Tag Archives: anniversary

A Quarter Century of Fine Food and Wine

Walking  into Centro, you are greeted by a vision of beauty: a wall of wine.  Not just any wall and not just any wine. It’s a collection, carefully selected to create  a wine menu that includes  familiar favourites, bottles worthy of a major splurge, and affordable gems that will leave you wanting more.

 

That’s why when Tina and I were invited to visit the cellar, we jumped at it. And who would know more about the intricacies of those gems than owner Armando Mano. He started in 1990 busing tables. One year later he was promoted Wine Bar manager, and within a few years was managing the entire restaurant.

I have often mentioned in these pages that true wine people  are a generous sort.  The only thing better than discovering a new wine, is sharing it with people who  will appreciate it. Armando is one of those people.

As  soon as he heard we were women of wine, he insisted  we try one of his favourites – Moschioni 2006 from Friuli region of north-eastern Italy. Oh my. This wine is mysterious, and doesn’t give everything away at once. It reveals slowly. The wine made me think of a Venetian Ball:  elegant, opulent, velvety with the clear suggestion that the best is yet to come. And we just got started.

 

Armando and über chef Symon Abad took us on a journey of perfect pairings. From the initial palate-cleansing glass of Prosecco, (which is so right on so many levels), to the 2011 Babich Sauvignon Blanc which  accompanied the most delicate buffalo mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes.

Symon followed with a pan-seared scallop on a bed of squid ink pasta which came with a crisp lively white Adriatico from the cellar of Lidia Bastianich, chef, author and host of Lidia’s Italy in America.

 

I  was not going to let go of my Moschioni which, in my view, would pair perfectly with anything – but in this case – my rabbit roulade stuffed with spinach and mushroom with polenta puree and  peas– which may well have been the best combination I have ever tasted.

It almost upstaged the lobster ravioli which paired spectacularly with a Chardonnay from Pearl Morrisette Winery on Twenty Mile Bench. Did I mention the shaved truffles? Beyond delicious.

 

Armando has a story for every wine. A visit to the Bastianich winery in north-eastern Italy where he bumps into Lidia herself, touring the Antinori estates  throughout Tuscany where the family has been making wine for 27 generations, and entertaining the greatest wine makers of the world in his restaurant.

He believes there are four elements to a  perfect dining experience, it is all about the food, the wine, the service and  most important, the company. Though he will pass on the fusion movement,  thank you.  “Fusion causes confusion. I want to know what wine to order with my food,” he says.

His favourite  wine book:  Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly

His signature dish: Brown Butter Crab Risotto, so long as someone cleans up while he cooks.

His favourite wine: Mouton Rothschild (it is breaking my heart that it is not Italian)

His  favourite Canadian wine, Pearl Morisette from the Bench which he praised for  sparing no expense to get it right.

This is a man who knows about getting it right, and he makes  sure the people who work for him share the same philosophy.

Armando is proud of how Toronto has become a city known  for its food. With more than eight thousand restaurants in the GTA, Armando marvels at how quickly the industry  developed here. “I travel a lot and when I come home, I feel this massive sense of pride at how far we have come.”

 

2012 marks Centro’s 25th year, a remarkable achievement when restaurants come and go faster than the sales of Fifty Shades of Grey.  And the impact of that success extends far beyond its own kitchens and into some of the other best restaurants in Toronto. The list of Centro’s alumni is enough to make gastronomers sigh and the casting agents of Top Chef weep. Chefs Like Marc Thuet (Thuet Fine Foods), David Lee (Nota Bene),Frank Parhizgar (Frank’s Kitchen), and Michael Bonacini (Oliver and Bonacini). Now Symon Abad (shown above) is king of the kitchen.

To honor its inauguration into the quarter century club, Centro’s alumni are participating in a series of evenings creating a special menu for the anniversary.

It will mean a treat for regulars, more stories to tell for Armando and a perfect launch point for the next 25 years that will keep people coming back, again and again.

