I had the most AMAZING picnic date with Samuel Adams this week. Together we enjoyed freshly shucked Malpeque oysters and three-bite sliders loaded with Manchego cheese, pickled asparagus and an incredibly delicate Pata Negra Spanish ham. As the evening went on, we nibbled on aged Reggiano cheese topped with balsamic soaked local strawberries while watching the sun set against Toronto’s breathtaking waterfront. Let me tell you, Samuel Adams, that tall drink of refreshing Boston Lager, certainly knows how to treat a foodie.
Our “date” was me attending their sponsored Mystery Island Picnic hosted on Toronto’s main island. The evening began at 6:15pm, when myself and about 50 others boarded a private ferry from the bottom end of Cherry Street to be taken on a scenic tour of the city’s shoreline. Just fifteen minutes later we docked at our mystery destination: the prestigious Royal Canadian Yacht Club.
Isn’t she beautiful? Built in 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales, laid the cornerstone for this gracious two-story Southern-style RCYC Clubhouse. Just looking at it makes me crave a Mint Julep.
This was the first of five culinary experiences hosted by Cheese Boutique in partnership with Samuel Adams and The League of Extraordinary Chefs! (Yes, I hear trumpet fanfare in my head too.)
For this initial event, hosting duties fell to Extraordinary Chef Jonathan Goodyear, head of the kitchen at The Royal Canadian Yacht Club. I’m told that it was thanks to Chef Goodyear’s efforts that I, as a non-member of the club, was even permitted to attend this celebration since the yacht club exercises a strict members-only policy. A policy clearly taken seriously by the Lucille Bluth look-a-like staring at me from the clubhouse front porch as I stepped off the dock and onto the grounds.
Chef Jonathan Goodyear, Head Chef at the RCYC, enjoying the benefits of his home turf; a quiet pause in his restaurant’s garden.
A uniform clad man directs us past a lively bocce ball marathon, around the front of the clubhouse and to “The Rose Garden” on the South East side of the building. There we are greeted by these scrumptious sandwiches and their equally welcoming makers.
That is Pata Negra ham you see there and it is delicious. To prepare, the Spanish black pig is nourished on a diet of wild grasses, roots and acorns which produce the rich flavour and oily texture that make the meat a delicacy. This ham comes at an extremely high price point in Canada so of course I ate about 10 of these sliders.
For the next three hours I enjoy a wealth of exquisite flavours, flowing bevvies and membership to this really happy, well-fed crowd.
Samuel Adam’s tasty new Rebel IPA
Fresh oysters with a red wine vinaigrette, shaved horseradish and a dash of tabasco
They never promised us a rose garden… but here it is! “The Rose Garden” (If you don’t get the reference, YouTube Lynn Anderson immediately!)
Now, I’m not certain if it was my firm handshake, my partially green hair or my obvious excitement to be there (I may have literally been buzzing over the raw oyster bar) but for whatever reason I stood out enough to have Chef Goodyear offer me a personal tour of his restaurant’s garden. An opportunity to which, of course, I leapt at — still buzzing from those oysters.
What an incredible experience that was. Sure, the abundance of fresh herbs, rhubarb, wild arugula, varieties of kale and carrots were impressive but how often do you get to engage in a one-on-one conversation with someone so passionate about their work? Chef Goodyear becomes visibly giddy when I ask him about ways to utilize the purple chive flower in home cooking.
Tasting wild arugula, each leaf offering a completely unique flavour profile.
This stunning garden is maintained by volunteer members of the club.
Following my garden tour, I trotted (yes, trotted, high heels were the WRONG choice of footwear) back to Chef Goodyear’s serving station to sample his original menu including halibut with herbs and citrus butter, a zucchini ribbon slaw (with some fresh basil from that very garden) and THE MOST luscious cornbread of my life, prepared with chipotle and cheddar. The experience was an excellent reminder that loving your job, like, REALLY loving your job can truly make for a delicious life.
Chef Goodyear’s serving station. Still loving that view.
