Imagine a 100-seat harvest table, accented beautifully with vibrant flowers, set in the middle of a large greenhouse, with strings of lights and candles spread down the length of the table. Everywhere you turn you take in the aromatic smells of thousands of flowers in bloom. Then, combining local food, beer and wine, floral designers and chefs, an innovative dinner is served and enjoyed in the warmth and beauty of a truly inspiring evening.
I had the privilege of attending the first Petals and Plates event, a series of flower-focused farm to table dinners, at Canada’s largest floral greenhouse, Rosa Flora in Dunnville, Ontario. The event was an exciting, must-attend celebration of the diverse bounty that our local communities have to offer.
Upon arrival, we entered into the magnificent atrium, with amazing wood beams and a waterfall trickling in the background, sipped local Ontario wine from Malivoire Winery, Beamsville, and snacked on (well, devoured) tasty hors d’oeuvres. To keep us engaged during the cocktail hour, guests were invited by Opening Night Flowers to create their own flower crown or boutonnière, allowing our creativity to flow freely using fresh cut flowers from the greenhouse.
Following the cocktail reception we were lead on a tour of the 1 million square foot greenhouse, which was enlightening to say the least. Surrounded by Lisianthus, Snapdragons, Gerbera Daisies, and Lilies, the hosts of the evening, Arielle, Josh, and Ralph, guided us around the energy efficient facilities explaining the day-to-day operations and their commitment to sustainable practices. These include recycling water through their greenhouse roof structure which is designed to catch all natural precipitation and diverts it into large holding ponds; the use of a CO2 neutral Biomass Boiler that uses wood, which only releases as much CO2 as the trees have absorbed during the course of their life; and the use of a wind turbine that is able to produce electricity that is delivered directly into the Rosa Flora system and offsets electricity required from the Ontario grid. The operations at Rosa Flora are impressive on so many levels.
The fun and informative tour concluded in the Snapdragon greenhouse where our dinner took place. The huge harvest table was artfully laid out by Vintage Rentals and Events, with hundreds of flowers meticulously placed by florist Nicholas Smith of Opening Night Flowers. Truly spectacular, and a beautiful backdrop for the culinary delights that were about to be served.
Chef Jan-Willem Stulp, Owner and Executive Chef at Grand Oak Culinary Market, walked us thought the 4-course dinner he had carefully crafted using only fresh, locally sourced ingredients. His passion for local food was inspiring, and could be tasted in each dish.
First up was a Cool Duet of Cucumber and Watermelon Gazpacho, with Pink Peppercorns and Mint Granita. The cool gazpacho was a much-welcomed relief from the warmth of the greenhouse. The second course consisted of Sunrise Greens with Edible Nasturtiums and Cress, and Warm, Smoked Lake Trout in a Cracked Mustard Dressing. The main course was a Dry-Rubbed Chicken Breast, marinated in Rosewood Mead with Caramelized Onion Compote, Vineland Sweet Potato and Braised Red Cabbage, in Black Cherry Jus. Move over pumpkin spice, this was truly the essence of fall flavour.
Dessert was courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Ontario, who challenged Chef Jan-Willem to create a locally inspired dessert centred around the dairy industry’s most well-known treat, ice cream. The result was a delicious Baked Apple and Quince ‘Tatin’ in Lavender & Wild Ginger Syrup.
Thank you Flowers Canada (Ontario) and pickOntario for the invitation to take part in this new dining experience that highlights Canadian flower growers and their importance in Canada’s agricultural landscape.
If you are interested in experiencing Petals and Plates firsthand, tickets are now on sale for the next instalment in the series: CosMic Plants.
“Each dinner will be a complete sensory experience, yet unique from each other in that the table will be surrounded by a different crop of flowers,” said Jesseline Gough, marketing coordinator at Flowers Canada, in a news release. “These dinners are a celebration of local flowers, food, wine, and the people who produce these wonderful things for all of us to enjoy.”
— About Rosa Flora Ltd.
Established in 1978 by Otto and Corine Bulk, Rosa Flora first grew only fresh cut hybrid tea roses. The business has passed from one generation to the next, and their expert team now grows large gerbera, mini gerbera, snapdragons, lisianthus, and stephanotis under millions of square feet of high-tech greenhouses, making them the largest greenhouse cut flower operation in Canada today.