A very fine day
The picture above shows my son, Joseph, and his wife, Kayoko Sugishita, pointing at an unexpected wedding guest—a handsome red fox that trotted into the garden where their wedding was held, just after the pronouncement, and sat down among the roses for a while. It was the final detail needed to complete the afternoon—something slightly magical and strange—though just one of several blessings. Sky god Eochaid the Dagda (from whom my family is descended, according to my Uncle Bob) saw fit to give us a forget-me-not sky and warm sunshine. Katie Luong of Flower World on Spadina created exactly the bouquet and flower arrangements we had hoped for. Above all, The Charles Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake did a superb job as the venue for the ceremony and dinner.
Before they went off to spend a year in the Netherlands, Kayoko had fallen for the romantic ambience of historic N-o-t-L. We were also aware that she longed to be married in a garden. The Charles Inn, therefore, seemed the ideal location, an 1832 building surrounded by elegant verandas and with a lovely back garden leading on to a golf course. Wendy and I had dinner there anonymously to check out the chef’s abilities and were suitably impressed. So the plans began to take shape. The inn’s sales manager, Jennifer O’Connor, and food and beverage manager, Ray Bateman, were amazingly accommodating and creative—they even helped us find the officiant, Reverend Derek Rymarchuk, who not only put the nervous young couple completely at ease but also turned out to be an enthusiastic connoisseur of borscht.
Chef William Brunyansky (who apprenticed under Lee Parsons at the Prince of Wales) was the lynchpin of the evening. After the ceremony, while we all stood about on the terrace and discussed the good fortune of having a fox at a wedding, he sent out delectable little canapés—a sliver of seared scallop over an escabeche of crunchy vegetables with a dot of cilantro sour cream; miniature drum-shaped bites of quail wrapped in bacon and quickened with rhubarb compote and pomegranate molasses; parmesan tartlets topped with caramelized onion and a slice of local cherry tomato; most delicious of all, tissue-thin parmesan tuile cups topped with soft goat cheese, scented with black olive and tomato.
We had dinner inside, reconfiguring the antique furniture in the elegant old dining room to allow us a single long table. Other guests noticed me taking notes about the meal and teased mercilessly, but I explained it was for this blog and that absolute accuracy was vital. We had given Brunyansky carte blanche with the menu and he began with a delicate treat, a hen’s egg shell three-quarters filled with white truffle-scented egg custard (our Japanese guests saw it as a polite reference to chawan-mushi and were gratified), dressed with a teaspoonful of robust black-truffled beef jus. Two tiny transparent ribbons of potato crisp stuck out of the shell, each one veined with a chive.
Next came a lobster claw and slice of lobster tail poached in warm olive oil and placed onto a base of thick puréed avocado salad, which rose from a pool of yellow gazpacho, dotted with droplets of peridot-coloured basil oil. Yummy? Beyond yummy.
The third course was an impeccably timed slice of pan-seared foie gras set on a nest of tagliatelle that had been tossed with a creamy fricassee of wild mushrooms and a touch of cabernet jus. For the main event, guests were invited to choose between chicken cooked sous vide or a baked fillet of Pacific halibut crusted with black olive and tomato confit and served with roasted baby fennel, cardamom, fennel purée and cherry tomato coulis.
Dessert was the wedding cake, the creation of my son’s godmother, Vee Ledson. It was amazingly light and delicious—a three-tiered affair of ethereal lemon and cardamom chiffon sponge layered and iced with rosewater-scented whipped cream, the whole thing strewn with crystallized rose petals and pistachio kernels.
All in all, it was a perfect wedding, largely thanks to the kindness and expertise of the team at The Charles Inn. The following day, I drove Kayoko’s family and the young couple to see the sights of Niagara Falls, and we ended up at Shibuki, a sushi and izakaya restaurant at 6175 Dunn Street, owned by Kayoko’s friends Danilo and Megumi Rimando. Danilo is the chef there, and he and Megumi generously treated us to lunch as part of their wedding present—excellent sashimi and rolled sushi, a fine crab-flavoured miso soup and a great many other delights. So … a most auspicious beginning to married life for my son and daughter-in-law. Now off they go to England where he will begin work as an archaeologist.