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La Banane and Norman Hardie… The French Connection Dinner

November 4, 2017

The dinner event of the season brings the winemaker extraordinaire to La Banane for a deep exploration of wine-and-food pairing French-style

Chef Brandon Olsen and winemaker Norman Hardie prepare for Tuesday’s feast at La Banane. (Renée Suen)

By Dick Snyder

This Tuesday (Nov. 7), serious food-and-wine enthusiasts are in for a real treat. (Though you don’t have to be serious to enjoy this dinner, just hungry and open to a world of flavours.)

When we first approached the La Banane team, headed by chef Brandon Olsen, last summer with the idea of doing a special-edition, blow-out fall dinner at the restaurant, and we started talking about the perfect wine partner, there was no hesitation. “Norman Hardie,” sommelier and general manager Christopher Wickens said, with no room for equivocation. No surprise there, for Hardie’s style has always placed solid emphasis on the importance of wine as a food, playing right along and in lockstep with the experience of fine dining and all the enjoyment and convivial fraternity that a sumptuous dinner entails. Hardie honed his winemaking skills in Burgundy, the land that famed food critic and journalist Waverley Root, writing in The Food of France (1958), declared as the area of France with the highest level of gastronomy. For his part, Olsen worked and learned under famed Francophile American chef Thomas Keller at the French Laundry and Ad Hoc.

And so, drawing on Burgundy along with other regions of France, this dinner will range far and wide through floral and fauna, including duck, lobster, seafood raw and cooked, caviar, foie gras and more. (Decadent? A little bit, yes.) The menu continues to evolve, however, especially as the kitchen avails itself of the delicious bounty of fall. So while the major components of this dinner have recently been revealed with this posting by Toronto Life, there are some new additions, as noted above. Canapés will include lobster roll, omelette with caviar and oysters. Fans of Olsen’s outstanding tuna with brown butter, capers and dill will be happy, and there will also be a couple of new items: foie gras mi-cuit and salmon-lobster quenelles. Because Norman Hardie makes quite possibly Canada’s most sublime Pinot Noir, there must be duck, which will reach the table as a dish of duck Pithiviers, which is traditionally an almond-cream filled puff pastry hailing from the Orleans region of France. So this will get very interesting. Four of Hardie’s wines will be paired with their ideal culinary companions, and guests will get to taste the incredible Cuvée Discotheque, a racy Riesling bottled exclusively for La Banane.

Norman Hardie’s wines to be served at La Banane this Tuesday. (Renée Suen)

And there will be more—a cheese set and salted caramel ice cream—as well as some cocktails and drinks involving delicious spirits from St-Germain, Rémy Martin and Chartreuse. Remember, the menu will reveal whatever the best of the best ingredients Olsen’s team can get their hands on… just know for certain that the evening will conclude with the famed Ziggy Stardust Disco Egg, perhaps the least French item on the menu. But feel free to shout “incroyable!” all the same. This dinner is not to be missed—and will never happen the same way again.

Note: In order to ensure quality at all times, seatings are limited to 20 people each at 6 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. There may be seats available at the bar, but these will be released closer to the day. Email us at info@drinktoronto.ca for details or last-minute enquiries. Get tickets here.

Photography by Renée Suen