Year-End Tasting Panel Report: Nova Scotia Scallops and Wine

Recipes and Recommendations for the Adventurous Home Cook & Sommelier
By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Shellfish are at their tastiest this time of year, having properly plumped up over the last couple of months to weather the icy Canadian winter. Lobsters, mussels, oysters and scallops are all at their taste zenith, and they are always on my table during the holiday season.

In preparation for this (and for the annual Great Canadian Oyster Experience, where the pairings are showcased), each year I gather a panel of taste experts to identify perfect shellfish and wine pairings. In past I focused on oysters, gathering a select group of refined palates to sample these bivalves from multiple origins with a wide range of wines. See last year’s report here. This year, I set my research team loose on scallops, particularly large, plump Nova Scotia scallops to be precise, and a range of WineAlign National Wine Award platinum and gold-winning VQA Ontario wines, in search of perfect pairings. Jump to the results below, or read on for some useful information on scallops.

Useful Things to Know About Scallops

Sea scallops are mild, slightly sweet-flavoured morsels (though not as sweet as bay scallops) with a firm, pleasantly chewy texture. The nutritionally conscious will be pleased to learn that they are rich in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin B12, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorus and selenium, and also an incredibly healthy source of protein, while being relatively low in calories (depending on the preparation!).

Buying Scallops 

Scallops are most often sold by count-per-pound, given a designation like U/10 or U/20, which means that there are Under 10 or 20 scallops per pound, respectively. They can also be marked as 10/20, meaning that there are between 10 and 20 scallops in each pound (.8 to 1.6 ounces each). In either case, the smaller the number, the bigger the scallops, and for the most part, the higher the price per pound will be.

Scallops are harvested either by trawling or by diving. Environmentally conscious home cooks should look for the latter, sold as ‘diver scallops’, which refers to the harvesting method, not to any particular type of scallop. Trawling is done by scraping the ocean floor to pull up scallops (and whatever else is down there), without regard to the maturity of the shellfish or to the damage done to the ocean floor. Diver scallops are more expensive, of course.

A further designation to look for is “dry pack” scallops. Dry pack scallops are packaged without additives, and don’t shrink as much as wet-packed scallops (which can lose almost half their size when cooked). It’s also tough to get that golden colour when searing wet-packed scallops as the water released during cooking tends to steam them.

Digby Scallops

The Bay of Fundy is famous for its scallops, especially Digby scallops, named after the town in Nova Scotia where most of the commercial fishing fleets have their home base. Thus Digbys are not a particular species of scallop – you’ll find the same type of sea scallop throughout maritime fishing grounds – and may not even come from the waters immediately off-shore from Digby town. But any large-sized, diver-caught, dry-packed sea scallop from the maritimes at this time of year will be pretty damned tasty. 

Cooking Scallops

Home cooks love scallops for their versatility. They’re suitable for a wide variety of preparations from raw (crudo, ceviche) to dry heat cooking methods like searing, grilling or sautéing, or wet heat methods like stir-frying and baking (with sauce), and simmering in soup, stew or risotto. Their, delicate, mild flavour also makes them a great canvass to showcase a wide range of accompanying sauces, mild to intense.

Large sea scallops are usually best with dry heat methods, just keep in mind that since they are essentially pure, very lean protein (like filet mignon), they toughen up quickly if overcooked, moving from moist and succulent to dry and rubbery in the blink of an eye. So make sure that you remove them from the heat when they are still moist, juicy and plump (springy to the touch and still oozing some liquid).

The Scallop and Wine Tasting Panel

For this year’s tasting panel, I asked Chef Giovanna Alonzi of Terroni and Sud Forno to devise three radically different sea scallop preparations. Panelists were put into three teams. Each team was assigned one of the scallop dishes, and asked to taste it with nearly two-dozen VQA Ontario wines in order to choose a favourite pairing. I pre-selected the wines out of the 2017 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada platinum and gold winners, and included sparkling, white, rosé and red options.

