — Number of master sommeliers in the world.
96 — Number of master sommeliers in North America.