As human beings we each react differently to things that affect us emotionally. Some of us rejoice as early winter sets in and the first fall of snow blankets the ground. Others sneer, turn up their collars and trudge threw the months as best they can. Our lives are a series of emotional responses to the world around us. I call our favorite of the emotional responses “wow moments” and they are often experienced when we see, touch, hear, taste or smell something for the first time.
Every year Les produits d’érable du Quebec throw La fête de l’érable, a lavish dinner celebrating one of the provinces great exports, maple. Whether it be whipped into a butter, drizzled over ice cream or fashioned into beauty products, maple is one of the most distinct and most loved products across the country. This year’s theme for the party was a high tea Régal Royal, a celebration of Quebec’s maple making entry into the English market overseas, international first. England’s greatest iconography including Buckingham’s soldiers, the Union Jack and more transported us across the pond where we reverse engineered the British Invasion.
After months of planning, Chef Nathan Eades of the Michelin ranked and world renowned, Simpsons in the West Midlands of England travelled to Montreal to prepare a feast inspired by English tradition. Having already lived in Canada for several years prior, Eades was familiar not just with the beauty our country has to offer, but also he became a fan of our liquid gold. The four course meal was preceded by a welcome cocktail held in the beautiful Theatre Saint-James on Saint-Jacques in Old Montreal.
La fête d’érable had its fair share of “wow moments” and they began with our arrival at the door. Flanked by the Queen’s Guard, the door was bathed in red, while and blue light, the colours of the Union Jack. It only got better from there. As we entered the main hall, massive projections of an English garden decorated the walls of the main hall. It was magical enough to draw comparison to certain famous hall in school of witchcraft and wizardry in England. It was a mesmerizing thing to see and an unforgettable experience. We soaked it all in and we sipped on cocktails for just over half an hour. That’s where the rest of the magic begins.
Ushered to our seats, the tables were decorated in brightly coloured tea cups with matching saucers, crystal plates and glasses and centre pieces featuring arrangements of English roses and other flowers. Wine was served and soon the rest of the experience began. The peaceful English garden that was projected onto the walls of the great hall went dark and were replaced by screens in England that flashed with warnings that England was being swallowed up by a golden light, it was sinking into this maple syrup. The storyline was cute enough if not a bit dramatic but people seemed to enjoy it. I was there to concentrate on the plates in front of me.
The first service of the event drew inspiration from the famous cucumber sandwiches served at high tea. Maple smoked salmon and cucumber with herring caviar were served on a horseradish and maple emulsion were delicately served and started the meal on the right foot. The second service consisted of a soup made from maple infused julienne mushrooms and chicken broth with a “sandwich” of Queen Elizabeth chicken covered in a curry cream and mushroom ketchup served on a rye cracker. The recipe was originally created for the Queen’s coronation in 1953, honouring the ties between India and England.
A traditional Sunday dinner was the inspiration for the third service of the evening. We were served a plate of perfectly cooked venison. The deer meat was cooked with maple and was accompanied by game stuffed cabbage, stacked celery root and a cranberry and maple chutney. It was out of this world good. Anyone who things the English can’t cook have obviously been listening to too many stereotypes over the years.
For dessert we devoured a Charlotte cake filled with a maple and whiskey mousse, beer macerated candied fruits and fleur de sel maple caramel all topped with a velvety maple infused Chantilly cream. Then I rolled away from the table. The dessert was conceived by Yves Lévesque, chef pâtissier and owner of Dansreau Catering.
This was my very first Fête de l’érable and as far as dinners go this fired on all cylinders. My senses were dazzles and in some ways, they still are. It was thoroughly impressive event from start to finish filled to the brim with wow moments. People who have been to the event before have said that Les products de l’érable du Quebec throw an equally astonishing dinner party every year. I can’t wait to see how they top this.
For more information on Quebec’s maple products, visit their website here.