By mid-August, when we dropped on Jamie’s Kennedy’s Prince Edward County farm to check up on his summer dining series, heat and drought had imposed an eerie harbinger of fall on the local landscape.
In the approach to Hillier, Loyalist Parkway was flanked with brown lawns littered with dead leaves from bare trees that looked to be turning in early for their seasonal rest – but were more likely giving up the ghost for good. So when the skies opened with a vengeance just as we pulled up at the Jamie Kennedy homestead, we did our best to stay focussed on the positive. Yes, we were going to be stuck taking shelter and a glass of water in the barn instead of Hinterland sparkling rosé, frites, bison tartare and other hors d’oeuvres promised up on the open ridge overlooking Kennedy’s small winery.
But the place clearly needed the soaking. By five pm a sodden chef and some of his drenched guests came down the hill to join the rest of us. They left the deep-fryer behind, but brought the skewered vegetables, bison tartare, and smoked whitefish-filled éclairs, wilting some in the onslaught of humidity. Nobody minded – the farm side setting was too compelling. And besides, everyone’s favourite local vintner Norman Hardie – who was providing the wines for dinner – had revealed some cheering news: the hot summer was doing wonders for his grapes.
Soon we sat down to a summery first course of baked pesto-stuffed baby squash, adrift in a bright, light tomato sauce. Then things took a surprising robust turn with a thick bean, corn and mushroom soup. Next, an escabèche of firm Ontario pickerel. And finally, echoing the strangely autumnal landscape, we got braised short rib on braised leeks, hard cheeses and a poached pear.