It took very little to convince myself to RSVP to Atelier's Black Box dinner. In fact, I think it took a few paces around my apartment and me asking very important questions to myself (the boyfriend never listens), "When else would you get an opportunity to bring ingredients to a restaurant?" 5 minutes later I was on the phone booking a table for one for the restaurant's Canadian Culinary Championship black box practice.
It didn't take long for my table of one to expand to a table of five as fellow food bloggers Kelly, Don and Claire (plus one) joined in on the experiment. Through an exchange of emails Lyle's Golden Syrup was decided as our table's secret ingredient; other tables chose kale, Earl Grey tea, yucca, Chinese sausage, mussels, tapioca and corn kernels. Chef Marc Lepine and his team had their work cut out for them.
They did a wonderful job though - transforming food I would normally steer my grocery cart away from into something both delicious and beautiful. My favourite dish of the evening was the third mystery course; the tempura apple slices reminded me of a light apple fritter, combined with ice cream and meringue - I was in heaven. Chef Lepine and his team will face some stiff competition in Kelowna, BC but they have a lot of support in Ottawa and I wouldn't be surprised if they came home with the prize.
As for my dining companions, it was a pleasure. Whenever I dine with the boyfriend I make him pause before he starts eating so I can take a picture. He sighs, occasionally grumbles and all hell breaks loose if I have to take a second shot. At this table I was with people who understood that the food does not get eaten before the picture is taken. Many thanks to Claire who is the only one I know who could do a wine pairing for a black box dinner. I can only hope that one day my beer knowledge can rival her wine knowledge.