Sea Cider & Finest at Sea Pairing Dinner at The Mark

Last night we escaped the summer windstorm and tucked into a bountiful sustainable cider and seafood pairing dinner at The Mark, in the Hotel Grand Pacific.  A consistently great room for wine dinners, this was the first cider pairing dinner they’ve hosted – and the first cider-centric sup I’ve attended.

Sea Cider owner/operator/cidermaker Kristen Jordan was on hand to guide us through the world of artisan ciders. Once one of the most important beverages in North America (“safer to drink than water”), cider fell out of fashion with industrialization and the exodus from farm fields to city streets. Prohibition was the final axe-blow to the industry, with many cider orchards felled or left to die, taking with it the skills and traditions of cidermaking. Luckily, people like Kristen are now starting to revitalize craft ciders and share the story of this versatile and delicious drink. If you haven’t visited Sea Cider on the Saanich Peninsula, I urge you to do so. Unpretentious and knowledgeable staff will guide you through a tasting and introduce you to a range of flavours (dry through sweet) and styles (sparkling to still).

The Mark stepped up, as always, with thoughtful and artistically presented pairings, all centered around sustainably harvested seafood from Finest At Sea (FAS).  Here is how the evening unfolded:


Sea Angel Oysters, Pickled Silver Skin Onions, Dashi Pears

Smoked Sablefish Tamale, Brandy Wine Tomato Salsa Verde

Outer Coast Albacore Tuna Loin, Rhubarb Confiture, Young Basil

with Cocktail of Silk Road Tea’s White Earl Grey and Philosophers Brew, Sea Cider Pomona, Absolut Citron, ‘petals’ of granny smith apple and ice.

Ah – greeted with an original cocktail, and a hat trick of FAS appies is such a lovely way to start an evening. The Tamale wins the presentation prize, deftly husk wrapped and tied, like a wee Christmas cracker. Cones of Albacore Tuna were a close second –with guests following the platters around the room.

Dungeness Crab, Silver Rill Corn Milk Parfait, Salt Spring Island Chèvre

with Sea Cider Wild English

This made one of the best pairings of the eve – the silky sweetness of the local and just-shucked Silver Rill Corn and the extra dry, earthy mineral crispness of the Wild English proved that opposites do attract.

Qualicum Beach Scallops Choux Choux Pancetta, J&C Arugula

with Sea Cider Kings & Spies

Kings & Spies changes every vintage, depending on the blend of apples brought in by their partnership with LifeCycles. However, local Kings and Northern Spies make up the bulk of the blend in this gently effervescent cider, hence the memorable name.  This year’s version (bottled 2 weeks ago!) is Spanish in style, with crisp apple, creamy pear and herbal nutty flavours. Bitter arugula was a great match, as was the salty complexity of the pancetta.

Poached Line Caught Halibut Loin, White Gazpacho, Grilled Okanagan Peaches

with Sea Cider Pippins

A hefty, punchy, Prohibition-style cider with sweet apple and white peach notes and an off-dry efferfescant finish. The grilled peaches were a smart add to the silky and delicate (sous vide?) halibut.

Wild Oregon Grape Soda

This shotglass palate cleanser could also be called a palate-dyer. Uber-concentrated and inky-purple intense, Oregon Grape (the state flower of Oregon) is not actually a grape. This berry is found from Oregon state through British Columbia, can be made into jelly, and has been used medicinally by Native Americans and in modern herbal remedies to treat various gastric ailments. Restaurant Chef Michael Minshull picked these wild berries himself, and the kitchen transformed their sour zippiness into a soda.

Cured Wild Chinook Salmon, Fava Bean Cannelloni, Heirloom Tomato

with Sea Cider Rumrunner

This was my primo pairing of the evening. Rumrunner is aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels, resulting in nutty, brown sugar and apple molasses richness in this off-dry and effervescent cider. Absolutely delish – and made even more so by the salmon, cured, presumably, in some sort of brown sugar brine. Whatever magic the kitchen concocted worked wonders – the salmon was stunning with the cider.

Emperor Fig Tart, Black Berry Curd, Vanilla Lavender Cookie

with Sea Cider Pomona

My fellow traded in his sweet tooth for a salt lick long ago, so to have him proclaim that this was his best dish of the night is saying something. I can see why – the delicate yet flavourful summer flavors of the tart was stellar. Along with the concentrated golden Pomona elixir, the dish was sublime, and sent diners off on a high note.

Props to The Mark for devoting the energy and detailed hours to a cider pairing seafood feast – and huge props to Kristen and her team at Sea Cider for the bravery and perseverance to make it all possible.



Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

Comments are closed.