The Dangers of Food Tasting

by Ben Samann, General Manager

image1I have an annoying, but useful, habit – whenever I pass through the kitchen, I take samples of anything in front of me. Half a spoonful of butter (in Chef Jay’s words, “with good butter, bread is just a courtesy to the other guests at the table”), a piece of carrot, a slice of fresh fruit, and just about anything else is fair game to steal right from under the Chef’s knife.

That’s a dangerous game, but I’m willing to take that risk for delicious foods.

Today, my habit backfired on me. On a tray, fresh from the oven, lay tasty looking croutons/soup crackers. No one was around, so I took one. It wasn’t very good. Dry, powdery…. I made a mental note to mention it to Chef Jay.

A while later, one of the other kitchen staff approached me with a jar of the same croutons.

“We’ve been experimenting with dog treat recipes. Do you want to take some home for Toby and Daisy?”

….

Ah, kitchen humour.

 


It really CAN be that simple!

By Ben Samann, General Manager

Over the past few years, we have been working on making the guests’ experience easier to access, simpler, and more intuitive, and recently, have committed to a few of these fully. Ideas like going tip-free to make our pricing more transparent, or building a corporate package that just includes… everything, or putting the tennis rackets by the tennis courts (mind-blowing, I know) for easy access have become our new standard.

On the surface, it seems like the easy choice – if we want everyone to go kayaking, why make them run around the property signing waivers and collecting equipment? If the standard is to tip staff 15%, why not build that into the pricing? If every meeting that books with us needs a projector, why charge for it separately?

None of these things cost us anything. It’s just a way to take a bit more thinking out of the process. But for now, it seems to be confusing to guests.

I have been working with several meeting planners recently who are having a hard time understanding that our package includes everything. We put the pricing on our website for people to see, and try to explain that just about everything is included. But I have now been asked about the following items, and whether it’s included:

  • Pop with meals (yes)
  • Our hiking trails (yes)
  • Parking (yes)
  • Wifi in the meeting room (yes)
  • Rental on a break out room (yes)
  • Printing an e-mail (yes)
  • Using a laptop in case theirs can’t connect to a printer (yes)

The issue here isn’t the meeting planner, the issue is the countless other places that sneak in 10% resort fees, $500 meeting room wifi, and labour costs to connect projectors. We’ve all gotten to expect all kinds of costs that are never discussed but impossible to avoid.

Similarly, I routinely have conversations with families in the summer as they plan their vacation that go like this:

Guest: “We’re coming next weekend, and I’d like to rent some kayaks on Saturday.”
Ben: “Rent? You mean borrow? They’re free, you just get them at the beach.”
Guest: “Cool! So how do we register?”
Ben: “You don’t. You just go to the beach, and they’re there, along with life jackets, paddles, and other toys.”
Guest: “Really? How do you know someone won’t steal a kayak?”
Ben: “………..”

Again, this comes about because of the countless stories of hotels having guests fill out waivers each time they want to have fun and sign out everything lest someone run off with a soccer ball. It seems strange in this age to not worry about guests being thieves, so much so that guests actually are surprised when they’re not treated that way.

Despite all the confusion that this simplicity causes, we are moving it forward. We continue to ask ourselves why certain rules exist, and make it easier for guests to get the full price and experience of their stay.

 


The Gathering: All Weekend Long

What if you could take our quarterly dinner party, The Gathering, and stretch it allllll weekend long? Food coma aside, you’d be sure to come home feeling thoroughly nourished in heart, soul and body.

Well, that’s exactly what we did the weekend of March 24-26. 16 brave gourmands joined us for a weekend long exploration into Viamede’s culinary philosophy: what can be sourced from the land around us, is complemented by ingredients from our partner farmers and food producers.

Friday Night

The adventure began on a rainy Friday night at The Boathouse, where Chef Jay served up platter after platter of elevated pub grub favourites: sunfish and chips, beef tongue pastrami, and sous vide porchetta with a side of wild leek pesto. Our Open Kitchen concept was kicked off, with guests joining the culinary team stove-side to pick up some cooking tips.

Saturday Big Breakfast

On Saturday, attendees rolled in for our Big Breakfast buffet. Sun streamed in through the verandah as we sampled blueberry pancakes, traditional bircher muesli, sausage, smoked salmon, crispy potatoes, eggs, bacon, pastries and more. Espresso, cappuccino, tea and hot chocolate were the beverages of choice.

Open Kitchen & Chef’s Table

At noon, Chef Jay threw open the kitchen doors and invited our guests in for the signature Open Kitchen / Chef’s Table event. The group formed teams to prepare a home-made lunch fit for kings and queens. Under Chef Jay’s tutelage, the groups prepared mushroom soup with scones, sous vide brisket and potato salad, and blueberry crumble with earl grey ice cream to finish. When the cooking was done, everyone enjoyed the fruits of their labour, family style, around a long table right in the heart of the kitchen.

Tapping and Green Thumbs

Those who weren’t still lingering over scones and wine in the kitchen, joined our head groundskeeper, Jarrod, for a walk through the forest on Saturday afternoon. Jarrod showed the group how to identify and tap maple and birch trees for sap, and discussed our kitchen garden program. We’re guessing you can find at least a few of our guests in their backyards this week, contemplating which of their own trees they want to test out!

9 Courses To Heaven

After a few catnaps and probably some more caffeine, our guests met at Mount Julian for a lively cocktail hour before dinner. With appetites roused, we sat down at a long table in the century old farmhouse, just as the sun was setting over Stoney Lake. A 9 course feast was brought out from the kitchen, dish by dish, each course paired with a unique Ontario wine, beer, or spirit. General Manager Ben Samann recounted a personal story with each pairing, and his love of exploring the province for rare, unusual and delicious libations became clear! Dinner went late into the night, accented by the live guitar playing of Mike Graham. When the feast was done, guests continued the after-party with classic rock on vinyl and their favourite wines from the evening.

Recovery Sunday

A recovery brunch on Sunday morning was a nourishing farewell to new friends, great food and delicious beverages. We hope to see you for the next Gathering Weekend!