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Rebecca Pettigrew has been involved in the local food and beverage scene in Waterloo Region for several years. She’s recently trekked out on her own with a venture called “The Winey Somm.”
She says she has been fascinated with the complexities and subtleties of wines and spirits for a decade or so — and that’s prompted her to start a business that shares her passion — and knowledge — with others.
“The Winey Somm” is a small business that provides professional sommelier services to restaurants and bars, “as well as fun, interactive and informative tastings to private and corporate groups,” Pettigrew says.
“I love using a stress-free and easygoing approach when working with my clients to find perfect marriages between their concepts and budgets.”
Pettigrew is a certified wine professional with a diploma from the International Sommelier Guild and advanced certification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. She’s taught wine education at the college level, has worked for several top Ontario wineries, and has travelled the globe exploring many of the world’s wine regions.
Waterloo Region Eats sat down with Pettigrew to ask her a bit more about her new venture. The conversation has been edited for clarity and economy.
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WREats: Tell us about food and wine in the Waterloo Region — and and what you want to bring to it.
Rebecca Pettigrew: With the abundance of local farms offering everything from humanely raised grass-fed beef to artisanal honey, coupled with the very talented chefs in the area — many of whom are opening independently operated restaurants — it’s a great time to be a food lover in Waterloo Region.
There is so much creativity in the region from talented mixologists, charcutiers, a burgeoning craft beer scene, it’s a great time to be a professional in this industry. You definitely feel a real sense of community in the region. That said, food and wine go hand in hand and my aim to make the process fun and approachable for all. Wine can often be an intimidating subject, but all you need is a little information and a corkscrew. I want to do wine in a laid-back and unpretentious way.
What else motivates you?
Pettigrew: The love of wine, really! I receive questions all of the time from customers, friends, family on what wine to serve with a particular food, how to store a certain bottle, how long can a wine be open before if goes off. Things like that. I take a lot of pride in answering their questions, and it means a lot to me to be able to make educated recommendations and suggestions to help people enjoy something I respect and appreciate so much. Now, creating a business where I use different outlets and avenues to share my passion with others has always been a goal of mine.
What’s your favourite wine?
Pettigrew: There could never be just one, but I do have a soft spot for bubbles. I suppose I tend to drink seasonally: fresh and crisp Rieslings in the warmer months and earthy reds, like Cabernet Franc, when the weather cools down.
What’s your favourite meal you’ve had?
Pettigrew: I had the extraordinary opportunity to eat at Eleven Madison Park in NYC for a special celebration. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was incredible; the food sublime, the service impeccable and the attention to detail was beyond impressive. When they found out we were celebrating, they took us into the kitchen to enjoy lavender snow cones and watch dinner service unfold. I was able to speak with a few of their sommeliers that evening and had some very memorable and inspiring conversations. We even met their James Beard award wining chef and co-owner Daniel Humm. A truly unforgettable experience.
Riedl or Spielgau?
Pettigrew: I’m not too picky when it comes to glassware, though I do appreciate the difference certain wine glasses can make to showcase different varietals. Truthfully, at home I use an etched crystal vintage set I picked up a garage sale. It was a steal! If I had to really splurge on a great set of stemware, I would go for Zalto.
Favourite cook in the world?
Pettigrew: Easy. My dad. He has taught me more about food and cooking than any of the very talented chefs I had the privilege to work for. Along with techniques and cooking tricks, he took time to also teach me about creating balance and harmony in a dish, and how to use every little scrap of food so that nothing is wasted. He makes an incredible Moose Meat Pie, the best split pea and ham soup you’ve ever had, and a mean chocolate chip cookie. He is the undisputed king of comfort food.
Favourite thing to eat with wine?
Pettigrew: And like Simon and Garfunkel, Bert and Ernie, French fries and ketchup, some things really are better together, and that’s exactly how I feel about food and wine. My all-time favourite pairing is a little boring and predictable: cheese and wine. I admit that I am cheese-obsessed and my next personal goal is to become a fromager. I also love fresh east coast oysters with a crisp Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France. That definitely takes me to a happy place where I just can’t help but smile.