When the second culinary adventure of Pop Up Hamilton was announced, I knew I had to get in on the action again. If you’re not familiar with how it works – a restaurant is set up in an unconventional location for one night only. A superb local chef comes in, whips up a four-course meal which is paired with drinks from a local winery, and then we’re out of there! Like it never happened. Good thing I’m blogging about it! Of course, these events are organized by the daring Dave Hanley of Dishcrawl Hamilton.
Similar to the inaugural Pop Up event, this one also took place down at the Waterfront. You don’t find out the location until a couple of days before the event. We were set to dine in the lovely Leander Boat Club (the first floor was recently transformed into the venue Bay City Music Hall).
Preparing our fabulous meal for the night was Robert To, who is the executive chef at Koi, and the owner of Nino’s Ristorante. My friend Luisa joined me for the night and right away our server Marta recognized us from when we visited Nino’s Ristorante. That was back in the summer during a Dishcrawl in the International Village, the first Dishcrawl I ever went on.
Pelee Island Winery supplied our classy drinks for the night and a representative from the winery introduced each glass and explained why it was chosen to be paired with each course. Wine is clearly not my forte; I would never have been able to tell one from the other. I can say, however, that all were delicious. They had some cards we could grab on the way out which tell me we sampled the Lighthouse Riesling, Lighthouse Merlot, Pelee Island Secco, and Singing Moon (Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot). So I may never be that person who can swirl her glass and know exactly what she’s drinking, but I think a wine tour needs to be on my to-do list for 2014.
Our table ended up being a real who’s-who. We enjoyed the company of Chris Farias of Kitestring, Jared Lenover, Kate Sharrow of Hamilton Magazine, someone from the Cheese Shoppe on Locke, among others. There was never a dull moment in the conversation and toward the end we ended up in a rousing round of cheese trivia. I always manage to pick the fun table!
Having eaten at Nino’s Ristorante before, Luisa and I recognized the first course and were pleased to sample it again – mixed baby greens topped with honey glazed pecans, pears and Asiago cheese, drizzled with balsamic truffle vinaigrette dressing.
Our dinner became even classier from there. The second course was presented – boneless quail stuffed with wild mushrooms and caramelized onions. Quail! A joke was made that it’s just like a fancy chicken wing.
That wasn’t all – next up were two Ontario venison chops (Parmesan crush and Capuccino rub). All was well and good until Luisa casually asked (as we were halfway through our plates) what venison is, because we had forgotten. Turns out it’s deer, which then led to countless “deer” puns. Oh deer!
Last but certainly not least, dessert was a super sweet crème brûlée, looking so artfully presented we almost didn’t want to crack its surface. Almost. It’s crème brûlée – you gotta dig in.
It was another wonderful night out and I look forward to more Pop Up events this year. Who knows where we’ll end up next time. Dave has lots of exciting food events in the works for 2014. Check out Pop Up Hamilton’s next event on Valentine’s Day.
Note: I received a media pass to attend Pop Up Hamilton, but all thoughts about the night are my own.