07 Sep, 2016
About that amazing dinner at Saunders Farm
If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed a dinner event at Saunders Farm from which I shared a bunch of photos. Saunders Farm has been a Fishbowl patron* since 2010. We’ve been there many times, both in the summer and fall. Last year our youngest daughter and a few friends experienced the night-time Fright Fest for the first time. (Personally, I’m a bit of a wimp, so I will have to take her word for it when she says it was the most fun she’s ever had at Halloween and can’t wait to do it all again this year.)
Saunders is very good at upping their game; always adding new attractions and reasons to visit. For the past few years, they’ve been hosting special dinners as well. I’ve written about this before but it wasn’t until this year that we were finally able to attend. So when a new season of dinners was announced back in May, I bought four tickets as a birthday gift to myself.
Saunders has hosted fancier dinners in the past (read: designed more with foodie/gourmet appeal) but the one we eventually booked really appealed to me: the family pig roast. The menu sounded delicious (spoiler alert: it WAS delicious).
Imagine a plate brimming with:
– pulled pork (roasted that day), sourced from a local farmer
– homemade mac and cheese (my family declared that it was better than mine. TRAITORS.)
– braised kale (This was ok. To be honest, I prefer my kale raw and well-dressed.)
– buttermilk biscuits (!)
– corn on the cob smothered in whipped butter
… and for dessert, peach & strawberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
Er, this photo is not the best but it will give you an idea:
Saunders totally delivered on their promise to provide our family with a fantastic dinner/event/experience. And that means something to me.
In order to temper expectations – in case you’re already planning to buy tickets as soon as they are available – I think it’s important to note there wasn’t anything overly fancy about this spread. We sat in long rows and served ourselves buffet-style in the most orderly fashion that can be managed by a horde of hungry people. I thought about it afterwards (ok, for a long time afterwards) and concluded that part of the reason I enjoyed it so much is that it was like a really great family meal. The food tasted homemade (ok, maybe a notch or two above what is normally served up) and the whole event was homey; the best kind of comfort a busy body can find.
But I am getting ahead of myself a bit. Let me backtrack for a moment and go back to the beginning.
I am still impressed at how smoothly everything went. We arrived just after 5 p.m. The park part of Saunders – the mazes, the climbers, the green space – was pretty much devoid of people. It was just us and about 200 fellow diners who’d shown up for this “family” dinner.
We made a beeline for the eating area, which is in a big covered barn-type structure. This is what it looked like indoors, before we all sat down:
We had some time to relax before dinner. I was torn. Should I get a beer or take a turn on the bouncing pillows? I chose the latter while Mark went to the bar and ordered drinks.
The girls didn’t need much persuading to join me:
After we bounced overselves silly, the girls went on to explore the mazes while I joined Mark at a nearby picnic table for some of this:
The four of us somehow managed to reconvene around 6 p.m. with just enough time to take in a wagon ride before dinner was served. I’m glad we did. It wasn’t crowded, and the ride was so very peaceful and pretty. The sun sparkled through the trees and infused everything with a golden hue.
The loop goes through the woods. Halloween fans would recognize a few things along the route. Mark was secretly hoping we’d spot Chainsaw Guy on a coffee break, but we didn’t. We passed fields of corn and swaying grasses and as we made our way back, an immense heron appeared on the path before us. He was holding his dinner in his beak. He paused, then spread his enormous wings and took off, flying along the path just ahead of our tractor. His slow, rhythmic motion was like something out of a dream. We followed him for awhile – watching – but our paths soon parted. It was magical.
At around 6:15 it was time to be seated. This was a painless process because the seating out was figured out ahead of time. We ended up next to a mother and her two 7-year-old twin daughters. One of them seemed a bit worried about sitting next to a perfect stranger (I was the stranger in this case) but it didn’t take long for us to get chatting. She showed me her stuffed chipmunk, we talked about chipmunks, and it went from there. Both girls were positively taken by our daughters. They were so curious. At first they asked their questions very quietly, in a whisper, to me: How old are they? What are their names? What grade are they in? Do they have boyfriends? Later on, as their boldness grew, they asked our girls to show them their ear piercings and toes (presumably to see if they were allowed to wear nail polish). It was hilarious and sweet. At one point we changed seats so the kids could talk and get to know one another.
And then it was time for the food! We filed out in rows to load our plates. Everything was delicious and I stuffed myself silly.
Mark Saunders and Angela Grant – owners of Saunders Farm – made some introductory remarks. We learned that these dinner events actually started out as ACTUAL family dinners. I thought that was so nice. No wonder it felt like home!
We ate, we talked, we laughed. At one point, one of the twins turned to her neighbour on the other side – and elderly lady who’d refilled her plate three times and exclaimed: “You’re STILL eating!?!?” It was so funny and cute.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we also enjoyed some live entertainment after dinner. Grace Lachance played guitar and sang. (From her bio:”The 15-year-old singer-songwriter from Stittsville, Ontario captured the attention of audiences and industry professionals alike when she was named the winner of the 2015 She’s The One contest at the Ottawa Bluesfest.) It was a perfect fit.
And THEN, as if we weren’t stuffed enough, there were s’mores around a campfire.
We settled in Muskoka chairs and someone pulled out a guitar. The girls – all four – were chasing each other around and doing cartwheels in the grass. Someone found a frisbee. I lost track and the kids ate an unknown number of s’mores.
It was a very happy evening indeed.
The Farm dinners are over for this year, but once they’re announced again for 2017, I totally recommend you check it out if this sounds like your kind of thing. :)
*Saunders Farm is a blog patron but I was not expected nor required to write this post. We paid our own way and my views are my own… although I know for a fact my family feels the same way. :)