The Wine and Food Society was founded by André Simon in London and on November 14, 1933 the inaugural meeting took place at the Café Royal, the favourite haunt of Oscar Wilde, on Regent Street. This first meeting presented the wines and food of Alsace and branches of the IW&FS around the world held concurrent dinners or lunches to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the IW&FS.
Our Vancouver Branch chose Le Crocodile, with its history and links to Alsace, as the venue for our celebration dinner on the evening of November 13 – November 14 in London with the allowance for the time difference. During the evening, we were treated to several speeches and reminiscences of past years. The Hon. H.A.D. “Bert” Oliver, founder of the Vancouver Branch over 40 years ago, was an early member of the Society in London, attending his first meeting in 1939 and joining in the mid-1940’s. He provided a glowing history of the life of André Simon whom he met several times while in London.
Dr. Gerald Korn also provided interesting historical information and we learned that his uncle was, probably, a founding member in 1933 – Jerry, too, provided an anecdote about a wartime five shilling chicken dinner that turned out to be rabbit! Dr. Dorothy Crowter also had fond memories as a teenager of a lunch at the Café Royal that turned out to be rather more expensive than anticipated!
Our dinner started with a reception glass or two of Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé from Lucien Albrecht followed by a 2002 Riesling “Les Murailles” from Dopff & Irion with an Alsatian onion tart for our first course. A delicious lobster bisque was accompanied by a glass of 1997 Tokay Pinot Gris “Cuvée St. Catherine”, a Vendages Tardives wine from Pfaffenheim & Gueberschwihr, provided with the generosity of David Spurrell and Jim Robertson. The main course of médaillions of venison with chanterelle sauce was paired with a 2001 Château Belgrave from Bordeaux (the château being named after London’s Belgravia neighbourhood) and a pear sorbet with Poire William liqueur prepared our palates for a dessert of crêpes suzettes with a fine 1986 Château Rieussec Sauternes provided with the generosity of member Dr. Larry Burr.
At the end of the evening, our guests took away with them a CD of André Simon’s speech made on the occasion of his 90th birthday and later received links to the branch’s website at www.iwfsvancouver.com where copies of the Society’s original booklet and membership form and the menu from the first meeting were provided together with many pictures of the evening’s activities.
Our thanks go to Cellar Master Jim Esplen and President Jim Robertson for arranging the wines and the evening, to Historian Milena Robertson for the memorabilia and photographs and to long time member Ken Cross for his knowledgeable presentation of the wines during the evening. Thanks also to Executive Chef Michel Jacob and his brigade and to Maître d' Sandrine Ramoisy and the attentive serving staff. Congratulations to the IW&FS on its 75th Anniversary!