With Live Music by The Sonny Balcones
France has long been associated with love and romance, and its food, music and joie de vivre are all part of the celebration of La Saint-Valentin. Chef Chantal Véchambre has put together a selection of classic (and not so classic) dishes inspired by this romantic notion for a fun and elegant dinner for lovers, set to a intimate acoustic soundtrack of live jazz and French love songs performed by The Sonny Balcones.
By way of a little background, the story of St. Valentine goes back to the 3rd C. when Emperor Claude II attempted to forbid marriages so that more young men could be conscripted into the Roman army. A priest named Valentine defied the law by secretly performing weddings; he was eventually caught, jailed and sentenced to death. According to legend, he befriended the blind daughter of his prison guard, and corresponded with her via a heart-shaped letters signed “From your Valentine”. Right before his execution on February, 14th 270, he performed the miracle of restoring sight back to the blind girl. In the 5th C. Valentine was declared a saint by Pope Gelase I for his sacrifice in the defense of love.
It was not until the Middle Ages that Valentine’s Day became a day for the celebration of love. This was in part a political decision by the Church which wanted to address the growing popularity of Lupercalia, a former Greek and Roman fertility celebration honouring Roman deities Luperculus (God of herds and shepherds) and Juno (Goddess of marriage). Lupercalia, along with other older pagan festivals, had became fashionable again after the collapse of the Roman Empire at the end of the 5th C., so the Pope decided to turn it into an official Christian celebration on February 14th in honour of the saint who sacrificed his life to provide the sacrament of marriage to young couples.
Brochettes de Poulet Sauce Chocolat
Chicken skewers with a French take on mole sauce; the famous chocolate sauce from Mexico that incorporates many exotic spices including cloves, chili, cinnamon, chocolate, cumin seeds, allspice and Espelette pepper. The extreme rarity and high cost of these warming spices contributed to their aphrodisiac reputation.
Velouté de Céleri
Perhaps unexpectedly, celery was long considered an aphrodisiac by the Greeks & Romans, a fact that Madame de Maintenon would have been aware of when she choose to popularize this creamy celery soup at private royal dinners with the Sun King in Court of Versailles.
Sole en Papillote
A French classic, filet of sole delicately cooked in en Papillote (“enveloped in paper”), individually wrapped in a small parcels of parchment which locks in the delicate flavours of honey, saffron and fresh ginger. Served with rice, roasted red bell peppers, and meli melo (a fanciful French name for mesclun, a mix of assorted small young salad greens that originated in Provençe) with a balsamic French dressing.
This French pastry was created by royal chef Vincent de la Chapelle, then elaborated on by Storher, a famous pâtissier who founded the oldest patisserie in Paris in 1730. This cake can still be found at the Parisian boutique of the same name; a delicate puff pastry vol au vent, filled with pastry cream and topped by a thin caramel glaze. In the 18th C., puits d’amour were something of a scandal because its name and presentation were considered to allude to female genitalia; nevertheless, or perhaps as a result, they were very popular at the intimate dinners of the court of Louis XV.
$75 + HST
Chantal Véchambre, originally from Paris, is a chef certified in both French cuisine and Pastry-chocolate. In 2005 she moved to New Brunswick where research in culinary history led her to the Fortress of Louisbourg, where she developed recipes and culinary workshops inspired by the site’s 18th century recipes, culminating in an award-winning book: French Taste in Atlantic Canada, 1604-1758. Now established in Toronto, Chantal pursues food writing and culinary adventures, and professional catering through her company My Creme Caramel.
The Sonny Balcones are a Toronto-based jazz band that combine 30’s and 40’s swing with soft samba and sultry torch songs. You can find them at a number of jazz clubs and jazz events around town. For this special evening, The Sonny Balcones will be playing as a three piece with Tony Neale on guitar, Rachel Melas on bass and Corry Ouellette on vocals.
WEB thesonnybalcones.com | FB @thesonnybalcones | IG @thesonnybalcones
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