Jamie Kennedy sports two pins on his chef’s coat. They’re small, but they speak volumes about his Toronto career, his impact on Canadian gastronomy, and his dogged commitment to causes that make a difference.
The first pin is the hexagonal snowflake worn by a Member of the Order of Canada. Kennedy has worn it since 2010. The second is less well known. That same year the chef was honoured at the inaugural Governor General’s Award in Celebration of the Nation’s Table, recognizing “the outstanding efforts of Canadians in improving the quality, variety and sustainability of all elements and ingredients on our nation’s table.”
Most lately, Kennedy’s outstanding efforts are taking place at his 120-acre farm in Hillier. The man who, for thirty years, has run a number of critically acclaimed Toronto restaurants, now grows food and grapes in Prince Edward County, and, this summer, is hosting dinner parties.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the second in a 13-week Summer Dinner Series at J.K. Farm. The evening began on ‘The Ridge,’ overlooking the vineyard, where the welcome mat was laid with crystal flutes of bubbly and paper cones of fries.
Guests then moved down to the barn for a five-course dinner matched with wines from Huff Estates. The party ended at the fire pit just as the planets started popping and the mosquitoes started feeding.
The idea of the Summer Series, as Kennedy explains it, is to explore terroir-based gastronomy: food from a place, wines from that same place, and all the lovely ways in which they connect. This may be a ‘duh’ concept in Old World wine country, but it’s still new and exciting in Prince Edward County, where food’s been produced for generations, but where grape growing and wine making are still in their infancy.
Together with Huff Estates’ winemaker, the Bordeaux-born Frédéric Picard, Kennedy (and his team of sous chefs (Anne Rumble and Chase Collins-Chandler) fashioned a County menu that danced elegantly with County wines.
It began with those jK Fries (with a garlic scape aioli) refreshed with the Cuvée Peter Huff 2011 sparkler. We fifty, or so, guests then moved to harvest tables set in the barn, their centres greened with apple wood branches and with posies of garlic scapes curling out of Mason jars.
The opening course was fish, a warm smoked Georgian Bay Whitefish moistened with crème fraiche, and dolloped with the bright salty pop of Whitefish caviar, set on a salad of dilled new potatoes and fresh June peas from J.K. Farm. A glass of Huff Estates 2015 Pinot Gris was the perfect refresher. Next up, a silky smooth chive soup, served icy cold, anointed with cold pressed sunflower oil produced just down the road in Cobourg, by Kennedy’s cousins, Jeff and Colin Sanders.
Champ the dog had shown little interest in fish or soup, but there was no denying his soft spot for pork. As it was being carved by chef Anne Rumble, its magnificent crackling removed by Kennedy and hacked into pieces, the farm pup was beneath it, snout in air, living the dream.
The slabs of porchetta were served crowned with that crackling, and tarted up with a rhubarb compote, set in a tangle of sautéed greens and garlic scapes. A rich, dark, porky jus pooled beneath. Picard poured the 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve, a perfect weight and texture for the meat, and a wine which took us through the long board of Ontario cheeses, served with house crackers, fruits and nuts.
After such riches came the relief of a meringue ‘sandwich’ topped with strawberries, served with a mint granité and the 2013 Huff Estates Cuvée Janine, a traditional method sparkling Rosé.
The night was stunning, the merry mood helped by the warm, summer-soft weather. But truly, this was about as memorable a food-focused evening as I have had, casual, convivial, thoughtful and delicious. If there are still summer Saturday farm suppers available at J.K. Farm, I commend them to you unreservedly.
Details are found here.