Sunday, August 21: Araxi's annual Longtable series this year at North Arm Farm played host to 400 people - their largest crowd yet. This day also marked the first public debut of Chef James Walt's new cookbook, Roots to Shoots, a culinary journey that not only highlights the seasonality ever-present in James' food, but also highlights, in photographs, words, and recipes, these annual Longtable feasts.
Given that this year's Longtable dinner was of a particular significance, Mother Nature, not to be outdone, decided to give us a show of her own. When we arrived, gusts of winds so strong blew over tents, dishes, and glassware. There was something strangely beautiful about watching a tent roll over the farm field like a big, white tumbleweed.
We were instructed to keep at a safe distance so that staff can properly manage and assess the situation. The cocktail reception lingered on for a while, understandably. Our party happily sat under a weeping willow while the sun's heat raged on with the wind.
At some point in the afternoon, we spotted storm clouds hovering above the farm with speed and tenacity. The staff had already taken down the tents protecting the tables because the winds kept blowing them over. When the first drops of rain started to come down, we all rushed under the tents left standing and under the barn for shelter. Given the relatively small storm cloud coverage over the entire farm, we suspected it would be short-lived, but the rain came through in the form of a torrential downpour all that time. Still, all around us, guests in their garden party finery were all laughing and drinking happily. We even spotted some brave guests walk out to meet the rain, taking their cocktail glasses with them and allowing themselves to get soaked in the midst of it all. Janaki Larsen, the potter responsible for most of the dishes used in the cookbook, slipped out of her leather slippers, and walked out of the barn in bare feet to meet the rain and take iPhone photos.
As soon as the rain let up a bit, throngs of guests proceeded to walk to the very long table and collect their wine glasses, all of which were soaked with rain water. Table linens were used to mop up the rest of the water from all of our seats. All this time, we all kept revelling in the merriment over the very real possibility that we have been privy to Mother Nature's unique sense of humour. To see the entire staff pull off something so huge with grace, panache, and seemingly without a hitch in spite of the weather acrobatics says quite a bit about the people behind the largest dinner/garden party we have ever attended. No words can describe the experience. It truly was a longtable event to remember.
"You [both] clean up well! I hardly recognized you both without your toques and sweatpants!"
- Chef James Walt to Page + Paper
James' 'Roots to Shoots' is now out in fine bookstores all across Canada. According to our American friends (and Amazon) it is slated for an October or November release in the United States!
Thank you so much to the Top Table Group for inviting us to be part of this epic event. Truly one of the most memorable occasions we have ever experienced!