Last week, I received an invitation from Chef Stephen LaSalle of the Albion Rooms to attend Table Erable, the first event of the Bytown Chefs collective. The Bytown Chefs collective is a collaborative initiative by seven young chefs in Ottawa that started in January 2015. The collective’s focus is to create unique dining events in and around the National Capital Region that raise funds for local charities. The seven chefs include:
- Stephen La Salle : The Albion Rooms, Novotel Hotel
- Kyle Mortimer-Proulx : Lowertown Brewery
- Paul Dubeau : Clocktower Brew Pubs
- Ian Reed : Courtyard Restaurant
- Ian Carswell Wicharuk : KW Catering & Events, National Gallery of Canada
- David Wallace : Around The Block Butcher Shop
- Jesse Brent Bell : Dish Catering
Planning their first eventThe collective knew that they wanted their first event to have a sugar shack theme. Collectively the chefs spent 100s of hours were discussing event logistics, the menu, and location. They wanted this event to be different -- not one where each chef creates a dish and presents it as their own; they wanted it to be a true “collective” effort. We were impressed of how truly collaborative these chefs have been with the event and the collective. Stephen shared with us one just one example, the journey of the beef shank: Stephen sourced it from a local farm, then brought it to David so he could dry-age it, and then it was brought to Kyle to smoke. There were similar stories of other menu items having gone through many stages of preparation with a different chef before ending up on our table for dinner. The collective of chefs would often meet on their days off or late at night after working a full day. They decided on a rustic and traditional sugar shack theme and to hold the event at the Proulx Sugar Bush & Berry Farm. The event was in support of Farmworks – An operation come home initiative.
FarmWorks is a social enterprise at Operation Come Home (OCH), offering youth between the ages of 16-30 a safe space to develop skills while learning about food, farming, and agriculture. The goal is to provide a broad range of skills and experiences to youth to ensure future employment options in horticulture, agriculture, hospitality, or to facilitate returning to school in a related field, while developing personal and professional skills through their FarmWorks experience.
Tickets were priced at $92.50 and included bus transportation (provided by KnifeWear) from downtown to the sugar bush near Cumberland, Beau’s beer, wine from the Grange of Prince of Edward County, Sortilège whisky cocktails, a heck of a lot of food!
Guests were greeted with mini “Beaver Tails” with foie gras butter and smoked wild boar at the Albions Rooms before they boarded the bus for the 20 minute ride to the Farm. We opted to drive out to the farm so we unfortunately missed the appetizer. We arrived at the Farm around 4pm and from the moment we go out of the car the experience started. We were greeted by the chefs bringing out the 1st course of various platters of awesome bites. Within minutes, we were sampling things like split-pea soup with ham hocks, and fried venison balogna sandwiches topped with a pickle and delicious grainy mustard and so much more. There was no shortage of beverages with a selection of Beau’s Beer and some hot mulled wine and apple cider. KnifeWear was also onsite with a selection of Japanese knives to try out among other things. The Grange Winery of Prince Edward County, and the Sortilège whisky cocktails were also setup and offering samples inside.
After enjoying some snacks and drinks, we went to explore the farm. A good old-fashioned wagon ride was about to depart for a tour of the sugar bush and farm so we hopped on board. Upon return we wandered to the bonfire, and visited the syrup making showroom to read about how the process. We couldn't resist a visit to the maple-taffy station.
When it was time to get seated we wanted a good view of the kitchen so we grabbed seats nice and close to the action directly in front of the plating tables. To our delight, we were seated beside chef Kyle’s family. Each table had fresh bread and a group of large and small mason jars filled with various delights like pickled eggs, beets and other vegetables and even a caper and horseradish aioli. A growler of Beau’s beer was promptly brought to each table before the 2nd course. Rene of The Grange of Prince Edward winery had paired wine with each course and poured glasses as courses were delivered to the tables.
The main event
We got a bird’s eye view of the true collaboration of this group. We watched as all the chefs come together when plating the first course, a phenomenal charcuterie platter. Layer-by-layer each chef came to the plating table and added - like putting together an amazingly appetizing food puzzle that we would later tear apart and enjoy. It was most certainly a collective effort and we enjoyed watching the process almost as much as eating the meats.
Head to Tail Rabbit Caharcuterie: Rabbie & Golden Raisin Terrine, Rabbit Liver Mousse, Molasses Rabbit Ham, Rabbit Rilletes with Apple and Fennel, Berkshire Head Cheese, Chicken Liver Parfait, Terrine of Quebec Phesant, Pork Belly and Liver Creton in English Bundle
The charcuterie course was almost a meal in itself and there was more to come. Thank goodness guests were given a 30-minute break before the third course was brought out. While we digested and sampled more Beau’s and (or) wine the chefs were busy preparing for the 3rd course that comprised of:
No sugar shack experience would be complete without maple for dessert. The 4th and final course featured 4 different maple inspired desserts accompanied by fresh Equator coffee and tea.
From beginning to end, the collective hit the mark on creating the perfect rustic sugar bush experience. The menu was well thought out and executed perfectly; I think that we can say with confidence that no one left hungry. We are eagerly looking forward to see what the Bytown Chefs collective will come up with next. The Bytown Chef collective is truly inspired; pairing amazing food experiences with fundraising – chefs after our own hearts. We highly recommend you keep an eye out for their next event.
Special thanks to Stephen LaSalle for inviting us to be apart of this great event.
Visit our Facebook page to see our pictures from the event.