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Holiday Feasts From North and South

Two chefs, one snowbound, one beachside, create spectacular holiday menus, share some recipes, and suggest some great wines to match

Posted: December 19, 2006

At this time of year, cooks tend to pull out all the stops, whether they're superstar chefs or home enthusiasts. The ingredients, presentations, temperatures and origins may vary, but not the desire to bring out the best of the best for the holidays.

This year, Wine Spectator asked a chef from southern Florida and a chef from northwestern Canada to share their restaurants' respective holiday menus and wine recommendations. On the snowy side, chef Melissa Craig of Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, BC, will prepare dishes using Canadian foie gras, Malpeque oysters, maple syrup and wild Arctic caribou. Meanwhile, down south, Norman Van Aken, chef and owner of Norman's in Coral Gables, also a Best of Award of Excellence winner, puts his signature Nuevo Latino touch on a lavish buffet menu featuring ingredients and flavors from Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Spain, Mexico and the US. Each chef has also chosen wines from their restaurant's list to complement the meal, and each has shared two recipes, so that you may recreate some of their holiday magic in your own home.

Melissa Craig, Bearfoot Bistro

  Chef Melissa Craig

As a chef cooking in a world-class Canadian ski resort, Melissa Craig recognizes the importance of giving her food a sense of time and place. "Caribou isn't necessarily a traditional Christmas dish, but it is ordered quite a bit around the holidays," says Craig, who sources the meat from native hunters in Nunavik, the Arctic region of Quebec. As for the Mission Hill Occulus she has recommended to pair with the meat, she explains, "The wine's flavor—spicy, meaty, and fruity notes—lends itself well to the purple mustard, which is sweet, and the meat, which is quite lean and gamy."


Québec Foie Gras Terrine, Quince Paste, Warm Toasted Fig Brioche
Wine Match: Mission Hill S.L.C. Ice Wine Riesling 2003: harvested at -12° C, with concentrated honey and tropical citrus flavors.

Malpeque Oysters on the Half Shell With Smoked Salmon and Sevruga Caviar
Wine Match: Moët & Chandon Brut Champagne Cuvée Dom Perignon 1998

Highlighted Recipe: Wild Arctic Caribou Loin and Rack
Celery Root, Potato and Blue Cheese Gratin
Sautéed Kale With Pumpkin Seeds and Raisins
Wine Match: Mission Hill Occulus, 2003: a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

Highlighted Recipe: Pumpkin and Maple Crème Caramel With Spiced Cardamom Tuiles
Wine Match: Moët & Chandon Demi-Sec Champagne Nectar Impérial NV

Norman Van Aken, Norman's

  Chef Norman Van Aken

Chef Norman Van Aken and his team passionately pursue the knowledge of food customs around the world, with a particular focus on Central and South America. For the holidays, Van Aken says, "We do go with a menu that celebrates Christmas … but we also do things like 'nochebuena,' which is the Latin way with roasted pork. It's divine." He describes his pastel recipe as containing "a carnival of flavors," adding, "The countries that many of my dishes are inspired by are not rich ones, typically, but in food, people find the way to express the richness of life in almost any economic strata."


Highlighted Recipe: Tuna Tiradito With Cool Peruvian Potato Salad and Xeres Vinaigrette
Wine Match: Clos St. Magdeleine Cassis Blanc 2001: A blend of Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne and Sauvignon Blanc

Highlighted Recipe: Pastel de Choclo
Wine Match:
Owen Sullivan Ulysses Sheridan Vineyard Yakima Valley 2002

Roasted Bison Rib Steak With Vaca Frita, Winter Vegetables and Salsa Romesco
Wine Match: Benessere Sangiovese Napa Valley 2001: 100 percent Sangiovese

"Rice Three Ways": Arriz con Dulce de Leche with a Rice Crispy Crust and Horchata Espuma
Wine Match: Two Hands Sémillon Barossa Valley For Love or Money Cane Cut 2003

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