Chef's Table: Dining with Peller Estate's Jason Parsons

by Holly Crawford

For those who love food, there is no finer dining experience than being served at the chef's table. Unless perhaps, the table is centrally located in the gorgeous dining room at Peller Estates, and their own Executive Chef Jason Parsons is describing the meal tableside.

The story of Peller Estates begins in 1927 when Andrew Peller arrived in Canada, from Hungary. His dream was a day when Canadians, like Europeans, would appreciate premium wines. He planted his first vineyard in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, and soon opened a modest winery.

After years of nurturing his dream, a breakthrough fo

r the business came when he was granted a winemaking license in Ontario in 1969. Almost 50 years later, the Peller family carries on the tradition of crafting wines, with a goal to produce a product that ranks among the best in the world.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Peller Estates has been honoured with several prestigious awards for their signature wines. They were also named Best Canadian Winery at London's International Wine & Spirit Competition.

So, it's at this splendid place with its incredible commitment to fine wine that you find Chef Parsons, equally committed to fine food. With sweeping views of the vineyard and an ambiance that makes it easy to relax and enjoy life's simple pleasures, the Winery Restaurant showcases Chef Parson's talents with seasonal menus presenting fine local fare. Winemaker Lawrence Buhler offers his expert pairing skills to the menu, ensuring a memorable meal.

The dining room at Peller Estates is impressive. Soaring ceilings and chandeliers lead you into the room toward a grand fireplace, while windows along one side of the room offer a view of the beautifully manicured grounds. On this day, it's the West of the City team who are fortunate enough to find ourselves being seated at a large round table, eagerly anticipating the Chef's Tasting Menu, which we are sure will be a culinary delight.

We are immediately greeted by our server for the evening and the first of many wine pairings is poured as the Chef himself enters the dining room to greet us. Chef Jason Parsons is doing well making a name for himself among the culinary world, as well as in the media. Many will recognize him from regular appearances on City TV's Cityline where he presents his unique style of cooking to the Canadian television audience. His approachable style has made him a favourite among viewers, and this evening in his dining room is no different, as we are warmly greeted and given descriptions of each dish as they are presented.

The Signature Tasting Menu on this particular day begins with a hand picked scallop presented with smoked chanterelles and balsamic pickled shallots. Eloquent presentation on the plate is matched with incredible flavour. The course is perfectly paired with Peller Estate's 2007 Private Reserve Riesling, and sets the ideal tone to the evening. The Private Reserve Riesling is light and refreshing with notes of red delicious apples, ripe pears and juicy citrus fruits. Generally, Riesling is not at the top of my list of whites, but this bottle is a perfect accompaniment to the scallop dish and the crisp medley of fruit flavours is one I make note to enjoy again.

The tasting continues with a white bean and artichoke soup with duck confit and truffle seedlings “a highlight of the meal” lobster linguine with black truffle, duck breast with pear and raisin, beef tenderloin with pumpkin gnocchi and dried cherry and apple crumble. Each course is expertly matched to a Peller Estates creation, including the Andrew Peller 2006 Vidal Icewine, another highlight of the meal. The Vidal Icewine boasts an ideal balance of sweet mouth-feel and acidity. Pear, tangerine and honey flavours linger on the finish.

The menu changes with the seasons, but any evening spent with Chef Parsons tableside is sure to be a gourmet adventure you are not soon to forget.

For more info:
Peller Estates
290 John Street East, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Chef's Table Dinner Series

July 4, 11, 18 & 25; August 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29; September 5, 12 & 26; October 10, 17, 24 & 31
Come behind the scenes at Peller Estates Winery Restaurant and discover how Winery Chef and Cityline personality Jason Parsons approaches the art of pairing wine and food. Your dining experience begins with a reception in Jason's kitchen where he will discuss collaborating with winemaker Lawrence Buhler and his approach to developing innovative food and wine pairings.  You will then enjoy a seasonally inspired tasting menu presented by Jason and perfectly paired with wines selected by Lawrence.  $140 per person, plus tax and gratuities.  Space is limited. 1.888.673.5537 ext. 2 for reservations.