As much as I hate to admit, atmosphere and a beautiful surrounding play a large part in making a truly memorable meal. Having just came back from a garden party hosted by La Chaine Des Rotisseurs, I would like to recount my experience along with another meal in an equally picturesque setting.
One of my most memorable meal was an alfresco lunch at the Orangerie of the Chateau de Chenonceau in Loire Valley, France. It was the first full day that A and I spent in France after a hectic week in UK. What's better than a leisurely driving trip in the garden of France visiting castles on a beautiful sunny spring day? After exploring our ways about the castle, we strolled to the Orangerie without realizing that it is a restaurant until we saw the menus posted in front of the gates. The prix-fixe menu was reasonably priced and it was lunch time, so we decided to stop for lunch. When asked whether we want a table indoor or outdoor, we chose to sit indoor until we walked by the lovely outdoor terrace. On one side, the wall of the Orangerie was entirely covered by trellis of lilac in all shades of purple. Under the shades of the building, the terrace was dotted with tables in white demask tablecloths and comfortable chairs. At a closer look, I could see tablesettings that were gleaming with wine glasses and silverware embossed with the crest of the chateau. We changed our minds quickly and were seated at one of the tables on the terrace. I honestly don't remember much details on the dishes that we had (rillet, pate, fried goat cheese, apple tart) but when I close my eyes, I can almost feel the breeze, the chirping of the birds, and the fragrance of the lilac as if I'm sitting at the restaurant right now. That one and a half hour lunch was simply magical.
I didn't know what to expect when I was invited to dinner at the Toronto Hunt. All I knew was that the Toronto chapter of La Chaine Des Rotisseurs (an exclusive group of gourmets) hosts monthly formal dinners for their members to get together. I didn't even know that Toronto Hunt is a private golf club located at the scenic Scarborough Bluffs. As our car drove through the winding birch-lined path leading to the clubhouse, I was a little apprehensive. Dinner inside a fancy clubhouse is nothing special unless the food is spectacular. However, as soon as the maitre d' showed us to the garden, I knew that it would be a special evening. I found myself in the middle of lush lawn. Behind me was the warm glowing light of the clubhouse. To my right, I could see more birch trees leading to the greens with an elegant trellis marking the border of the garden. To my front and left, I was greeted with a spectacular view of Lake Ontario where the lawn ends and sloped into a cliff. While we enjoyed glasses of sparkling wine with hors d'oeuvre, I saw the table that was set for dinner and I couldn't help but smile in joy. Under three dark green canopies was a long table covered in white tablecloth. The table was filled to the bream with flower arrangements, candle lights, silverware, wine glasses, and of course, the menu of the evening. When the maitre d' rung the dinner bell, guests filled the table and all of us eagerly read the menu. Although I expected to be completely occupied by the food and wine, I found myself enjoying the sunset as courses of the meal progressed. I noticed the sailing boats floating across the lake and the sparkly lights further down the shoreline. It was such a picturesque setting for an alfresco meal on this June evening.