Back in February of 2011, Richard Johnston of By Chadsey's Cairns winery in Wellington Prince Edward County, lifted a page from the history books of the first European settlement in Canada and resurrected the Order of Good Cheer. The original Ordre of Bon Temps had been started in 1606 by Samuel de Champlain for the settlers at Port Royal, Nova Scotia to ward off cabin fever and scurvy. It consisted of evenings of fine meals, wine and entertainment.
Tourists rarely venture to Prince Edward County during the winter when snow, ice and strong winds make driving treacherous but there are gallons of wine waiting to be shared and a strong love of a good party. So Johnston teamed up with restaurant owners and chefs in Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston and Peterborough to host Order of Good Cheer Dinners in those cities with menus reflecting the foods that might have been on hand for those early settlers and flights of up to nine By Chadsey's Cairns wines for pairing.
The dinners have been such as success that this year second nights have been added to most venues and those are close to being sold out.
Owner / Chef Jamie Kennedy at the Gilead Cafe and Bistro in Toronto was sold out for his dinner on February 23 and there is a cancellation list for the upcoming dinner on Friday, March 1. The same is true for the dinners on Feb 26 and March 5 at the Urban Pear in Ottawa.
The Rivermill restaurant in Kingston still has spaces available for their Order of Good Cheer Dinner on March 2 with a menu featuring scallops, monkfish and risotto, cornish hen, duck, and pears poached in Gewurztraminer. The nine courses will be paired with a flight of 9 wines. Il Dotore will be providing the entertainment.
Emma Cox of the Parkhill Restaurant in Peterborough reports that their Order of Good Cheer dinner is sold out already for March 28 and so they are holding a second dinner on April 4th. Reaching back to the sort of foods early settlers might have used, the Parkhill menu includes crab and split pea fritters, quails eggs, rabbit terrine, duck pastries, clam chowder, three pheasant entrées, with cheesecake and artisan cheeses, jellies and chutney with a flight of seven wines and mulled wine to finish. Il Dotore and Arleccione will be providing the entertainment. Seats are still available at a price of $70 per person plus tip and tax.
For Prince Edward County locals or those wishing to visit the County, By Chadsey's Cairns are pairing up with East and Main Bistro in Wellington on April 26. As the worst of winter should be over by then the menu will include dishes that give a foretaste of spring.
Like a modern Champlain, Johnston is masterfully chasing the winter blues away and surely wine helps to prevent any chance of a reappearance of scurvy.