When I heard I had the opportunity to partake in a Pass The Table dining experience, I immediately downloaded their app to see what was available. The Pass The Table app lets one discover and book unique and off the menu dining experiences, taking place as limited seatings in restaurants or in unique venues like the boutiques, breweries, and even chefs’ homes. While all of the options looked interesting, there was one that immediately jumped out at me – the Carnivore Feast taking place at Bespoke Craft Butchers on March 1st. I love meat, and it was taking place in a butcher shop, and right in my own neighbourhood, so there was no doubt in my mind which dinner I’d choose.

Just walking through the door I knew I was already in for a special treat. A beautifully-set eight-seat table awaited, right in the middle of this pristinely clean butcher shop. It was surreal to look around seeing various fresh meats and cheeses behind glass and large pieces of meat hanging in the locker at the back. One by one, the rest of the guests arrived in awe of their surroundings, and greeted with a welcome drink of gin and tonic. Once we were all seated, our host and chef for tonight, owner of Bespoke Butchers Andrew Poulsen, then spoke briefly about the meal we were about to have.

Dinner began with probably the most impressive charcuterie board I have ever seen. There was a selection of salumi from Dolce Lucano. Poulsen went through each item and described what to expect in terms of taste and texture. He also emphasized the quality of the cured meats, thanks to Dolce Lucano’s use of traditional, time-honoured techniques to produce them. There was also a specially made duck pâté, cured fish, and crostini for accompaniment. Everything on this board tasted absolutely delicious.

The first course was a chicken and duck terrine, and pan seared grassfed beef. The terrine was topped with a quail egg and was complemented by the sour cherry and apple jelly. The beef was perfectly cooked and seasoned well; it really showcased Poulsen’s deep knowledge of the meats his butcher shop sells. The second course was a branzino ceviché, with seabuckthorn providing ample tartness. I enjoyed both of these courses. Note, at this point we’d already eaten from six different animals – pork, fish, chicken, duck, beef, quail – but then who’d expect any less from a carnivore feast!

Our meat-centric dinner would continue with the third course, which was made from pork shoulder. Pork usually requires strong flavours to accompany it, and for this dish it was a white wine sauerkraut, and a four mustard cream sauce. The sweet 2013 Süssereserve Riesling from Rosewood Estates Winery paired nicely with this dish. The fourth course was an Ontario Red Deer Steak with saskatoon berry jus. Again, the meat was cooked perfectly and still very tender, which is often hard to achieve with leaner cuts of meat.

To cleanse our palette, we had a sweet spruce tip granita, before our final course arrived – a beautifully presented cheese board. Poulsen proceeded to describe each cheese, adding interesting facts about where some of them were sourced, and how they were made. I tried every cheese on that board, and honestly could not choose a favourite.

During this casual final course, the guests shared stories with each other, and had a chance to converse with Poulsen, who talked about the values that are core to his butcher shop business. He tries to support local Ontario producers as much as he can, but also spoke about the challenges in doing so, in light of alternatives that exist elsewhere. He also spoke about the nutritional benefits of organic, and naturally produced meats, which I personally found enlightening. I always enjoy when the chef talks to the guests; it was such a pleasure to meet Poulsen, who is clearly a very passionate and very grounded individual.

Every course tonight was paired with wines from Rosewood Estates Winery – Niagara’s first winery-meadery. I had the pleasure of listening to Krystina Roman about Rosewood’s practices on sustainable farming and beekeeping just one week earlier at the In the Land of Sea and Honey Dinner. It’s really wonderful to see so many in the food and drink industry supporting local producers, the environment, and each other.

The carnivore feast at Bespoke Butchers was every bit the unique experience that Pass The Table promised. From the butcher shop setting, to the engaging conversations with the other diners and our hosts, and of course the delicious food and wine, the dinner tonight was one to remember. If you’re craving something different than your usual restaurant meal, be sure to check out Pass The Table. Taking a quick look at their upcoming offerings, you can enjoy a pig head “nose-to ear” dinner, a “can”apes and cocktail dinner (focusing on canned foods), and even a dinner and a concert. All you need to do is download the app, create an account, browse the available experiences, and finally reserve your spot with a credit card. We look forward to seeing what other unique experiences Pass The Table and its partners will offer in the future.

For more information about Pass The Table:
Twitter: @PassTheTable #CraveSomethingDifferent
Instagram: @PassTheTableApp #CraveSomethingDifferent
Facebook: Pass The Table

Bespoke Butchers is located at 171 East Liberty Street, Unit 155, in the heart of Liberty Village. For more information:
Twitter: @BespokeButchers #YouAreWhatYouMeat
Instagram: @BespokeButchers #YouAreWhatYouMeat
Facebook: Bespoke Craft Butchers

Photos by John Tan

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John Tan

John is an avid traveller, but equally loves being a tourist in his own city. With camera in hand, he enjoys discovering the sights, sounds, tastes, and everything else that Toronto has to offer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@iam_johntan) to see what he's been up to lately.