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When delicious food and wine make a passionate connection, the combination can offer one of life's supernal pleasures. In A Matter of Taste, Lucy Waverman provides the recipes while James Chatto tutors readers in choosing wines and spirits that make those pairings sublime. Grouping her dishes by seasons and themes, Waverman offers more than 170 recipes--and that's just the food. Throughout the book, Chatto offers his own advice on blending classic cocktails and teaches readers how to consider a food's weight, acidity, saltiness, sweetness, flavour, and aroma when pairing it with a wine: "There's a sober, joyless young Bordeaux swathed in a dark cloak of tannins. Drink it with lamb and you suddenly taste ripe black currents." So, for New Year's Eve, there's Scallop Ravioli with Blood Orange Sauce, which Chatto likes with an elegant, cool-climate Pinot Noir. In spring, "A Dinner of Lemons" starts with Sorrel Soup (try it with an Alsatian Riesling) and finishes with Lemon Ginger Yogurt Cake (a medium-sweet Apricot wine from Ontario). When the book club comes over, the suggested menu includes Braised Chicken with Olive and Figs and an everyday Dolcetto that won't distract from the conversation. The lentil salad vibrates with taste, while Coconut Shrimp Curry is sensational. Readers who have tried Waverman's dishes from her Globe and Mail column and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario's Food and Drink magazine will know that her recipes are full of flavour, easy-to-follow, and pretty close to foolproof. Chatto's writing is lively and informative. Together the two are like well-matched food and wine: better than the sum of the parts. --Carolyn Leitch
Lucy Waverman and James Chatto have been at or near the top of the food chain in Ontario-or at least those parts of Ontario that are visible from the wealthy areas of downtown Toronto-for a long time now. They know what theyre doing, they know what theyre about, and what theyre about is Rosedale Fusion cuisine. A Matter of Taste is, therefore, pretty much as advertised-a matter of taste.
The book itself is a coffee-table whopper, beautifully produced and professionally executed-and not something youd want to drop on your foot while youre cooking from it. The authors dont say this, but its actually a dinner party cookbook, and the food it features is the kind that takes all day-or several days-to prepare and all evening to consume.
The books menus are organized around the four seasons of the year, beginning with spring, and each setting takes you from appetizers to after-dinner aperitifs. Some of the featured menus will tip amateur chefs on limited budgets and less-than-fully equipped kitchens over the edge of a nervous breakdown trying to run with these guys. I found myself growing slightly irritable with the degree of supervision, particularly when it comes to directions for the wines I ought to be drinking. This may have something to do with my habit of drinking wine while Im preparing food, and realizing that with the amount of kitchen time their regime requires, Id rarely make it to the dinner table.
Thats not entirely fair, because high-end menus are what Chatto and Waverman do, and theyre unapologetic about it. I imagine that many readers will find their micro-managing rather soothing. The good news is that I also found myself pilfering bits and pieces of both their menus and recipes alike, so the book is adaptable.
Brian Fawcett (Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada