Love is in the air—and the food—at Tundra’s tribute to A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Tonight, the Hilton Tundra restaurant and Canadian Opera Company’s Appetite for Opera—a dinner series in which dishes are inspired by productions at the Four Seasons Centre—gets its biggest challenge yet: how to make a meal in the image of Benjamin Britten’s notoriously trippy A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Chef Kreg Graham will set five courses (each paired with a wine) to the moody adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, which opened yesterday. Now in its fourth season, Tundra’s program has foodified shows like Tosca and Rusalka to taunt opera-goers to the table. We couldn’t help but wonder how nymphs and fairies translate to the plate, so we stop in for a preview of what Graham’s cooking up for the enchanted occasion.
Seventeenth-century Britain isn’t known for its culinary prowess, but cocktail hour is international and timeless. And while we’re a little disappointed that the green fairy is absent (absinthe isn’t required to see fairies in this spectacle), we adore the warm cinnamon flavour of Love Is Idleness, a pink martini that takes its name from a magical flower and looks like Love Potion Number 9. Now that we’re feeling starry-eyed, Graham’s kumamoto oysters (an aphrodisiac, he reminds us) with a trickle of yuzu vinaigrette do remind us of the Fairy Queen Titania’s bewitchment by elixir. Next, we’re transported deep into the Athenian wood with a summery salad dotted with fruit: apricots, blackberries, grapes and figs. While the dish does look like a forest floor, we have to check our Coles Notes for finer meaning in the roughage (the COC’s speaker, who will be in attendance tonight, isn’t on hand to explain each whimsical effect).
By the time slow-cooked Berkshire pork arrives for the fourth course—accompanied by the fourth glass of wine—our dreamy heads are all too happy to forgo infinitesimal allusions. Before the reverie turns supernatural (we half expected our Bottom-inspired cod beignets to start speaking in iambic pentameter), a sweet ending of saffron and currant rice pudding rouses us in time for the opening curtain across the street. If English pea purée is part of the set design, we’ll know we’re still dreaming.