The Perfect Marriage

Wine and music. I can’t imagine life without them.  Of course my family and friends push them out of first and second  place – but really they’re so much a part of my greatest memories: Sunday dinner, Lucia party (A Swedish Christmas celebration), graduations, birthdays, travels or a gathering of great friends.

A Perfect Marriage

I’ll create a playlist for most special occasions, whether it’s a trip, a workout, music to cook by, laid-back tunes and most recently wine-tasting and wine-studying. My husband is my fiercest critic and greatest fan. He loves telling people my playlists degenerate towards the end – but he always downloads them to his iPod, so they  can’t be all that bad.
Every once in a while on a Friday or Saturday night, I will pick a few bottles and wrap them up in a paper bag after they’re opened. All  I need is a few minutes to forget which is which – but if you want to be sure, get someone else to mix up the order. I started by trying three wines, each from a different country and each a different kind of grape. A Rioja from Spain, a Cabernet Sauvignon from California and a Chianti.  If you have never done it before, get a few details about each wine and see what you can pick out from the appearance, aroma and taste. If you know you’ve practiced, challenge yourself and get three California Cabs  or three Australian Chardonnays from different regions.There are lots of great web sites to give you the ABC’s of Wine Tasting from Wine Spectator, bottle notes, or the Wine Doctor.  IYellow Wine Club founder Angela Aiello sums it up for first timers with 5 easy steps:

  1. sight
  2. swirl
  3. smell
  4. sip
  5. savour

If  you do it with friends and each brings a bottle – then you can afford better wine. Experimenting  is a lot of fun definitely worthy of a playlist or two. Building your own is also one of the great pleasures of life so give it a try. Here is mine:

Lis’ Wine-Tasting Playlist

  • Your Body Is a Wonderland – John Mayer (as is the body of a great Cab)
  • Your Song – Elton John  (great swirling music)
  • You Really got a Hold on Me – Smoky Robinson and the Miracles (tried a great Barolo lately?)
  • You Can’t Make it  Love – Michael MacDonald ( who has a voice like the deepest Shiraz)
  • You Are so Beautiful – Joe Cocker (frightening, but I have thought that about a great glass of wine)
  • Humble Me – Norah Jones (I could be thinking about the great winemakers Antinori and Gaja – more or likely their wine)
  • How Deep is Your Love – Bee Gees (or how deep is the  colour in your glass)
  • How Do You Keep the Music Playing -Tony Bennett and George Michael
  • So Right – Paul Simon
  • Sara Smile – Hall and Oates
  • This Guy’s In Love With You – B.J.Thomas
  • Up on the Roof – James Taylor and Carole King (because they go together in perfect harmony like wine and music)
  • Into the Mystic – Van Morrison
  • Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding (because it may be one of the most perfect songs ever written)
  • Landslide – Fleetwood Mac version
  • Drive  All Night – Bruce Springsteen ( because anyone who would drive all night to buy his woman some shoes deserves toasting)
  • Heart of Mine. – Boz Scaggs
  • Through the Fire – Chaka Khan (because I can hit the high notes in my dreams. Or in my car. Only if I am alone..I promise)
  • Tiny Dancer – Elton John ( because you might have had enough wine to sing along – though watch the wax if you hold up a candle instead of a lighter- concert style) Also a favourite of my blogging partner whose name is Tina Daenzer and back when well-known sportscaster Rod Black hosted Canada AM he would sing to Tiny Daenzer when she arrived at the studio (minus the wine in the mornings of course)
  • Still Crazy After all These Years – Paul Simon (because Paul Simon is such a genius)
  • Thunder Road (the acoustic version or any version for that matter) – Bruce Springsteen ( because he could be the greatest songwriter of our time. This is his greatest song and this is such a powerful  version that it can pair with a wine that’s rough around the edges or smooth as silk).

And if you are exploring Italian – throw in a little Andrea Bocelli,   Chris Botti’s Italia CD is divine, and Chiara Civello, the best Italian-English  singer you have never heard of will keep you coming back for more.

Whatever you choose to  add to your playlist, whatever memory it brings back, whatever wine you pour in your glass, so long as company is selected with care, you will have the perfect blend.