See below for the bios on each team, the preparation they were assigned, and their top pairing. At the time of writing, all wines are still available and recipes are provided so you can reproduce the menu right in your own home.


Scallop #1: crudo – celery, fennel, orange, lemon, zucchini, heirloom carrots, radicchio, mint, pistachio, black olive dust
2016 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling Flat Rock Cellars, Twenty Mile Bench

Scallop#2: bone marrow, nduja, light tomato, crispy speck, lemon zest
2016 Rosé, Fielding Estate Winery, Niagara Peninsula

Scallop #3: porcini and black truffle, potato purée (Marsala seared)
2014 Barrel Select Pinot Noir Stanners Vineyard, Prince Edward County

The Panel Results

Team One: Giovanna Alonzi & Suresh Doss

Team 1- Giovanna Alonzi and Suresh Doss-0996

Alonzi’s Italian roots (she was born there) inform her culinary inspiration, and she now humbly bears the title of executive chef of the Terroni/Sud Forno Group of restaurants, Toronto’s beloved purveyor of authentic Italian food where no modifications is the house rule. When she’s not playing, cooking or baking at Sud Forno’s newest location on Temperance St., you’ll find, her doing the same things at home with partner Fabio and beautiful children Mattia and Alice.

Having devised this preparation, her inside knowledge helped this team to a magical pairing, but she had a strong teammate to be sure in Suresh Doss, a Toronto-based food, drink, and travel writer. Among many other things, Doss is the print editor for Foodism Toronto where he covers all edibles (well, maybe not all, until later this year), as well as the new food guide for CBC Radio One’s Metro Morning show, where you’ll hear him highlighting places to eat throughout the GTA and beyond. He’s also a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail and Toronto life. More at 

Scallop preparation: scallop crudo with celery, fennel, orange, lemon, zucchini, heirloom carots, mint, olive dust, pistachio
Wine pairing: Flat Rock Cellars 2016 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling ($24.95)

Reasoning: “For us, the Riesling opened up so many of the elements in the dish. Acid and a touch of sweetness in the wine helped cushion the scallop. Citrus and Riesling are meant to be together.” – Suresh Doss


Team Two: John Szabo & Laura Ruffolo 

Team Two: John Szabo & Laura Ruffolo 

Fellow U of T and WSET Diploma Graduate Laura Ruffolo was my partner for preparation Nº 2. As Product Manager for Ontario Wines at the LCBO, and with her Italian background and strong wine knowledge in general, not to mention a direct connection to chef Alonzi (they went to high school together, by total coincidence), Ruffolo was a natural choice for this panel. And me, well, it was my idea so I bullied my way onto the team.

Scallop preparation: Scallop with bone marrow zabaglione, nduja, and tomato
Wine Pairing: Fielding 2016 Rosé, Niagara Peninsula ($15.95)

Reasoning: “With the spice from the nduja [a spicy, fatty, spreadable Italian pork rillette], and the decadently creamy-rich bone marrow zabaglione, this was a challenging dish, certainly the most unusual in the trio. We tried lots of different options, though most wines seemed to want to live separate lives from the scallops, “like Ward and June Cleaver sleeping in separate beds”, said Laura Ruffolo. In the end, the vibrant, fruity, slightly off-dry Fielding rosé was the most successful, a textbook contrasting match pitting fruit against earth and spice in a very pleasing way. – John Szabo

“Our dish is really rich, with the nduja, zabaglione, and scallop, so we needed some acid to cut through. The touch of sweetness in the Fielding rosé was perfect to offset the subtle spice, while the fruit in the wine was a nice contrast to the slightly smoky-savoury elements.” – Laura Ruffolo.


