The instructions were vague but simple- locate a guy at a picnic table in a park at approximately 5:48pm and give him a password; something like the mushroom had shrunk but didn't shrink. As we approached a guy sitting alone at a picnic table next to a wooden box with his eyes closed - we hoped it wasn't a perfect stranger. We said hi but when he didn't respond, we delivered the nonsensical phrase. Once we did that, his eyes opened and he was responsive. He found our names on a list he had, then handed us an empty envelop where we were asked to put the suggested donation of $150 each to participate in the evening.
As soon as we did that, the wooden box next to the guy started ringing, right on cue. We opened the box, answered the cell phone inside it and were given instructions to head over to our final destination of the evening.
My friend Ben and I looked at each other and were skeptical about how cheesy this night would be but since we had already gone this far, we were committed to seeing how the night played out.
Wow were we impressed!
We arrived at this loft on Wellington street and after checking in and showing I.D at several different check points - (apparently their secret location gets revealed very quickly) We entered our final destination of the evening. It was the loft of Billy Jamieson and it's probably the most unique and outstanding loft I've ever been in. He purchased Canada's oldest museum - Niagara Falls Museum and has one of the biggest collections of ancient tribal art and taxidermy in North America including skulls, shrunken heads, necklaces with fingers, stuffed extinct animals and mummies. He is also the owner of the reknown Pharaoh Ramese I. mummy. He was such an interesting and eclectic character and had the best stories of the origins of items. He even had an old electric chair which was used to electrocute the first woman prisoner in history!
Aside from the collection of art pieces in his house - the culinary experience was out of this world. When we walked in, each of the 36 guests were greeted with a Maple martini and we could see that the chefs were hard at work in the kitchen.
Our chef for the evening was
We started off the evening with a trio of Bison appetizers including rare bison wrapped around sticky rice, bison jerky served in a shot glass and pulled bison in a fragrant steamed bun.
Then we were asked to sit down at the long dinner table to start our meal. We had the pleasure of sitting across from Jamie Drummond who is the sommalier at Jamie Kennedy and was the featured sommelier at the March Charlies Burgers dinner. It was great to have him comment on the wine pairings which were from Grape brands. Susur Lee was another dinner guest sitting near our host Billy. We were in great company that evening!
At our table was unpasteurized butter which we devoured over freshly baked bread and pickled leaks and radishes for us to taste. Our amuse bouche was Colville Bay Oysters with a lemongrass and shallot mignonette served on a bed of gourmet salt.
The second course was marinated scallops thinly sliced and almost like sashimi and charred octopus. The octopus was so tender - there was no rubbery consistency at all- it was like eating a perfectly cooked steak prepared rare. It was delicious.
The next course featured the craziest thing I've ever eaten to date- balut - Balut is a duck egg that has a nearly developed embryo inside it so when you’re eating the egg- you actually can see the flesh of the duckling. When first biting into it – it tasted like a hard boiled egg – with the mushy yolk. As I was getting closer to the core, you begin to taste the meat of the duck and some crispiness which i could only assume were the frail beginnings of the bones. The meat was tender and salty. Finishing up the egg – it seemed a little rubbery (the bottom of the egg whites) – I was later told that was the embryonic fluids mixed in with excess cartilage.
This dish wasn't for everyone and it seemed that I was the only one around where we were sitting that ate the entire balut. After that - we had duck prepared 3 ways wrapped in a lotus leaf.
Our next course was seared Itoham Kobe beef striploin, braised cheeks and ginger and kaffir lime consomme. The beef was a little chewy as there was a bit of fattiness on the kobe. The consomme was warm and salty and comforting.
This was by far the BEST culinary adventure I have ever been on and I'm so glad that we were able to be apart of it- it's the real deal friends!
Charlies Burgers- you have to fill out an online questionnaire to get invited- http://www.charliesburgers.ca/
***** (out of 5)