Chef on Board sets sail with great entertainment and great food
The warm September evening sun embraced Wood Islands last Saturday as over 250 happy and well-dressed folks gathered to board the MV Confederation at 5:30 p.m. for the fourth annual Chef on Board, presented by Fall Flavours, Island East Tourism Group and Northumberland Ferries Limited.
Now, when most Islanders plan a typical trip to the ferry, of course, the aim is to tear on down there as fast as possible to get the car parked on board and then dash up the stairs to get a good spot in the restaurant lineup.
But, on this typical occasion, all vehicles remained behind parked in the lot as guests stepped aboard and were greeted by the glad hands of the evening’s host and culinary master, Chef Corbin, along with the night’s emcee, Alan Buchanan, as the lively solo sounds of fiddler Fiona MacCorquodale reeled visitors into the ship’s hull.
And, I’ll tell you, walking into a completely transformed car deck of the Confederation was a sight to behold — amid red carpet and regal curtains galore, all surrounding a large and elegant dining and dance room, where beautifully-decorated round tables awaited guests for the seated dinner portion of the evening.
But first, guests were guided up to the lounge area, where the spectacular began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres — specifically, 3,000 of them, including over 250 pounds of mussels served and over 700 oysters shucked — as the music of the Celtic Ladies and Men got the toes tapping, while the ropes were tossed and the ship took sail for an evening glide on the Nortumberland Strait.
As the Celtic Ladies and Men kicked out a wicked strathspey and as I was savouring a shooter of roasted beet and apple bisque (I know, this is where you now say, “Hmm. Well la tee dah!”) the orange glow of the setting sun beckoned me out to the deck where I happened to catch an interesting moment on the trip.
That hazy horizon of Nova Scotia that we are so used to seeing get closer and closer to us on any ferry ride to the mainland all of a sudden started to be turned away as the Confederation’s bow moved eastward, and she began to take us on a cruise along the sun-glinted cliffs of Wood Islands, going six miles to High Bank and back.
Surely, if the MV Confederation could talk, even she would be saying, “Well now. This is a special kind of night, isn’t it?”
Shortly after 7 p.m., we were then ushered down to the dining area, as the ship sailed back into port in Wood Islands, and the engines were turned off to allow for a more relaxed dining experience.
After an appetizer of lobster and tabouleh salad and a main course of caramelized shallot and fig stuffed double bone pork loin, it was then time for the dessert of the sweet, sweet sounds of The Barra MacNeils on the main stage before us.
(Along with the actual dessert of Island blueberry sticky toffee pudding, that is ...)
And wow, to take in an intimate performance right before us by one of the world’s best traditional/Celtic acts, as they serenaded and rocked the crowd with over a dozen of their hits, it was something else.
Kudos to Chef Corbin, the over two dozen culinary and serving staff members, all the musicians, NFL, Island East Tourism Group and Fall Flavours for assembling a truly memorable, enchanting and definitely special evening on the Confederation — and a really remarkable bang for your buck.
I look forward to seeing what will come about for next year’s Chef on Board. Keep an eye on the Fall Flavours listings next year as the season approaches, and if you are indeed aiming to go, be sure to get your tickets early.
We were informed that ticket numbers were increased this year to satisfy the demand, and they may increase again next year as well, but, just like a typical ferry trip itself, of course, it’s always a good idea to reserve ahead of time and avoid disappointment.
And you can catch The Barra MacNeils next in one of Canada’s most popular seasonal concerts, An East Coast Christmas, live at the Confederation Centre on Dec. 7, when they will also be touring in promotion of a brand new album.
Next week: Belle Starr with Jordie Lane at The Mack tonight.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at email@example.com or at 626-1242.
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