Pop Up Hamilton popped up on the scene six months ago and I was there for its inaugural dining experience back in October. Since then, they’ve hosted several Pop Ups in the city and I even had the chance to interview organizer Dave Hanley on my show at CFMU to find out more about its initial inspiration.
Each Pop Up event so far has featured a chef from one of Hamilton’s top restaurants, one winery, and four courses. This event was their biggest yet and, in fact, the biggest Pop Up that’s ever been done (we’re pretty sure!). This Pop Up was for the real foodie. This was the big leagues. Six of the city’s best chefs were rounded up to prepare dishes to be paired with a wine from six different Ontario wineries.
Making the experience even more luxurious, the location for the evening’s temporary restaurant was Liuna Station. I don’t think I had been there since my grade 11 prom (it was a Mardi Gras theme – not as wild as that theme would suggest). Of course, the site is a historic spot in the city, but as Dave pointed out, what really must be noted – some of X-Men was filmed there!
I wasn’t surprised to find out that I was seated with one of my favourite foodies, Chanry of The Hungry Gnome. It’s always a lot of fun when we’re exploring local food gems together. We haven’t had the chance to Dishcrawl together yet, so this was perfect.
Each chef and winery representative spoke a few words before we were served each course. The first was by Leo Santos of Papa Leo’s Restaurant. Leo’s dish was Chicken Terrine with arugula, crisp apple, and a curried mango sauce, which was paired with the 2012 Riesling reserve from Inniskillin. I usually think breakfast when I think Papa Leo’s, but I need to head there soon to try more of his lunch menu, because Leo can really do anything!
Course #2 was Jonny Blonde – who are way more than just a food truck! I’m anxious to see their appearance in an upcoming episode of Eat Street which I got to be part of back in the fall. Jonny’s dish: foie gras duck confit with caramelized root vegetable stuffing and white wine pearl barley, garnished with blue oyster mushroom. Again, good thing Pop Up posts the menu, because that sure is a mouthful (literally!) to remember! It was paired with the Pelee Island Lighthouse Sauvignon Blanc.
Next up was Bean Bar with Course #3. Chef Robert Wilton prepared cider-braised pork belly with roasted beet trio, gratin potato and 2010 Pillitteri Estate Winery Cabernet Franc jus and peach preserves. The wine, of course, was the 2010 Pillitteri Estate Winery Cabernet Franc. We reached the halfway point! Still going strong.
At some point during our live tweeting, Chanry got a little crafty and tweeted kitchen to see what else we could score. I couldn’t manage eating much more, but we had a couple of extra goodies delivered to our table. Chanry even managed to swing a little something that wasn’t even on the menu. The perks of sitting with bloggers!
The dishes kept coming, and seemed to be getting bigger! Course #4 was courtesy of Nellie James and was the largest portion yet. Created by chef Ken Lefebour, the dish was rosemary molasses-rubbed local wagyu (Kobe) short-ribs, purple sweet potato Gallette, Shanghai Bok Choy, and Fried Serrano ham with East Coast Partridge Berry Bourbon reduction. Is this real life? If we’re keeping track, this is glass of wine #4, the 2011 Creekside Estate Winery Syrah. (Well, maybe there was a refill or two somewhere in there. Live dangerously.)
Getting full, we were partially relieved to see that Course #5 was a bit smaller. Chef Manny Ferreira of Earth To Table: Bread Bar was up next with his dish: Course #5 was maple glazed pork belly, fennel and rhubarb kimchi, pomme purée, and ginger scallion. This was paired with the 2010 Chateau Des Charmes “Earth & Sky” Pinot Noir. How cute and dainty is this?
Last but not least, Cake & Loaf with dessert. No matter what, you always have me at cake. Nicole Miller and Josie Rudderham created Vanilla Spiced Pear Cake with Rhubarb Compote. And you know I finished it all – dessert is where I shine. Our sweet dessert wine was Palatine Hills Estate Winery Gewurztraminer Ice Wine Truffle.
After all of that, there was magically enough room for some fair-trade pour-over coffee by Red Hill Coffee Trade. Phew!
There’s no stopping Pop Up now! Stay tuned to Pop Up Hamilton‘s website for more events to come.
Note: I received a media pass to attend Pop Up Hamilton, but all thoughts about the night are my own.