My life is now committed to recreating this cornbread recipe at home.
And to learning how to prepare halibut so flaky and moist.
And let’s not forget the Yogurt Panna Cotta with Graham Cookie Crumble that I clearly need to make for breakfast.
Chef Goodyear greets each of the regular patrons after their meal to see how everything was. You, Sir, are an absolute inspiration.
I really should be getting back to my date…
Samuel Adams is a craft brewery based out of Boston, Massachusetts, most recognized for their refreshing Boston Lager. For that reason, I was a little surprised to see that the feature at this event was their bigger, bolder Rebel IPA. Not one to shy away from the delicious bitterness of an Indian Pale Ale, I tried one (OK three) and was really impressed. Certainly not the sucker punch to the palette that the craft beer market has come to expect from those adventurously strong IPAs, instead, this is a much more relaxed, lighter take with a nice hop flavour complimented by citrus aroma and a long finish. A perfect pint for an island picnic.
As the only visibly tattooed, green-haired person at this party, it’s nice to hang with someone (or something) that embraces a rebel side.
Actually there was one other obvious rebel in the mix: a large wheel of Niagara Gold Cheese which had been marinated and aged in the Samuel Adams Rebel IPA for nine months and given the title “Rebel Yell” by creator Afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique. This semi-firm cheese was so fresh and delicious with just a hint of hop flavour found in the rind. I asked Cheese Master Afrim Pristine if he was a fan of pairing beer with cheese and he excitedly yelled over his shoulder, as he prepared four more plates for other guests,
“Everything beer and cheese is good. Better than wine, beer is the best with cheese.”
Who am I to argue with a Master?! I’ll take 3 more of everything please.
Other menu options from Cheese Boutique included those sophisticated sliders above, that 5 year Reggianno with a beautiful crystallized crunch and an Ontario Buffalo Mozzarella with apple vinegar and Marcona almonds. Cheese Boutique had also been so kind to place an assortment of cheese and pâté in the centre of each of the dining tables.
Cheese dreams are made of these.
The third Extraordinary Chef at this event was Chef Jason Bangerter of Landgon Hall, the refined country house hotel & spa located in Cambridge, Ontario. To no one’s surprise, Chef Bangerter played to the richness of our environment by offering a vibrant Summer Gazpacho served in wine tumblers, Blueberry Ricotta Stuffed Gougère (towers of them sprinkled with beautiful petite edible flowers), a perfectly plated entree of Heritage Breed Hen Presse and his pièce de résistance, a stunning Foie Gras Parfait.
I had to share what it looked like after I had taken a bite, otherwise you may of confused this stunning work of art for a wall hanging and not an edible delight — which it was.
Almost like clockwork, as dinner came to an end and the tables were cleared, the sun began to set. An ideal finish to an outstanding meal.
Search #SamInHand for more guest images.
As if the view wasn’t sweet enough, Cheese Boutique provided guests with a massive assortment of desserts to choose from. Not that I could fit another morsel of food in me. Wait. Are those Portuguese Custard Tarts I see?? Damn you, Cheese Boutique! You’ve discovered my one true weakness.
Beignets, cookies, tarts, the greatest thing to ever happen to whipped egg – the Portuguese Custard Tart…
But, seriously, how about this view?!!
From beginning to end, this was a magical evening that I feel grateful for being apart of. I’ll admit, when we first arrived to The Royal Canadian Yacht Club, I briefly had my doubts that I would feel anything but uncomfortable and stiff. Let’s face it, the RCYC is a high class, elite club — one of the most reputable in the city — and, albeit awesome in other ways, I am not exactly a high-class, elite person. But any concerns that I had melted away as soon as food service began. From then on out there was no sense of status ranking in the crowd, there seemed only to be a universal love for food. The focus here was on new experiences and honest flavours elevated to grandeur. The Mystery Island Picnic was a smashing success and praise for it belongs to our EXTRAORDINARY Chefs, their staff and, of course, my thirst-quenching date.
Looking forward to seeing each of you at the next event!