Sharing Muskoka’s culinary delights with the world
By Dianne Park Thach
The countdown is on as Muskoka gears up for the 2010 G8 Summit. With only weeks to go, the area awaits the arrival of some of the world’s most powerful leaders to the town of Huntsville for the 36th G8 Summit.
Deerhurst Resort will act as host and, like any hospitable host, the resort will provide fine accommodations on its sprawling 780-acre, lodge-style property. That includes fine cuisine by executive chef Rory Golden. But when the leaders of the world and their entourage come to stay with you for a few days, what do you feed them?
Golden began the menu-planning process by doing some research and speaking to the prime minister’s chef at 24 Sussex Drive.
“We discussed the likes and dislikes of Mr. and Mrs. Harper to kind of get an idea or sense of what food they like,” explains Golden, who has cooked for prominent Canadian political and business figures such as John Bassett, Conrad Black and John Turner. “When there’s a formal meal at anyone’s home – and everyone’s home is different – you have to find out what the expectations are like.”
But likes and dislikes were not the only things to consider with the menu, which was designed and tested with the help of six of his kitchen staff.
“A lot of it comes down to the fact that you have 10 leaders in a room, and the food that they eat has to be easy to eat,” says Golden. “You don’t want to be embarrassed by dropping this or that. The food is streamlined and easy to pick up.”
With tight schedules planned, there is no time to change a tie or blouse before a photo opportunity caused by an accident at lunch. Choosing appropriate menu items is not only dictated by a possible table manner faux pas. Practicality also must be considered as the leaders may choose to work at the table while they eat. Chef Golden says including a Parmesan tuille to complement a salad would not be a wise idea.
“You have to use your fingers to crack it and you could possibly have your paper work at the table with you,” he points out.
One course Golden hopes to present at one of the meals is a beet salad. Each ingredient of the salad must be considered in their aesthetics and practicality.
“If you cut the beet this thick you can easily get it on your fork, but then you have big chunks of it on the plate,” says Golden, gesturing with his fingers. “But if you cut the beet too thin, you can’t get it onto the fork.”
Golden wants to showcase the finest ingredients of Muskoka and Canada in each course.
“My main focus is to use as much local food as we possibly can, and to go as far as the borders of Ontario,” he says.
The essence of the menu offerings at Eclipse, one of the resort’s restaurants, is what he’s aiming for – lots of local food as well as Ontario and Canadian ingredients. One challenge with utilizing ingredients from Muskoka is the short growing season. You have to be very adept at using the products offered throughout the season, says Golden.
“For example, smoked Milford Bay trout. We’ve used it in the past as regular smoked trout, we’ve made pates and chutneys out of it, and we’ve even made a smoked trout cheesecake,” he says.
After catching the inevitable eyebrow raise at the thought, he smiles, noting that it takes a bit of creativity to prepare a meal for the world’s leaders.
“What we’re going for is using local food in just a different manner,” he says.
Some ingredients from Ontario he plans on using include asparagus, as well as fresh produce such as lettuce and tomatoes from Brooklands Farm in Milford Bay and Grenville Farms in Severn Bridge.
Because of the scope of the event, Golden cannot simply order his food and have it brought in like he normally would. Health Canada steps in as an integral part to the food organization. While the province regularly oversees the health inspections of any restaurant or resort operation, Health Canada becomes involved when a large governmental meeting is planned, such as the summit.
“Four or five months ago I had to give them a list of about 75 suppliers – names, numbers, addresses – and they go about ensuring that there’s no challenges with that particular company,” he says.
Every product that enters Deerhurst must have a traceable and specific origin. A product like wild leek, which Golden likes to pickle, wouldn’t make the menu.
“I would be able to bottle them properly, but would I be able to tell you exactly where they were picked and what the soil is like?” he asks.
Health Canada’s procedures for the summit are no different from other meetings, but details have to be double and triple-checked in this situation.
Logistics and timing in transporting the food to the resort can come with potential nightmares.
“My big worry when I go to bed right now is about having the strawberries harvested,” he says with a pained look. “Late June is just about the time when they become available, and if they’re available on the 23rd of June, I won’t get them because we’ll have the fences up.”
If any of the kitchens realize there’s something missing, there is no turning back. With the fences going up by June 20, that means nobody can come in or out, including service people. In the event that a piece of equipment in the kitchen may fail, a service person for each type of appliance will have to stay on the premises on standby during the three days.
“I’ve got a backup refrigeration man, another person to fix the ovens, a backup reefer (refrigeration) truck should the main reefer truck break down,” says Golden.
And a malfunctioning oven is not a problem the kitchen wants to face. Golden says he currently has about 40 kitchen staff at the resort, which will swell to about 70 for the summit, and he also plans to recruit a few chef colleagues.
In addition to cooking for the leaders, Golden and his team must also oversee the meals for the media, delegates, the Summit Management Office and RCMP officers. He estimates an additional 1,600-1,800 people to feed in addition to the leaders. They have handled the food for large groups of that size in the past, but not for a group that is spread out on the property, eating simultaneously.
Despite the challenge of the task at hand, Golden says he has put his worries aside. In fact, he has already begun thinking ahead to the busy summer season after the G8. With Canada Day coming shortly after the summit and as one of the busiest weekends of the year, they need to change gears quickly.
“The pastry chef can worry about everything she has to do (for the Summit), but she knows that at 12 o’clock on July 1, she has to have our traditional Canada Day cake made.”
