I’m not looking to expand my writing into the restaurant review arena, but I couldn’t help but relate an excellent dining experience I had last week.

A couple of close friends invited me out to dinner last Thursday night, to celebrate both my birthday and the successful completion of an exam one of my friends wrote earlier in the week.

They suggested we try the Cork and Bull on Main Street, between First and Second avenues.

As I had heard good things from friends, and am a fan of both fresh oysters and good steaks, I was excited to try it out. As well, having eaten at Burnt Toast, I looked forward to seeing what the owners’ new effort would be like.

I enjoy the whole dining experience, and just as when I first visited Burnt Toast, I felt like the space had been transformed. It is amazing what a change in lighting, fresh paint and attention to what hangs on the walls will do to completely make over a restaurant or bar.

Cork and Bull truly does have a bit of the flavour of old school “chop houses” I have eaten in in Montreal, New York and Kansas City, where the decor sets the mood, but is secondary to food itself. Nicely done!

I include this write-up in my column because, once again, this birthday dinner with friends reminded me of how wonderfully the artful matching of wines with food enhances both!

One of my friends is a fellow wine enthusiast, and we carefully contemplated the wine list as we looked at the menu.

Cork and Bull has developed an excellent wine list, not overly long, but each selection clearly thought out and slightly off the beaten path. In addition, they are bringing in some wines off the B.C. list that are not available at the Yukon Liquor Corp (YLC), and it was those that my friend and I decided to build our dinner experience around!

Going to an oyster and chop house, we had already decided that raw oysters and a steak would be our meal, and I have to say that I am delighted to be able to enjoy raw oysters in this town.

We ordered a half dozen each, and these fresh, delicate briny treats, freshly arrived from the waters off Vancouver Island, were served up on a bed of ice, with an excellent wine vinegar, shallot and parsley sauce and fresh lemons to dip them in. What a treat!

With it, we had selected a BC VQA 2010 Blasted Church Vineyards Hatfield’s Fuse, a white wine from the Okanagan Valley.

I had heard of this vineyard, but had never tried any of their wines, while my friend and fellow wine lover had, and was enthusiastic about trying this one.

What a perfect selection it turned to be!

This wine is a blend of primarily pinot gris and gewurztraminer, with a dash of another, more obscure German grape, ehrenfelser (a new grape for me) added.

The result is a delightfully complex white with a bouquet (smell) that reminds me of the floral notes of Loire Valley French whites (some of my favourites), lot of mouth feel (delightful tastes of peach and citrus), and a happy, long finish that made each sip a delightful tasting experience.

And how it complimented those oysters! My friend said – and I agree – that the food and wine bar has been raised in Whitehorse.

I should mention that we also ordered a beef carpaccio starter, with paper thin raw beef, drizzled in a Dijon mustard sauce, with a hint of horseradish and a very good vegetable and sautéed garlic clove (I think) garnish. Yum!

Then came the filet mignons, accompanied by an excellent Sauce béarnaise, fingerling potatoes and, to go over the top, mac and cheese with lobster.

My steak was deliciously medium rare, and my friends and I had decided to order a second wine currently not offered in the Yukon, a 2007 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley of California.

My friend and I had considered a Washington State cab from Chateau St. Michelle ($24.65 at the YLC) that was added to the YLC list last year.

It is a wonderful wine, but decided against it, both because it is readily available locally, and because we thought the Geyser Peak might be a little more robust and tannic.

The raspy tongue feel and mouth pucker from the tannins contrasted with the wonderful fatty/buttery taste and texture that we readily found in our steaks and the accompanying Sauce béarnaise.

Again the wine was everything that we could have asked for, and worked perfectly with the delicious steaks – dark fruit reminders to feed the soul on our bitter January nights, coupled with enough suggestion of pepper to work perfectly with the steak, those anticipated tannic puckers of the mouth, and a subtle suggestion of dark chocolate on the finish.

Geyser Peak is one of the oldest vineyards in California, dating back to the 1880, and a treat to enjoy.

With wine and food pairings like that, sharing dinner and conversation with friends… who could be anything but perfectly happy with the evening?

The service was excellent and friendly, and the croissant bread pudding dessert with port was almost more than one could ask for!

Thank you to my friends for a memorable evening, and thank you to the Cork and Bull for creating an excellent wine list, especially for making the extra effort to bring in a few things we don’t normally see in the Yukon, to accompany their delicious offerings.

Cheers!