The Final Harvest Feast

Autumn is undoubtedly my favourite season. It smells fantastic, the air is crisp, you sweat a whole lot less, and in terms of food, there is such a huge variety on offer. It also means the end of the harvest season, though, and I get how some people can find it a bit sad. Things are dying off, the summer is done, and it will be many long months before we can bite into a freshly picked strawberry or tomato again.

Which is why I was so excited to receive the email about one last Harvest Wednesday event at the Gladstone Hotel. Scheduling conflicts made this one a Harvest Monday, but that didn’t matter – the opportunity to sit with friends and enjoy one final meal from the CSA and Chef Breton’s kitchen was worth potentially missing Heroes (we didn’t).

Throughout the summer we enjoyed the rotating events of Harvest Wednesdays, from the cocktail-style finger food nights, to the grand buffets to the family-style passed dishes, with the bright summer sun streaming through the south-west facing windows. This final dinner definitely reminded us it was fall, for it was dark when we arrived and even darker when we left. My photos of the various dishes turned out to dark to use, even with some Photo-Shop tweaking, and I must admit that I forgot to photograph the hot dishes completely. I was too busy eating. Instead, here’s the menu with commentary.

Pear and Prosciutto Roll
Niagara prosciutto, fresh pear, arugula and red onion wrapped in rice paper
sherry-mustard seed dip

I still don’t *love* that Niagara prosciutto, but the saltiness was countered by the other ingredients, and this was a really nice way to start the evening. Big enough that it didn’t feel like a tease, and an interesting combination of flavours and textures that went well together.

A Trio of Coleslaws
Savoy Cabbage, red cabbage and carrot, zest vinaigrette

Spinach Salad
Oven dried and fresh cherry tomatoes, polenta croutons, goat cheese vinaigrette

OMG! Polenta croutons. This was the one point where I regretted the family-style passed plate situation, because I’d have eaten every single one of these myself.

Hot Dishes
Chick-a-Biddy Acres Free Range Chicken
braised in red wine with button mushrooms and pearl onions

Brassica Empanadas
fresh baked pastries filled with chard, collards, kale, endive, bok choy, leek, sweet onion and salt cod

Eggplant, Toma Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella
broiled with thyme and oregano

Fingerling Potatoes
baked whole with garlic cloves

I’m still *trying* to stick to a vegetarian diet at home, but at events like this when I know there’s going to be amazing meat that tastes great and is cooked properly, I occasionally indulge. Because this chicken dish was so incredibly worth falling off the wagon for a night.

The empanadas I’ve had at Harvest Wednesdays before, and they’re really good. I do sort of feel that Chef is faced with the prospect of having lots of greens to feed us and feeling that he has to “sneak” them in somehow. Maybe it’s just because I like all the greens listed, but I’d have loved to see them featured more. I’m sure I’m in the minority on that count in terms of the diners, though.

Warm Apple Galette
cranberry walnut topping, Price Edward County Ice Cider sabayon

This was a perfect autumn dessert, the walnuts slightly candied, the apple slightly underdone so as not to become mush, and the sabayon… oh. Our friend and neighbour who we were dining with didn’t care for the cream, but I’d have happily taken a bowl of the stuff and a spoon as my dessert.

And then it was over. Just like that, with no more to look forward to until next July.

One can look at events like this, that preach a certain sensibility, that advocate things like a sense of community, or knowing where your food comes from, and say that in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. And I’m cynical enough to believe that – usually. Except that Harvest Wednesdays did exactly what it set out to do. It made us think about where our food comes from; allowing us to meet the people who grew our food and cooked our food. In attending these events, and helping to promote them via TasteTO, we became part of the community. We made new friends at Harvest Wednesdays, especially the dynamic duo of Roger and Joanne McLennan (Harvest Wednesday regulars) who were at almost every dinner we attended and who were amazing to sit and talk to. We got to know our neighbours better, literally – at two of the harvest table dinners we found ourselves sitting next to people from our apartment building.

Huge thanks to Chef Marc Breton and his hard-working staff for taking on the weekly task of pulling a rabbit out of a hat and producing a sumptuous feast from a box of miscellaneous produce. Thanks to Sherry Patterson and Chick-a-Biddy Acres for growing the fruit and vegetables and raising the chickens that we happily devoured. And extra special thanks to Christina Zeidler of The Gladstone Hotel for putting it all together, welcoming us so graciously and making our city and our neighbourhood a more interesting and joyful place to live.