Toni Desrosiers (Abeego) & Sam Johnson (Anchored Wellness) co-hosted the Victoria BC's edition of Sunday Suppers' global dinner series, Sombremesa.
Imagine a dinner party in an intimate loft with old, expansive windows and white-washed walls, and a menu created from local and seasonal foods with 12 soon-to-be friends, where the conversation is so good, not a single food photo gets taken for what was the most Instagrammable meal.
We’re still basking in the afterglow of ‘Gōlde’, this season’s theme for Sombremesa, a global dinner series by Sunday Suppers who organizes meals held in cities around the world like Barcelona, New York, Manchester, Stockholm, Jakarta and this year, Victoria.
Our founder and CEO, Toni Desrosiers, was selected by Sunday Suppers to host this communal dinner and represent the city of Victoria alongside Sam of Anchored Wellness.
The concept of the intimate gatherings centers on simplicity and a love of food—values held near and dear to our hearts here at Abeego. A portion of ticket sales went to The Hunger Project—a global non-profit committed to the sustainable end of world hunger.
“There’s nothing like a meal to bring people together. Such an intimate setting with strangers put each guest in a vulnerable position. When that vulnerability is met with the warmth and care of a beautiful setting and nourishing meal, it’s where connections grow,” reflects Toni. “The whole evening was so absolutely rich that I left feeling full, physically and emotionally.”
Deep thanks goes to our guests who gathered, ate, and celebrated our local community while contributing to this global initiative with good conversation, good food and great company.
And to our amazing partners—without whom our meal may have ended in a puddle of sweat and tears—thank you for your contribution to an invaluable and unique experience:
- Rook & Rose | Unparalleled loft space and unmatched decorative talent made a magical setting.
- Brian Tesolin & Courtney Francis, Chef de Cuisine & Executive Pastry Chef, The Courtney Room | Thoughtful dish interpretation and delicious details delighted our taste buds.
- Sam of Anchored Wellness | Co-host extraordinaire taught guests how to pickle fruit and offered valuable nutritional insight to the evening.
A refreshing welcome toast from Sea Cider, sumptuous seasonal fare from Rootcellar, and nourishing bone broth from Nourish were essential ingredients for this incredible meal. Thanks to Lyndsey Eden Photography who captured the evening’s charm. Keep reading to see what our co-host and chefs had to say.
Keep Food Alive, to me, is a way for us to integrate ourselves into nature again. We are going back to our roots of learning how to grow our food & appreciating the way our food was once presented to us—seasonally & locally. Not everybody wants to learn how to garden or learn how to hunt for that matter, but to Keep Food Alive, we must be willing to learn a few different things about how our food is supposed to taste and look. Keep Food Alive brings us a sense of connection to our food when it was once lost.You hosted the fruit pickling portion of the event. How does this fit in with your love of food and nutrition?
I reconnected with my love for food when I was dealing with numerous digestive issues. Becoming a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner helped with this, but it wasn’t until I finished school and dealt with said issues that I began to rebuild my relationship with food, and of course, nutrition. I firmly believe that the majority of our health problems can be solved by maintaining a healthy digestive system. Leading the guests through the pickling portion of the evening brought a lot of excitement for me because it allowed me to share my love for not only food but my passion for helping people manage digestive issues. Fermented foods are an incredibly powerful tool in managing gut issues, so it felt in total alignment with my values to share that part of the evening with our guests.
What does Keep Food Alive mean to you?
To us, Keep Food Alive means supporting our local sustainable products—food that is raised and grown properly without additives that is also locally accessible.As a chef/pastry chef, you’re probably not used to being presented with a pre-set menu before a meal. How did you add your personal/seasonal/local touch to the dishes?
It was a bit confusing trying to interpret someone else’s menu; however, Sunday Suppers was quite detailed with the descriptions of their goal for each dish. It can be harder to work with local farmed ingredients during Victoria’s winter, however, we were able to source some of the more hardier products like carrots and kale from our area.
Most of these dishes brought us back to our humble roots as chefs:
- We made the creme fraiche for the dessert (nothing like your own local culture).
- Brian worked the congee as if it were risotto activating the rice’s natural starches while still keeping it quite light with vegetable stock and waters.
- We used a great, crispy (gluten free) fried chicken recipe that we use at the restaurant (The Courtney Room) while still invoking all the Provençal flavours of the stew with an enriched chicken gravy with caper berries and lemons charred to perfection.
- There is a great creamery on the island we use called Haltwhistle. They don’t make a creamy Brie as called for on the menu, so we went with their alpine/Swiss style Belmont. It was a no brainer for smoking. Belmont was a great cheese to play with and the flavors really came together with the chai flavoured pickle that Sam created.
Though we have built borderless communities over the past 12 years, it’s always been important to us to nurture and connect with our immediate neighbours. There’s nothing quite like breaking bread amongst your local community, which is exactly what Sunday Suppers’ Sobremesa helped us facilitate!
About the author: Melissa Fellows is Abeego’s Community Manager, who recently organized this special gathering that combined our local community with a global initiative. Melissa loves to connect and discuss all things Abeego as the voice behind Abeego’s social media.