Adventure #48: Eat Like Royalty at the Taste of Burlington.
Everyone likes dining out, but the costs of a meal, drink, and dessert can add up quickly.
When you live in a city like Burlington, with so many fine restaurants to enjoy, you want to experience it all! Thankfully, the Taste of Burlington program runs twice a year. This makes it easier to eat like royalty on a peasant’s budget.
The Burlington Performing Arts Centre recently hosted an advance launch of the summer edition of Taste of Burlington. The idea here is to give diners a “taste” of what’s to come when the program runs July 21 to August 5. Oh my, did Mr and Mrs Burlington ever eat like a King and Queen.
During the Taste of Burlington, 24 of the best restaurants across the city offer prix fixe three-course meals. An appetizer, entree and dessert at lunch is just $15 or $20. Dinner price points are $30, $35 or $40.
Previously these launch events were exclusive to the media and invited guests only. But recent launches have been open to the public with tickets priced at just $30. Let me tell you, this is the deal of the decade because this ticket buys you a glass of wine or beer plus delicious samples from many of the participating restaurants.
Water St. Cooker
As with any good meal, our evening started with a salad. But this was no ordinary salad.
Water St. Cooker prepared a Summer Salad featuring local ingredients picked fresh that morning at Plan B Organic Farms in Flamborough. The presentation of the salad — and their entire table — was gorgeous. This dish tied for second place as the People’s Choice.
Event organizers had encouraged chefs to use local sourced ingredients as much and as often as possible and the Water St. Cooker completely rose to the challenge.
Now it was time for the meat of the meal and I knew exactly where I wanted to start. Linda Cvetanovic from Tourism Burlington had been tweeting about the dishes that would be served all week long. When I saw that SB Prime would be dishing out their famous Dry Ribs, I couldn’t wait!
I had tried these ribs during a previous visit to SB Prime and they were just as good as I remembered.
The accompanying roasted corn salad with “tomato avocado choija cheese and a lime aioli” was delicious too. Look at the portions being dished out! No wonder we were beyond stuffed after sampling a dozen dishes (admittedly some more than once).
West Plains Bistro
Being in the mood for ribs, it was no accident that we ended up at the table for West Plains Bistro next. The flavour of their “Coffee and Ancho Braised Beef Short Ribs” was incredible. After cooking for three and half hours, these tender ribs fell apart as soon as we touched them.
Aldershot was well represented by West Plains Bistro which took home the People’s Choice award for this dish. I voted for them!
Walkers Fish Market
These two bite tacos from Walkers Fish Market were overflowing with fresh ingredients. The small flour tortilla was filled with chunks of bronzed white fish and topped with guacamole, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, fresh coriander and chipotle aioli.
It was here that I ran into our Member of Parliament, Mike Wallace, who I first met at the Burlington’s Best awards.
Pluckers Wing & Crab Shack
The seafood theme continued at Pluckers with a taste of their famous Crab Cakes served with house made coleslaw and a caper aioli sauce. This was my wife’s favourite!
Here is my regret of the night. I did not try the Peppered Chicken Liver & Andouille Sausage Pate. And it was this bite from Paradiso that was voted by a panel of local celebrity judges as being the “Best Taste” of the event.
What can I say? I saw the word liver and flashed back to being a kid at the dinner table being forced to finish eating the liver in front of me.
I’m told by my better half that this dish was nothing like that. Topped with mushroom ketchup on olive oil crostini, this was a real stand-out (or so I hear).
Some of the longest lines of the night were seen at the Eatalia table. I figured that must mean they’re serving up something good and was I ever right about that! Each Jumbo Ravioli was stuffed with grilled tomato and asiago and topped with sun dried tomato pesto and toasted sunflower seed. These square pillows of pasta were prepared perfectly.
I liked that the hostess at this table took the time to ask us if we had tried her restaurant before. When she heard that we hadn’t, she told us all about it and invited us to visit.
The Queens Head Pub
Chef Will from The Queens Head was back to defend the “Best Taste” title he won at the Winter launch where he served up his sweet ‘Smores. He almost kept his champion status too, coming up only a half point short with these locally sourced, flaky Sweet Potato and Pork Belly Phyllo Dumplings drizzled with ginger and thyme honey.
Mark Bonin, Executive Chef at Honey West Restaurant & Lounge was on hand to serve Pulled Pork Wontons standing straight up in a dollop of Apple and Bacon Relish. Mmmmm…
Ivy Bar and Kitchen
The Ivy Bar and Kitchen crew played up the “summer” theme of the event with Roasted Peaches on top of Braised Pork Belly and an in-house Pork Rind.
I meet the greatest people at these events! When Tammy introduced herself she said, “I feel like I know you!” Now I know how the movie stars feel.
As we chatted, Tammy mentioned that her special cause is the Ovarian Cancer Walk of Hope. The walk steps off September 8 at Nelson Park.
After I snapped their photo, the ladies were kind enough to offer to take our photo.
Ye Olde Squire
After a bit of socialization, it was back to the good eats, even though we were slowing down.
I picked up this dish from Ye Olde Squire thinking it was Butter Chicken only to realize I was biting into a big, fat, succulent shrimp — a pleasant surprise. This was served with soft house-made naan bread that was perfect for mopping up the butter sauce with hints of cardamon and tandoori.
Red Canoe Bistro
Right near the shrimp, I spotted plump, juicy marinated scallops from the Red Canoe Bistro. Their Spiced Summer Vegetable Gazpacho paired perfectly with the scallops and was accented with a bright red tomato.
The Purple Heather also presented a cold summer vegetable soup with their Asparagus Vichyssoise paired with…
… tasty Tuna, Cucumber & Shiitake Bites. This was such a light, clean and refreshing combination, perfect for summer.
Earlier in the evening, as we had stopped to enjoy one of our many plates of food, a teen in a green t-shirt passed by saying, “Hey, Mr Burlington, make sure to give a shout out to the BurlingtonGreen Team!”
The BurlingtonGreen Youth Network is a group of high school student volunteers that continuously circulated the room taking every plate. I met up with them at their waste diversion station where they carefully sorted the food scraps, recycling items and bio-degradable plates and forks into the appropriate bins.
From the Kite Festival to Sound of Music, this team is there for almost every major Burlington event to ensure proper waste diversion.
Able to eat no more, it was time to head for home while the band played on. But not before having a sample of Angelo Bentivegna’s famous chocolate-dipped biscotti from Mrs. B’s Gifthouse and Biscotti911.com. His table was conveniently placed near the exit, how could I not?
Which restaurants will you try during this summer’s Taste of Burlington? Post about your choices and your experiences in the comments section below.