The village is buzzing with Cornucopia activity. Months of planning are finally resulting in decade-old vintages being pulled from cellars. New restaurant staff await the great “trial” that will determine their winter worth. Dishwashers prepare for the scrubbing marathon of literally tens of thousands of wine glasses.
And me, my yearly anticipation ritual is to eat bland boring food a week beforehand, so my taste buds are chomping at the bit before I unleash them on three days of heavenly culinary escapades, knowing full well that all the rich food and more bubbly than I usually drink in an entire year will land me sick in bed with my immune system completely debauched.
I am willing to make the sacrifice. I will be ready with one black cocktail dress in one hand with Echinacea and a box of NeoCitron in the other.
This is my Cornucopia, my tradition now four years running — until this year.
It all started innocently enough. A girlfriend called declaring our month-long too-busy-to-get-together stint officially over. Oysters and champagne at the Bearfoot Bistro was the flag of truce, thus beginning what would become the pre-Cornucopia fast fall.
The tests were there. I resisted at first.
Bearfoot Bistro owner Andre St. Jacques warmly greeted the two of us.
“In for dinner ladies?” he charmed.
“No, no. Just some champagne and oysters at the bar; catching up with a friend,” I said.
Bubbly was poured.
As Andre pulled the glasses from an ice encasement at the bistro’s casual bar seating, he explained the glasses were toasted during the days of the Moulin Rouge.
The champagne glasses had no base, just a stem that can’t be placed on a surface without the assistance of a special stand.
Historically men used the glasses to get women into bed; glasses unable to be put down were filled all night until they finally hit the bedroom floor.
Who knew such seemingly innocent glassware could toast such debaucherous intentions. This is the Bistro: a celebration of the finer things in life, traditional roots modernized, and always sporting ulterior motives that pleasure the senses whether you planned for it or not.
While my friend regularly likes to take advantage of the Bearfoot Bistro’s oyster special — a dozen oysters for $10 — no matter how much I’ve tried to train my palate to oysters, I don’t like them. I asked for a menu to find a non-squishy appetizer instead.
And then there it was. My anti-Christ, spread out in front of me on two long leather-backed pages. The Bearfoot Bistro $40 three-course menu.
My friend glanced over at the long list of starter, entrée and dessert selections. It was all over as the two of us carried our naughty glasses into the dining room.
Thanks to the expertise of our server Shanna and the culinary prowess of the talented and creative executive chef Melissa Craig it was a seamless evening of perfect choices.
I felt like I was at a Cornucopia dinner. The evening was perfectly orchestrated in food and drink pairing, plates magically appeared and disappeared in rhythm with our readiness. And to think all of this started with one, bottomless, little glass.
While my friend’s scallop starter was satin silky, both of us dubbed the Buffalo Carpaccio the ultimate PMS nullifier. The savoury, salty dish with truffle aioli, paper-thin meat and sheep’s milk cheese, offset by sweet cherry tomatoes, could tame even the most unruly dame — just another excuse to visit the Bearfoot once a month.
The dry aged Sterling Silver Beef Tenderloin with veal cheek ragout piled high in wild mushrooms and crispy onions for my entrée was an easy pick. I always order the tenderloin at the Bearfoot because I know I always get that blissful melt-in-your-mouth texture loaded with flavour, and the side effect of small murmurs of delight.
I crinkled my nose at my friend’s decision to order lobster. Why don’t you just order a pail of melted garlic butter instead?
I was a lobster diner of little faith soon restored after biting into the Bearfoot’s lobster scented with coconut chili lime. For the first time, I could actually taste the lobster meat. It subtly reminded me of summer flowers, extremely fragrant. Okay maybe it was the Mums Champagne finally getting to me at this point, but the two of us were well into the thick of St. Jacques’ Garden of Eden.
Only I was biting into a pear with the rice praline chocolate dessert and my tablemate into a green-tea pistachio parfait. Vanilla-infused Grand Marnier was the perfect nightcap. We finally sat back in our chairs a little wiser from the delicious fall.
The two of us followed the bubbly down the rabbit hole to a world of elegance and finery with a French Mad Hatter orchestrating it all.