Team Three: Astrid Brummer, Magdalena Kaiser & Jules Garton

Team 3- Astrid Brummer Magdalena Kaiser and Jules Garton

This strong team was composed of Jules Garton, a Certified Sommelier by both Court of Master Sommeliers and the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, and inveterate saberer of sparkling wine. Garton is Director of Wine for Broadcloth Hospitality where she oversees the wine programs at The Oxley Public House, The Queen & Beaver, The Wickson Social, and the company’s latest addition, Mad Crush Wine Bar, which occupies the legendary former Bar Italia space in Little Italy on College Street, Toronto. Astrid Brummer is responsible for all Ontario wines at the LCBO/Vintage as category manager no less, and also brings a degree in oenology and viticulture from Brock University to the table. Magdalena Kaiser is a Master of Wine candidate and director of PR for the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, as well as a bona fide shellfish specialist.

Preparation: Scallop with porcini, black truffle and potato purée
Wine Pairing: Stanners 2014 Barrel Select Pinot Noir, Prince Edward County ($39.00)

Reasoning: “The scallop with the mushroom has a beautiful dark rich note, and the Stanners matches that” – Astrid Brummer

“The pinot had enough weight and richness to stand up to the mushroom and the truffle, giving it more of an umami flavor profile.”  – Jules Garton

The Stanners is an elegant wine, but the pairing brings out another element of earthiness and richness, lifting the dish, making it more luxurious”.  – Magdalena Kaiser



1. Crudo di Capesante

Serves 4

4 fresh scallops (cut into 1 cm slices and marinated with 15 ml of lemon juice, 30 ml of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste)
130 gr raw zucchini, julienned
130 gr raw fennel, shaved
40 gr celery, shaved
60 gr heirloom carrots, julienned
10 gr  Moroccan black olives, pitted, dehydrated and minced
10 gr of crushed pistacchio, roughly chopped
1 gr of mint
Salt & pepper
30 ml lemon juice
60 ml of evo


  • Prepare scallops one hour ahead of preparing the vegetable mix
  • Which the lemon juice with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Toss zucchini, fennel, celery and carrots in a bowl until just mixed, drizzle with dressing, toss in mint and parsley

Divide the above vegetables into four serving  bowls, dust with pistachio and black olive dust, add marinated scallop per bowl, serve cold.

2. Capesante allo zabaglione di midollo e nduja

Serves four

4 scallops
1 yolk
1 tsp vinegar
4 tbsp roasted bone marrow
15 gr ‘nduja
10 gr tomato sauce reduction (obtained by reducing 50 gr of tomato sauce)
40 ml sunflower oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
10 gr crispy prosciutto (oven baked until crispy)
Zest of 2 lemons


  • In the bowl of a mixer with the blade attachment, whip the egg yolk with the vinegar and a pinch of salt
  • Add the canola oil a few drops at a time, then in a steady flow until an emulsion is created
  • Blend in the marrow and the nduja
  • Add lemon juice, Season with salt and pepper
  • Ensure the scallops are nice and dry and season with salt and pepper
  • Heat a searing pan for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  • Wear scallops until a golden crust forms, about two minutes per side
  • Serve over 1 tbsp of the bone marrow zabaglione, with a dusting of the lemon zest and a sprinkle of the crispy prosciutto

3. Capesante ai Porcini e tartufi neri
Serves 4


4 scallops
300 gr of frozen porcini, cut into cubes
1 clove of garlic
3 tbsp EVO
2 tbsp butter
70 ml white wine
40 ml Marsala wine (or madeira or medium-sweet sherry)
4 gr. black truffle
½ cup of potato purée (1 medium sized potato, 2 tbsp of cream and 1 tbsp of butter


  • Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in pan. Add garlic clove and porcini mushrooms. Fry over high heat for a couple of minutes while stirring. Deglaze with 30 ml of white wine, add a tsp of butter and season with salt and pepper
  • Heat a searing pan for a couple of minutes. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and sear scallops, a couple of minutes on each side, until a golden crust forms. Deglaze with white wine, add Marsala, butter and season with salt and pepper
  • Serve each scallop over 1 tbsp of porcini mushrooms and 1 tbsp of potato purée, finish with truffle shavings


That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS