These days, traveling and tourism is all about experiences. We don’t want to celebrate a milestone with a meal, we want a culinary experience. We don’t want to visit a vineyard; we want to experience it. Our businesses here in York Durham Headwaters are rising to the demand for experience-based visitation with a diverse selection of packages, events and other extravagant options so that we, the visitors, can continue to make lifelong memories.
For my 40th birthday this year, my partner Peter and I booked a five-day vacation at Hockley Valley Resort in Headwaters. That’s five days without the kids, without the stress of daily life, and without the anxiety I admit to feeling at flipping the page on another decade of my life. Forty is a big year, so we wanted some big experiences. Naturally, Hockley’s Food and Fire dining event was right up our alley.
Let me paint a picture of what Food and Fire is all about. The event runs Fridays and Saturdays from July 1 to August 31. As a participant, you are one of five parties, with each party dining in its own screen-covered globe structure. So even though you are amongst other groups, you are in an intimate setting. Your evening of culinary magic is spread over five courses prepared on an open fire, and expertly paired with wine selections while music, lights and wonderful ambience surround you. The moment we arrived and drove our vehicle down Hockley’s inspiring driveway, Peter and I noticed the globes behind vines of grapes and the resort’s vegetable gardens and were suitably excited.
Our experience did not disappoint, and I’m going to make you, dear readers, supremely envious (and hungry!) by detailing our delectable meal. Our first course was smoked brie crostini with caramelized onion jam, paired with a 2015 California chardonnay. Up next was grilled calamari with chimichurri and pickled summer vegetables, paired with a 2013 sauvignon blanc from France. This was followed by a panzanella salad with sherry vinaigrette, and paired with a 2015 trebbianno d’abruzzo from Italy. Our main course was parmigiano crusted grilled and carved beef tenderloin, with sauteed collard greens and smashed potatoes, paired with Adamo’s 2016 petit verdot. And for dessert, we were treated to a cast iron pineapple upside down cake with vanilla mascarpone and caramel drizzle, which was paired with Adamo’s 2018 vidal dessert wine.
Are your mouths watering yet? Well, sorry to be mean, but… neener neener, you can’t have it. You see, the menu for Food and Fire changes weekly, and each Thursday, our wine experts and hosts for the evening, Michael and Jamie, sit down with each new menu and decide which wine will pair with which course. No two experiences at Food and Fire will be the same—so you will be able to say neener neener back to me, and tease me with all the scrumptious courses that you had which I can only imagine. Win-win! Peter and I were truly wowed, and we have raved about the experience, the food and the wine to everyone we know.
One interesting thing about our experience is that it was raining when we started. Given that this is an outdoor dining experience, you might assume that this would have been an unfortunate circumstance. In truth, though, it couldn’t have been more delightful. Upon announcing ourselves at reception, we were generously presented with a golf cart at the front of the resort to drive to the globes so that we did not get wet. We were then led to our individual globe under the umbrella of host Michael, and our globe was adequately covered with a crisp, white tarp to keep us dry while we dined. Inside our globe, each chair had been laid with a cozy blanket should we need one. I, being perpetually cold, enjoyed mine thoroughly. Peter the human heater, on the other hand, did not need his. We were both perfectly comfortable, and we both found sitting under the canopy in our secluded little globe and listening to the patter of a lovely summer rain utterly charming.
Halfway through our meal, the rain cleared up and the clouds gave way so that we could enjoy the last of the sunset. Let me tell you: a sunset at Hockley Valley is something that should not be missed. Once the sun had set and twilight was upon us, our globe lit up with strings of beautiful fairy lights. The ambience was nothing short of magical, and the experience was a perfect way to mark my special birthday with my special someone.
Last but not least, a hat tip to Michael and Jamie, our hosts for the evening, for their friendly conversation and knowledgeable presentation. And a special thanks to chef Van for one of the best meals I. Have. Ever. Had! This is the first year that Hockley Valley Resort is offering its Food and Fire experience, and I sincerely hope that it becomes a regular summer feature. After all, my 41st is less than 365 days away!
Hockley Valley Resort
793522 3rd Line EHS, Mono
Story by Katherine Ryalen