This weekend has turned into a mini eating fest for me and coincidentally, both events that I attended were related to relatives and their new (or expecting) baby. On Saturday, my cousin was back in town to have a baby shower for her expecting boy (in a couple of months). And tonight, it was the 1-month party for another cousin who just had a baby boy. And as I sit here digesting the remains of a delicious 10-course Chinese banquet meal and reflecting on this experience, I realize just how blessed and lucky I am to be treated not just to great food, but good company as well.
Yesterday’s event was catered by a friend Jimmy, who also plays Frisbee in the summer with me, and who also works a day job at Tati Bistro down on Harbord St. If you get a chance, I would recommend his restaurant though as a disclaimer I haven’t had the chance to eat there yet. My sister has and she said that the French food they serve there is really delicious and worth the experience. But instead of the usual restaurant fare, Saturday’s lunch was a small gathering of just over 30 people and we were treated to an exquisite meal. Here is a short description to the best of my recollection of what we were treated to
- Fresh greens garnished with pear, cheddar
- Potato salad with dill
- Charred salmon with bacon bits on a bed of raddicio
- Mushroom and cheese(?) quiche
- Crab cakes
- Duck confit pistachio turnover
- Cheese platter with a triple cream cheese, blue cheese, and a cheddar
- Tirammisu cake
- Coffee and Tea
All I can say is “WOW!”. The food was delicious and I couldn’t have asked for it to be done any better. Being able to taste and eat and appreciate this outstanding food put on by a professional chef was such a treat. I don’t really know how else to describe it except delicious.
Tonight, I had the chance to attend the 1-month party for another cousin who just had a baby boy. And instead of having French-style food, it was a traditional 10-course Chinese banquet meal held at Dragon Boat restaurant up in Markham.
Again, this was an eating extroidannaire. In addition to the typical dishes, they went a step further and had a large buffet table full of appetizers, and they used the same table at the end of the meal with a little candy bar for the children, and about 10 different kinds of cakes, plus fresh fruit. I should note that this was a big event, I think around 250 people in total – which to them I think was pretty manageable considering that their wedding had around 800 guests!
On to the food! And this wasn’t just your typical Chinese banquet – since I think part of what Dragon Boat tries to do is mix it up with some other influences to create a sort of Chinese-fusion cuisine.
- Jellyfish and roast pork (typical traditional style)
- Shrimp Balls (different than the traditional crabs claw and also instead of being battered, it was coated with almonds for a different taste and texture)
- Sweet and Sour Pork (typical, but really nicely done)
- Shark Fin Soup (delicious!)
- Stir Fry Ostrich with Veggies (really tender, though it looked and smelled almost like beef)
- Chicken (really tender)
- Fried Veggies
- Fried Rice
- Fried Noodles
- Desert – purple rice, taro, and tapioca soup
Overall, the food was delicious! There were some non-Chinese people sitting at the table with me and this was their first experience at a Chinese banquet so they had idea how to pace themselves for all the food that was to come. I got to them a bit too late and told them not to fill up too much on the appetizers, but it was right after they went up for seconds of the appetizers! Too bad, as I think they would have really enjoyed some of the other courses. It was also funny because the waitress was very typically Chinese – encouraging us (in Cantonese of course) to eat up and almost chiding the two non-Chinese people at our table that they weren’t doing their job and eating all the food. In the end she gave up and starting handing out doggie bags for us to pack up the leftovers.
The meal was also interesting in that there was someone at my table who I knew looked really familiar but I couldn’t remember where or how I knew him. It was only right at the end of the meal when we were getting up to leave that my mom started talking to him that we made the connection and it turned out to be a dentist who I had seen almost 10 years ago to have some specialty dental work done (that’s another story that I won’t get into now). And suddenly it all clicked – I had seem him on tv before (CP 24) and also of course had him as a dentist a long time ago. So we caught up a bit and it turns out that it really is a small world – he played hockey with my cousin which is how he knew them.
The meal was also really nice in that it gave me a chance to talk and really catch up with my sister. She’s back in town from Ottawa for a week or so and while I chat with her briefly on the phone and on g-chat pretty regularly, this was the first time in a long time where we had the chance to really talk – about our lives, our goals, our futures and it was great to have this opportunity.
And while this weekend was full of delicious and overly satisfying meals, in the end, it wasn’t really about the food. It was about sharing a delicious meal with people who I really care about being able to have a meaningful conversation instead of the usual surface conversations. And that I think that was the key takeaway. Life’s not measured by the things you do, the wealth or material possessions, but about who you share it with and the relationships that you build, not just with your family, but with the people you deeply care about. And that is what made this weekend so special and memorable.