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.
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.
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.
For the next three hours I enjoy a wealth of exquisite flavours, flowing bevvies and membership to this really happy, well-fed crowd.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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