For one evening, we were asked to forget about the political negotiations and intrigues that led to the birth of Canada to reflect on a more important question: what did the Fathers of Confederation (and their female guests) eat and drink at the Charlottetown Conference of 1864?
Apparently, wine and extravagant meals played a vital role in convincing the Maritime provinces to join Confederation. Well, then.
A Toast to our Founding Fathers was the first event in the Canadian Museum of History’s series of tastings inspired by historical events.
Thanks to Audrey’s instigation and LP’s organizing skills, 15 of us were set to feast on a four-course dinner inspired by the Conference, prepared by the Museum resident chef Michael Lasalle (formerly at Chez Edgar).
To wash everything down, a wine tasting led by renowned sommelier Véronique Rivest, the first woman ever to reach the podium at the World’s Best Sommelier Competition. She informed us that champagne was the drink of choice at the Charlottetown Conference and that, therefore, we would sip bubbles all night long.
Between each course, historian Timothy Foran would regale us with his perfect diction and his lively accounting of the juicy culinary details of Charlottetown’s grand ball.
Arrival was set for 5:30, and we stood around near our tables, chit-chatting and wondering why there was no welcoming cocktail or, at a minimum, a wet bar of some sort while we waited for the event to start. At 6:10, we were informed that the other guests had gone on a tour of the exhibit, and that we were welcome to do so as well. It would have been nice to find out at check in. Oh well, we hung out in the Museum’s new signature space while waiting for the proceedings to begin.
The event started and the first course was served:
A Timbale of locally grown potatoes, poached northern shrimp and shaved asparagus, with sprigs of salicorne to garnish. What now? Salicorne is a seaweed that grows in salty marshes of the St.Lawrence. Fresh, it is crispy and a tad salty.
This was the high note in the well-executed, if subtle, first course. The poached shrimp didn’t quite pop the way I enjoy them, but they were not overpowered by the very mild fingerling and purple potatoes. The asparagus brought some freshness to the dish.
The course was paired with the Domaine Vincent Carême Brut Vouvray – a sparkling wine from the Loire region of France. It is made with Chenin blanc and has a fairly intense yellow robe. A dynamic nose with scents of apple, pears and spices, with some mineral notes. A good start.
The second course was an Atlantic salmon, served on a bed of smoked pork hock, sautéed cabbage and spring peas:
This dish could be divided in two parts. On top, a salmon pavé which was sadly overdone, hardened even. However, this was much to the delight of Ms. Waffle, who is not a fan of the pink-flesh fish and believes well-done is the way to go. She got what she hoped for. Underneath, a delicious mix of cabbage and smoked pork, salty, earthy, with caramelized cabbage leaves to give it a hint of sweetness. There could have been more peas in the mix, because they were cooked perfectly and popped nicely amongst the softer mélange.
This course was paired with a Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley. My favorite of the evening, this American sparkling wine was rich and buttery. You could taste the Chardonnay here. A medium straw color with a medium body, it had a nutty, apple flavour. It held well against the contrast of the fish and the pork.
The third and main course: Beef braised in red wine, lobster risotto and sautéed patty pans. A fun twist on a surf and turf!
I probably could have eaten half a cow. That’s how good, melt-in-your-mouth, the beef was. The rich demi-glaze had you wanting more and more meat. The contrasting starch was rich, creamy and flavourful. Risotto is hard to make (so I very rarely try to make it… OK, I never make it) so this was enjoyable, the fact that it was lobstery made it even better.
To go along, a Domaine Bergeville Le Rosé Brut. I was skeptical when it showed up, with its raspberry pink color. I was even more while drinking it: fruity, sweet, sugary in fact. That’s why MP couldn’t help but remark that perhaps a Syrah or a Cab-Sauv would have been more enjoyable.
The dessert course was a Blueberry and Raspberry Clafoutis.
Served in a mini clay pot, this classic french dessert is traditionally made made with black cherries. But variations abound, and small berries of all kinds are used quite often. The fruits are baked in a custard-like batter and garnished with powdered sugar. A good rendition here, creamy and fruity.
To accompany the dessert, a Castello del Poggio Brachetto, from the Piedmont region of Italy. Very festive colour, a hint darker than the rose but not quite red either. Spicy and fruity aromas. On the palate, some acidity hits you first, followed by floral notes, maybe rosewater. It is a light sparkling wine, surprising but interesting.
It was a very nice evening, combining good food, good wine and good stories. For 95$, it was well worth the price.
The next event is to Commemorate the 173rd anniversary of the Franklin Expedition’s departure with rum tasting, Arctic snack and a rare glimpse of artifacts from the famous shipwrecks are on the menu.
Although the Franklin Expedition ended in tragedy, what could possibly go wrong with rum tasting?
Founding fathers or Indigenous “genociders”?
Wait a minute…didn’t the Franklin Expedition end in cannibalism????