Wild Feast Among the Vines at Planters Ridge Winery
By Emily Kathan
On a recent Friday evening, diners had the privilege of looking out over the vineyards of Planters Ridge and beyond to the Wellington Dyke while enjoying a six course tasting menu, along with the vineyard’s own wine pairings. The view was punctuated by the occasional bald eagle gliding past on a gentle breeze, and the local songbirds were kind enough to provide the perfect soundtrack to an evening of foraged ingredients incorporated into each of the beautifully executed courses.
Avery Peters and Chef Nelson Penner have together created the Wild Feast dining experience around the edible plants they forage, as close by as the Harvest Moon trail through Wolfville, and as far afield as the Northwest Territories. From the wood sorrel garnishes (wonderfully lemony) to the perfect buttery chanterelles, the delicious results of their foraging, as prepared by Penner, impress as well as edify.
The evening’s meal began with a cocktail made from a sweet fern syrup and Elevation, a lightly sparkling Planter’s Ridge wine similar to prosecco. The sweet fern was collected locally and prepared by Avery, and the result was a pleasing and mild herbal cocktail ending with a dry finish.
The first course of lobster-stuffed morels came encased in crunchy croquettes and the accompanying grapevine ash goat cheese added dimension to the earthy flavour of the mushrooms, which was nicely offset by the acidity of a Reisling. Next, the rack of lamb (cooked sous-vide) accompanied dandelion greens reminiscent of rapini in a five spice jus. The bitterness of the dandelion paired well with the full-bodied Heritage Red wine.
Avery singled out the carrot-date puree as one of her favourite Nelson Penner specialties, and it proved her more than right, beautifully complimenting the spicy harissa roast carrot, yogurt, and sumac carrot chips. The carrots were accompanied by a Tidal Bay that began with the fragrant lychee notes of a Muscat.
The halibut course that followed included many more delicious foraged items, including buttery and perfect chanterelles and an intriguing heartnut milk soubise that was both creamy and pleasantly bitter. The pickled cattail shoots that accompanied this dish were reminiscent of leeks in both look and taste, and it was hard to reconcile them with the fat brown cigars and woody stalks that usually come to mind when we think of the plant.
The braised beef arrived on a bed of Yukon gold potatoes aligot that immediately made one wonder why anyone would eat potatoes any other way. The lamb’s quarters, a wild green, tasted pleasantly mild, like spinach, and, along with fresh lavender flowers, made for a particularly unexpected and happy pairing with the beef. The foraged porcini were transformed into a sponge whose texture was similar to fresh bread, and which provided a nice foil for the red fruit notes of the Quintessence Red.
The meal ended with an extraordinary chamomile panna cotta accompanied by wonderfully tangy poached rhubarb, a subtle dandelion jelly, and fragrant rose petals, along with Infatuation, a lovely frizzante rose, and a herbal tea of foraged red and white clover, rose, and mint.
Penner’s marriage of complex techniques and sometimes under-appreciated wild and foraged foods results in a unique dining experience. Each course was further elevated by Peters’ lively explanations of the foraged ingredients, and the well-matched wine pairings. Penner describes himself as largely self-taught, and the flavourful and unexpected combinations might be the happy result of his unorthodox training. Regardless, the Wild Feast experience is certain to please.
Check their Facebook page for upcoming Wild Feast dining experiences, including another Planters Ridge event taking place August 18, this time pairing their wines with a Tuscan-themed meal: facebook.com/wildfeastns/