You can always count on Pop Up Hamilton to bring it with their elaborate events. Their first big bash of the year took on the carnival celebrations of Mardi Gras!
Dave Hanley has been a master of these events for the past few years. I don’t know at which point we can peg Hamilton’s food scene as really booming and getting attention. We’ve always had incredible and passionate culinary greatness here. But Dave’s been championing our food scene before the Toronto bloggers came knocking, and Instagram accounts popped up reposting shots of dishes around town. Not that there’s anything wrong with this – I want everyone to see that this city has it goin’ on. But Pop Up Hamilton (and Dishcrawl Hamilton before that) has been showcasing our wonderful food scene since 2013 – and I’ve been thrilled to be along for the delicious trek!
The top secret location of each Pop Up Hamilton is revealed about 48 hours before the event. Opening up that email, I was delighted to learn that the Fat Tuesday celebrations would take place at The Cotton Factory – I jump at every chance to visit the industrial building. There’s so much to explore and it’s ideal for events – you can dress it up any way.
And dressed up it was! Lisa and I walked down the brightly lit hallway and were greeted by fabulous dancers Rashaana and Kayla who led the way. Once inside, we “oohed and ahhed” at the Mardi Gras-themed lights and balloons. Rows of tables were set up with wine glasses as far as the eye could see, and cute little place cards marked each of our seats. It was party time.
Pop Up Hamilton collaborated with the amazing Aberdeen Tavern for this one. With Chef Matt Beasley at the helm, he created a Southern-inspired menu with that New Orleans flair. The Aberdeen staff worked hard all night and offered the same exceptional service they do at their acclaimed restaurant. Before even reading the menus that were printed before us, I knew it was going to be good!
But first – we started off with a drink by Nickel Brook Brewing. It wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without the booze.
After Dave took to the mic to welcome everyone, Chef Matt was up next to introduce each dish. We began with the amuse-bouche which was a delicious Muffuletta Sandwich. It wasn’t even the official first course but the insanely good sandwich was going to hard to top! You’ve got to pace yourself at these events – it’s a lot of food – but had I been offered another one of these little guys, I probably would have eaten it!
Back to the booze – as with every Pop Up Hamilton spectacle, each course was paired with a different local wine, this time by Henry of Pelham Estate.
Looking at the row of glasses in front of me with different amounts of liquid in them made me want to fashion a glass harp and add a little musical accompaniment to the evening. Luckily for the people at our table, I remained on my best behaviour. We didn’t need me for the music when we were treated to live sets by the fabulous Emily Kemp band. Later in the evening, Rashaana and Kayla came around to get everyone up and dancing. Everyone got into the groove during a rousing rendition of “When The Saints Go Marching In” and it even resulted in a conga line (that’s when you know the party is getting real).
The entertainment continued with surprise guests Hamilton Aerial Group who are no strangers to The Cotton Factory. They use the building as their base and have performed at several events there. Seeing the women hang from those wooden beams, demonstrating their incredible strength, is always such an impressive sight.
Back to the FOOD!
The 1st course: Sweet Potatio Ravioli, red cabbage, grilled orange and hazelnut brown butter, and radish. There was one neat little ravioli sitting on top, but I could have eaten a whole bowl. Crazy good!
The 2nd course was Crawfish Corn Bread, jalapeño crema, bitter greens, lemon honey vinaigrette. The 3rd course was another southern staple – Chicken Jambalaya served with dirty rice and pickled ora.
I’m sure you all know by now that dessert is the way to this girl’s heart. The 4th course brought a Chocolate and Peanut Butter Crepe with bananas foster, spiced pecans, and vanilla cream. I mean. You already have the irresistible PB & chocolate combo, and then you throw in bananas? Bananas!
My hat’s off to Chef Matt and the Aberdeen team for their exquisite dishes and presentation. They were working with zero kitchen whatsoever, which is part of the fun (and of course an extreme challenge!) at every Pop Up event.
Thank you, Pop Up Hamilton, for another fabulous event! I always have the best time and the energy is always fantastic. There was even a group of eight in attendance who were from New Orleans! I’m sure Hamilton’s ode Mardi Gras gave a lasting impression.
Keep your eye out for more Pop Up Hamilton events to come this year:
April 15th – Pop Up: Showdown
June 18th – Pop Up: HMCS Haida
Until next time!
Note: I received a media pass to attend Pop Up Hamilton, but all thoughts about the night are my own.