YOUR GUIDE TO FINE DINING IN MUSKOKA
Arowhon Pines Resort & Restaurant
– KM 16 Algonquin Park
Arowhon Pines is located far off the beaten track, in the middle of the woods of Algonquin Park. We are famous for our spectacular wilderness location, peaceful atmosphere and superb kitchen.
Our dining room is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu changes daily and seasonally. Should you wish to know the day’s entrees, it’s best to call that morning!
Meals are served in a six-sided heritage log dining room with central stone fireplace and wrap around views of lake and forest.
Bring your own wine – we'll uncork it for you – there is no corkage fee.
Groups of 10 or more who book a meal can enjoy a complimentary boat cruise of the lakes.
Arrive early and enjoy your wine on our verandah overlooking the lake. Dress is casual. 705-633-5661, www.arowhonpines.ca
Bala Bay Inn
Join us at the refurbished, historical Bala Bay Inn. Enjoy a signature martini from Muskoka’s longest list in the new dining room “Ghosts” or a refreshing pint in “The Grill Patio” overlooking Lake Muskoka.
Call 705-762-3313 for reservations or www.balabayinn.com info on our “Muskoka’s Best Value Wedding Packages.” www.balabayinn.com
Bartlett Lodge – Algonquin Park
Find out why our dining room is becoming a “not-to-be-missed” evening out, while in Muskoka. Take a boat ride to dinner and experience exceptional cuisine. Revisit Algonquin’s past, recreated in our tabletop models of former Algonquin resorts.
Dinner is served at 6 and 8 p.m. Call for reservations, 705-633-5543, or visit our website: www.bartlettlodge.com
Chefs Richard and Julie Lalonde welcome you to Crossroads. Come enjoy our breathtaking view of Lake Rosseau, extensive wine list, welcoming staff and our wonderful cottage feel. Our upscale, casual cuisine features dishes made with love, using the best of what nature has to offer.
We are open year-round and are now booking private functions and meetings. We are now baking fresh pies, cakes and breads. We are also taking orders for birthday and wedding cakes. Please call 705-732-4343 for reservations. www.crossroadspubandgrill.ca
Located on Canal Road (off Hwy. 60), Huntsville, we offer three restaurant options: Eclipse, Steamers and The Pub. Each features a variety of dining styles and atmospheres.
All major credit cards accepted. For reservations call 705-789-6411. www.deerhurstresort.com
Since 1935, Killarney Lodge has earned a reputation for friendly, attentive service and fine country dining. In the dining room, the original fireplace casts a warm glow over the diners, creating a relaxed and rustic atmosphere in the intimate log rooms.
Join us in the heart of Algonquin Park for lunch or dinner. Please call 705-633-5551 for dinner reservations. www.killarneylodge.com
The Norsemen Restaurant is Muskoka’s ultimate fine dining experience, noted for its fine European and Canadian cuisine. Featuring outstanding game, seafood and steak in a historic lodge with stone fireplaces and a rare “Old Muskoka” charm, the Norsemen has a reputation for great food and great times.
Les Gayne, owner of the Norsemen, and chef Harvey Cross, have a commitment to superb cuisine served with flavour and flair. Our wine list is carefully selected to offer a wide range of fine wines to complement your dinner. With our $39 three course fixed price specials you can have a great dining experience at an affordable price.
Any time of year, with its friendly atmosphere, rustic ambience and savoury cuisine, the Norsemen is a treat for visitors, groups or memorable romantic dinners. We’re located just 10 minutes from Huntsville on Limberlost Road. Get off the beaten path, enjoy the lakeside view, and savour the superb cuisine.
Situated at Walker Lake Drive, off Limberlost Road, just 10 minutes from Huntsville. 705-635-2473, 1-800-565-3856, www.norsemen-walkerlake.com
R & L Bistro
Traditional and modern French bistro cuisine awaits you at R&L Bistro at 193 Manitoba St. in Bracebridge.
A warm, modern, comfortable interior prepares you for an exquisite bistro experience. From the welcoming greetings, casual atmosphere and expertly prepared food, a gourmet experience awaits.
Choose from traditional French dishes such as Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, Sole Meuniere, Moules Mariniere and Baked Escargots. Or from contemporary dishes including, Goat Cheese Crostini, Warm Mushroom and Aged Cheddar Salad, New Zealand Rack of Lamb, Seafood Fettuccine Pesto or Chicken Cordon Bleu Supreme.
Finish with one of our decadent traditional French desserts or selection of fine cheeses.
Our extensive wine list was selected to reflect the distinctive flavours of each dish.
Reservations can be made at 646-2237 or via our website at www.rlbistro.ca
At Taboo Resort, Golf and Spa, guests enjoy a wide variety of dining experiences. Experience an evolution in dining at ELEMENTS – three unique dining atmospheres in one unique space.
Elements and the Culinary Theatre offer guests sophisticated cuisine and a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Relax and unwind in the Elements Lounge for casual fare and stunning panoramic views of Lake Muskoka. During July and August, be sure to visit The Boathouse for pub-style fare and enjoy a sunset vista and wraparound deck. 705-687-2233, www.tabooresort.com
The Moose Café
Casual dining in a relaxed atmosphere. Breakfast, lunch and bistro-style dinners. Favourites include: the “Great Canadian Moose Breakfast,” great burgers, steaks, trout, salads and sandwiches, homemade soups, desserts and baked goods, world “famoose” buttertarts.
Dinner reservations appreciated. 2803 Hwy 60, Dwight, Ontario 705-635-9639
Visit www.moosecafe.ca for more details.
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