Look in the dictionary for ‘grace under pressure’ and you’ll find a picture of Chef Francine Parker right there.
In December 2012, I was fortunate to be the first invited back to Chef Parker’s Table 1006 following extensive renovations. How ironic it was then to receive a phone call at 3pm with a mere three hours to service.
It seems a Table 1006 neighbour had caused a flood in the building (and we’re not even close to Calgary). Despite this disaster, Chef Parker not only sprang to action turning off the water, initiating cleanup and calling in services, but continued with preparations for a stunning five course meal.
The phone call was followed up by a posting on Facebook and then a text telling me there were eight flood and renovation specialists warily eyeing my dinner. Who has time to post on social media when a disaster has struck? I have it on good authority that most folks, and certainly your average llama, on the other hand, would have run around as if her mane was on fire.
Unflappable she is, that Chef Parker.
Admittedly, although she later admitted she’d felt she was operating in a bit of a twilight zone, Chef Parker pulled through. Did she ever – and with style to spare.
Sushi grade salmon tartar in delicate endive boats decorated with garden fresh radishes, edible lemon gem marigolds and a pappardelle of summer squash ribbons greeted us first alongside a 2002 Ployez-Jacquemart NM, extra brut vintage 2002, Blanc de Blancs with 12%abv.
This traditional method champagne is developing, clear and bright, medium ‘apple juice’ gold with creamy medium sized, long-lasting bubbles.
On the nose it’s got medium plus intense aromas of yeasty brioche bread pudding, ripe apples and caramel with hazelnuts.
The palate is dry with rapier acidity, low alcohol, a lovely mouth feel from the medium body and an especially long finish. The medium plus intense flavours include caramel covered Granny Smith apples with baked bread, yoghurt and delicate lemony citrus tones that were augmented by the lemon gem marigolds and lemon juice in the salmon.
This is WSET ‘outstanding’ champagne – the long finish, sharp acidity, complex fruit and nose is expertly balanced. It’s the kind of champagne that makes you sit back and thank the heavens above for making it possible, even when it’s raining inside the restaurant.
Moving onto the next course, Chef Parker treated us to a product new to our market that proved to be outstandingly elegant, enveloping but not overpowering the salad or pasta courses.
The Les Romains, Sancerre AOC, Domaine Vacheron, Loire, France 13%abv ($60) is clear and bright, pale lemon and has light legs. On the nose, intense minerals with peach and stone fruit, gooseberry, honey and a slightly pungent green tone grew as the wine warmed. Youthful and slender. The palate is dry with medium plus acidity and medium minus body with intense flavours of stone fruit, gooseberry, acacia and honey with a medium finish.
This wine is WSET ‘very good’ – the nose is strong but the palate so balanced and elegant it wrapped itself around the salad; it’s completely subtle and yet complex.
“I don’t usually get erect about salad, but this is incredible,” murmured a guest. The dressing was composed of olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and crushed garlic that enhanced the fresh flavours of the crunchy and organically grown ‘clean’ salad leaves. These were were not the waxy, been-in-the-truck-a-long-time-enroute-to-you lettuce leaves we mere lemmings are so used to eating. Eating them made you feel, well, virtuous.
The surprise was the avocado that contrasted beautifully with the salad replete with more lemon gem marigolds, hand-rubbed croutons and garden grown beets.
Course trois, consisted of pan-seared scallops in garlic scape pesto, angel hair pasta and pistachios paired with the Les Romains Savignon Blanc again. Incredible. Stunning. Outstanding. Overwhelmed by the food. Beautifully backed by the subtle, yet complex wine. As Chef said, “I would go back and buy 6 bottles of this.” Heck, go for a case.
Dripping sounds serenaded us throughout the evening.
After a short time, the sous chef announced that considering both the flooding and the size of the steaks involved, “This is going to be my most challenging bbq challenge of all time.” Meanwhile, Chef Parker and I were deciding upon wine when we called an audible and agreed, “We are going to go Piedmont”.
Chef Parker served steak Florentine a la familia with organic, roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed balsamic beet greens paired with the Barbaresco Riserva 2007, Asili (12, 912 out of 13,333 bottles), Barbaresco DOCG, Italy, 14.5% abv. Robert Parker rated this at 94 points.
This Nebbiolo is clear and bright, medium ruby with viscous tears noted.
A developing wine, it’s clean with intense aromas of cherry, tar, leather and cola.
On the palate it’s dry with medium acidity, smooth and medium plus tannins and medium body. The clean and crisp medium plus intense flavours scream with purple violets, plums, spice, tar and cigar box. The finish is elegantly medium.
This is outstandingly elegant, clean and yet complex, a perfect accompaniment to the delicate steak Florentine fillets.
Goat cheese cheesecake with Okanagan Bing cherry compote was served next with a Vendanges 2003, Selection de Grains Nobles by Philippe Delesvaux, Coteaux du Layon, Appellation de Coteaux du Layon Controllee, Loire, 11% abv. This is botrytis affected Semillon from the Loire, ‘vendanges’ referring to the style in which the grapes are dried – allowed to hang onto the vine until pasillerage and the right amount of noble rot affects them, then handpicked and pressed in multiple passes, or ‘tris’ through the vineyard.
This Chenin Blanc is clear and bright, pale amber with deep legs showing.
The nose is developing, clean and full of tangerine, clover honey, acacia and hay.
The palate is demi-sec and has medium acidity with a full and rounded body, complemented by a low alcohol level. The flavours are medium plus intensity and consist of ripe apricots and peaches, apple cider, mandarin and honey, hay acacia – all tottering on the edge of an extra level of ripeness. Gorgeously restrained. Sweet and yet not cloying – a perfect complement to the goat cheese, cherries and cream.
Soon Table 1006 will be closed, yet again, for renovations. Dessert was the underwater course. Seriously, if there was a medal we could award for rising in the face of adversity, Chef Parker would wine, er, win. Thankfully, the two full Cavavins were saved in the flood, that’s all I can say.