This past summer marked one of my most memorable birthdays – I hosted a luncheon party for almost 30 of my closest friends from around the world at one of my favourite venues, Langdon Hall Country House, in Cambridge, Ontario.
I always believe in celebrating life when one is still alive, healthy and happy, and no matter how old one is. So what more to ask for than having a room full of good friends who have put aside their other priorities for one day, and chosen to celebrate my birthday with me all under one roof? Half of them have travelled very far from Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Singapore, San Francisco, New York and Vancouver in addition to my Canadian friends from Toronto and Collingwood. It was a beautiful Sunday in July and the marathon luncheon was close to perfection!
I have previously briefed the team at Langdon Hall during the preparation stage that if all else failed, the food could not be anything but great. Indeed, Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and his team knocked it out of the park for me and my guests! Chef Jason custom-designed a five-course luncheon menu based on my theme of “inspiring influence.”
The meal began with Montfort CHEVRE whipped with honey from Langdon Hall’s own nine colonies of bees on its 75-acre estate. The bees feed on the estate’s garden flowers creating its unique honey with flavours of lavender, chamomile, marigold and basil, just to mention a few. Lemon jam, bronze fennel also from the garden, hazelnut crumb and fig jam completed this beautiful amuse-bouche.
This was followed by the West Coast Great Bear Scallop, with orchard apple gastrique, geranium, celery and yogurt. The scallops were hand harvested by First Nations farmers just outside Great Bear, British Columbia, only hours out of the water which gave us the freshest, best-quality and sustainable product one can ever get! When Chef Jason first presented this culinary design to me in April, he was suggesting that the scallops be done quite raw so that they would taste like sashimi. When it came to the final meal, the scallops were slightly poached instead to address my concern that some of my Canadian friends do not take raw food in any form. This was, by far, my most favourite dish from the entire luncheon.
From one coast to another came the East Coast Snow Crab with cured Quebec foie gras torchon grated over the top; pickled and raw Niagara grapes; foraged sumac and late harvest wine jelly.
The main course featured Roasted Ontario Beef with braised cheek, charred leek, wild mild mushrooms and Madeira sauce. Once again, when Chef Jason first presented this concept to me in the spring, my immediate reaction was that roast beef is a very common dish. But the chef explained that the beef is from a local farm called YU ranch in Cambridge, Ontario, while the breed is a true Texas Longhorn. The unique aspect of this beef is that it is not mass produced – the herd lives in a forest all year round and the farmer has to go looking for the herd! Only a small number of cattle are harvested a year, scrutinized by extremely high selection standards. I could tell that this was a favourite dish for all my guests as most of them emptied their plates very quickly.
The dessert is always the most memorable and the trickiest dish to prepare. Chef Jason, in conjunction with Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson, developed a signature recipe for the Langdon Chocolate at Cacao Barry’s prestigious Or Noir in Paris, France. The dark chocolate had an ideal amount of bitterness and the milk chocolate was as creamy and shiny as you would want it to be.The chocolate was presented with Langdon Hall’s own garden garnishes, fresh berries and Rose ice cream.
In addition to the food being a great hit at the luncheon, Chef Jason himself became instantly very popular at my party. He gave a brief introduction of the customized menu in an intimate Chef’s Table style for all my guests prior to the food being served. Contrary to most chefs who focus on cooking and supervising in the kitchen, Chef Jason has a gifted flair for presentation and communication as well and managed to charm everybody even before they started eating! Since he joined Langdon Hall from Auberge du Pommier and Luma in 2013, Chef Jason has already garnered numerous culinary awards for Langdon Hall including The Good Food Innovation Award and the CAA/AAA Five Diamond Award.
Thanks to my friends and the staff at Langdon Hall, I had had a close-to-perfect birthday celebration this year. And should any skeptical baby boomer ask why birthdays are still such a big deal, I would respond by quoting Abraham Lincoln, “…in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Hear hear!