City Palate
City Palate - The Flavour of Calgary's Food Scene since 1993

SUMMER IN THE CITY PALATE- July August Issue 2018

The Iron Sommelier
1 dish, 3 sommeliers, 3 judges, 3 wines and 3 beers

by Shelley Boettcher, photos by Regan Johnson

There’s a culinary match for every wine and beer. The trick is to find it.

Although there are basic guidelines to food and wine pairing, they’re often challenged when chefs make dishes with complex ingredients, tons of spice or anything vinegary.

That’s where the experts are important – Calgary’s top sommeliers and wine retailers. They can wade through the flavours and focus on what works, and they can help us find something delicious for whatever we’re eating.

With that in mind, a group of sommeliers and food industry folks from across the city gathered at Modern Steak in Kensington on a cold afternoon in March to take part in City Palate’s 12th annual Iron Sommelier Challenge.

Their goal was to find perfect pairings – beer and wine – for one beautifully prepared dish.

They ate. They drank. They compared flavours and notes. And they picked the winners.

We already know what the purists are going to say next: we should call the competition something like the Iron Sommelier and Cicerone Challenge, because we included both beer and wine. But for more than a decade, we’ve been calling it The Iron Sommelier Challenge. We may tweak the rules from year to year, but we’re not changing the name now. We’re too busy having fun drinking, eating and pairing.


This year, three sommeliers had to match one beer and one wine each with one dish created by Modern Steak’s chef Dustin Schafer. Then, three judges had to taste each dish with the selected beers and wines. Each sommelier had a chance to present his and her selections to the judges, but, during the actual tasting, the judges and sommeliers were kept apart so the sommeliers couldn’t influence he judges or overhear what the judges had to say.

Finally, as a group, the judges had to choose the one beer and one wine that they believed paired best with the dish.
And through the entire process, they had to share their thoughts on each pairing with City Palate.


Modern Steak’s Dustin Schafer and his team prepared Brant Lake wagyu flatiron steak, dry-aged short rib tortellini and braised red cabbage with a lemon-thyme veal reduction.


Karen Ralph, food and wine writer
Michael Dekker, culinary instructor, SAIT
Anne Sellmer, founder, Cochu Chocolatier

Read entire article in the digital issue of City Palate.