I was blown away.
Seriously, what else did you honestly expect me to say? The title of this post should really say it all. If you decided to abstain this year...
You missed out on their best year.
We all know, while I am a very open minded person when it comes to food, that I have very high standards when it comes to both quality and quantity. Most restaurants like to hide lack of quality with massive portions so that you walk away feeling like you didn't waste your money. Or they hide it with flashy presentation.
With Dining the Dark, there was no way to hide behind flash. Diners were blindfolded (and I did indeed eat completely blindfolded--the blindfolds CNIB supplied were impossible to cheat with once it was on your face) so the visual presentation was taken out of the equation.
However, considering all else, I don't think Verdicchio's skimped on visual presentation.
Let me tell you why.
Every single course was flawless. From the starter, which (the actual term slips me) was a truffle "fondue" (I like good food, but sometimes I'm not completely up on the correct terms...) with aged cheese served in an espresso cup. I could have easily eaten two, but even that little bit was pushing my recent discovery of lactose sensitivity to its limits. It was that delicious, and that warming.
The Sudbury, Ontario spring is a fickle creature. A nice warm day is often followed by a very cool evening, so this warm cup full of gooey goodness was a welcome start.
The next course was a roasted butternut squash based risotto with walnuts and Parmesan cheese and some very fresh arugula. It was served in the perfect sized bowl. It was not a giant bowl, but one that felt satisfying to my hand, especially since it was still a lead up to the main course. It was creamy and buttery, and oh so good. Even by this time, I was wondering if I would have room for another course, let alone dessert after, but they did give time for food to settle in between courses for those at the table to talk and for the host to entertain.
The main course was duck (which I called - I could tell it was a bird because of the skin but it was definitely not turkey, or chicken... or partridge which I've had before...) with a blueberry glaze, served with striped beets (which, I admit, tasted like broccoli to me...) and cauliflower couscous instead of a wheat couscous (thankfully - I can get away with lactose to a point, but combining the two may have pushed my system past its limit). After that, I admit I don't miss wheat or wheat products anymore. Couscous was the hardest to give up, but tasting the cauliflower based couscous gave me new hope that there's still food I can enjoy.
The main was filling - satisfyingly so - and tasty. After this course, I was full but I also wanted more (but maybe later...) of everything. I've never had duck, but I'll be adding it to my list of favourites.
If you've never had it and you're scared to, don't be. It's a very moist bird that apparently tastes like ham because every single person (outside of a few) swore up and down that it was ham.
After that was the live auction, in which I am proud to report that I donated one of my smaller, and earlier, paintings. I was surprised by how much the painting that has been sitting in my studio for a few years and framed myself to display at shows and have had to re-frame a few times because I'm not a pro framer (okay, not that surprised because the prints sell quickly and a numbered & signed runs sold out in the first year) sold for. While I'm sad to see it go, it was for a great cause and I know the new owner will enjoy it for many years to come.
I think perhaps I found a way to re-home some of my other originals. Seems fitting that if I sell the prints, then the originals should do some paying it forward in the community.
On that, if there is anyone with a charity or good cause looking for originals, I still have a few more. However, some of them don't have frames and I'm not a professional framer. Send a note to me through the contact form on this site or through social media and we'll talk.
After the live auction, we were treated to coffee and tea, and the bar closed. Dessert followed.
And what a show stopper it was.
Chocolate creme brulée.
Let that sink in a moment.
If you've had creme brulée, then you know how sinfully amazing it is. Especially when the maker of said brulée is someone who knows what they're doing.
Okay, my family and a few others are raising their eyebrows because they know it's one of my favourites and I keep trying to recreate creme brulée but failing miserably. Sure, it tastes good, but the presentation isn't very pretty.
Well, after the live auction, they brought out dessert but we had forgotten, or missed the cue, to put our blindfolds on so we actually saw what we were eating.
And, since Verdicchio's was expecting that no one could see it, they could have cheated like I often do. They didn't. It was as pretty to look at as it tasted, and it was... I write for a living and words are failing me on how amaz-balls it was.
It was a fitting and incredible ending to a great evening.
And, if you didn't buy a ticket this year because you went last year... YOU MISSED OUT. Remember to get your ticket next year. I know I will be, and I will be bringing friends because this was not something you wanted to miss.