Haute Cuisine, Fine Wines... and Fishing (July 18, 2014)
The annual fishing trip is barnacled with traditions. Over the past 15 years I've been a member of a group of six guys who fly to Canada's most remote regions, usually above the tree line, to fish for large lake trout and Arctic char.
One tradition involves wearing matching T-shirts each day. Their legends range between the witty and the ribald. Shore lunch is always prepared by Steve, who could easily step into the kitchen of any fine Toronto restaurant. Larry is i/c Bloody Marys; Harold brings the malt whisky from Sarasota; Sam, who has a magnificent cellar, supplies the wine; I am the historian/sommelier, and Art... well, Art is a retired lawyer and he just fishes (although he sometimes acts as Steve's sous chef.)
For the past four years our group has been leaving from Toronto for Peterson's Point Lake Camp in the North West Territories. This involves flying to Calgary and then on to Yellowknife. We overnight in Yellowknife and fish for pike on Great Slave Lake in the afternoon, then have shore dinner. Last year our flight connections were such that we had to forego the pike fishing and instead dined ashore on Bison Burgers at The Wildcat Café. This venerable eating establishment is Yellowknife's oldest restaurant housed in an elongated log cabin dating back to 1937, when the population of Yellowknife was 800 – mostly gold miners. Today Yellowknife has around 20,000 inhabitants and real estate prices are as high as Toronto's, and so are the prices at The Wildcat Café.
The following morning we fly in a float plane to the fishing camp, which is 200 kilometers north of Yellowknife. But before takeoff we have the ritual fishing breakfast Air Tindi's dock, prepared by the camp's proprietor, Margaret Peterson. This involves champagne, homemade bannock and jam, cheese and fresh strawberries. The book I brought along to read last year was An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. I have only ever bought two books on the strength of their titles – this one by Brock Clarke and Erotica Judaica: A Sexual History of the Jews (which was disappointing; mainly about substituting penis whenever there was a reference to a finger).
The flight to the camp on Point Lake takes about 90 minutes. Below you see nothing but land and lakes that look like molten silver in the sunshine. The camp is a cluster of 4-person cabins, a large communal kitchen, dining room, living room and outside toilets. On arrival we're greeted by our guides; we unpack our gear and put our rods together. After lunch we're on the lake, two per boat with a guide, a scheme that rotates during the week so that we all get to fish as partners a couple of times. It's all catch and release with barbless hooks.
In the communal room there's a large white notice board on which the guides record catches of 20 lbs and over along with the fisherman's name. Naturally, competition is fierce to get your name on the board. Last year I didn't make it until the third day, when I caught a 27 lb lake trout. The largest fish caught during the week was Steve's, weighing in at 32 lb. The lake record, incidentally, is 58 lb.
The fishing is broken up by a two-hour shore lunch, which Steve prepares over an open fire. Here was his menu for the week last year and the accompanying wines:
Wednesday: Beer-battered lake trout. The wines: Angels Gate Archangel Chardonnay Traditional Method 2010, Creekside Laura's White 2010 and Creekside Viognier 2010.
Thursday: Barbecu-ed trout with dirty rice. The wines: Vineland Estates St. Urban Riesling 2009, Hidden Bench Riesling 2011 and Daniel Lenko.
Friday: Truite italienne with penne. The wines: Mission Hill SLC Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2005, Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc 2012 and Rennie Chardonnay 2010.
Saturday: (A rain delay and high winds meant we didn't fish until the afternoon and we ate lunch at the camp.) Beer-battered fish with baked potatoes, beans and salad followed by date squares. The wines: Huff Cuvée Peter F. Huff 2007 and Hidden Bench Riesling 2011.
Sunday: Wasabi-crusted lake trout with wasabi mayonnaise and fried rice. The wines: Stoney Ridge Excellence Point Gris 2010, Hidden Bench Gewurztraminer Felseck Vineyard 2011 and Zind Humbrecht Riesling Calcaire 2009.
Monday: Steve's shore lunch on the last day is traditionally bouillabaisse prepared with lobster, shrimp, scallops and New Zealand green lip mussels transported from Toronto in a cooler. Then he adds lake trout and simmers the ingredients in a broth he prepared at home. The dish is served in bowls on garlic-infused toast with garlic rouille. (We leave the mussel shells behind to confuse future archaeologists who will wonder how New Zealand mussels migrated to the Northwest Territories.) The wines: Pol Roger Brut, Flat Rock Cellars Nadja's Vineyard Riesling 2010 and Grosset Polish Hill Reserve Riesling 2003.
So you see, this is a serious gourmet experience, and we do fish too – for eight hours a day.
I'll be heading off to the 2014 fishing excursion this Wednesday. Check back to find out what we ate and drank. And cuaght, of course.