I was lucky and honoured to be invited to Rendezvous Korean Cuisine 2012 which was held on Friday June 8th and was hosted by the Korean Consulate in Toronto. It was held at Casa Loma, which for those of you who aren’t familiar with Toronto, is a castle in midtown Toronto (yep, a real castle) built by Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt at the turn of the previous century (I believe construction started in or around 1910). While not as old as most European castles, it was built with a sense of romance and grandeur so it’s a wonderful (and popular) venue for semi-formal or formal events and dinners.
Rendezvous Korean Cuisine 2012 was perfectly suited at Casa Loma as the event was a showcase of Korean food to 250 distinguished and honoured guests. I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to be one of them! The guests came from all sectors – from politics to sports, from arts & culture to journalism, from chefs to those in the diplomatic corps. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Korea, and Rendezvous Korean Cuisine was a great way to continue deepening that great relationship.
I attended the event with my friend Becky, who loves Korean food as much as I do, as my plus-one. We met outside Casa Loma just prior to the 6:00pm start time for a few pictures. Hey, it’s not often I dress up so I needed a couple of pictures to memorialize the moment.
We walked into the reception area after having our names checked off the guest list and I was glad we were slightly early as there was so much to see. There were several venders from Korean grocery stores and food importers, along with the Korean Tourism Organization. Not only did they all have display booths but there was lots of great samples too. Becky and I wandered around chatting with the people at each booth and sampling the food. Everyone was so friendly! And while I was familiar with all the food on display – with the exception of a grain drink called misutgaru (미숫가루) which was rather interesting – it was a fabulous introduction to the various Korean food for those who haven’t been to Korea. Plus I love any time I can eat Korean melons (참외)!
After 20 or 30 minutes of checking out the displays, Rendezvous Korean Cuisine officially kicked off with a few speeches and then we were invited to find our seats. Becky and I were in the conservatory at table 17 along with Alex – another WKBer – her boyfriend, Garry; and Mingu Kim from Arirang Korea. Everyone at our table was super nice and it was nice to chat with Alex, Garry and Mingu again.
While we couldn’t see the speeches, the musicians and the main stage in the ballroom directly there were several Samsung flat screen TVs (and man, were they thin) throughout the conservatory so that we could follow along.
But since the main reason for Rendezvous Korean Cuisine was to showcase Korean food, we were in luck with the absolutely divine five-course dinner. Yes, I said “five-course dinner”~! Everything was beautifully presented on our plates and was, of course, delicious. But enough of me talking… let’s see the pictures!
I love bekseju and was thrilled that we were being served it with our dinner. There was a Canadian red wine (Reif Estate Pinot Noir 2008) but even though I also enjoy a nice red wine, I thought the bekseju would complement the dinner more so I stuck with it.
We were served hobakjuk (호박죽) which is pumpkin porridge as our first starter or appetizer. I pretty much love all forms of juk (죽) so this was a perfect start to the meal for me!
Our next starter was hwayangjeok (화양적) which is a slice each of boneless beef rib, crab meat, green pepper, egg and oyster mushroom on a wooden skewer. Accompanying it was some japchae (잡채), sweet potato noodles with veggies. This is always a favourite and a great example of Korean food that isn’t spicy.
Our individual servings of banchan (반찬), Korean side dishes which are eaten with the main meal, were served next. I was particularly fond of the oi sobagi (오이 소박이), stuffed cucumber kimchi as it’s my favourite kimchi. But the baechu kimchi (배추 김치), Korean cabbage kimchi and the yeongeun jorim (연근조림), braised lotus root, were also lovely.
Our first main dish arrived and it was simply delightful. The galbijjim (갈비찜), braised beef ribs in a slightly sweet sauce and daehajjim (대하찜), steamed King Prawn with veggies were a fabulous example of Korean food. I particularly loved the galbijjim!!
No introduction to Korean food would be complete without bibimbap (비빔밥), rice with mixed veggies. It was fun watching different tables mix their bibimbap, you could definitely tell who was familiar with the dish and who wasn’t.
To finish our lovely meal, we were served samsaek gyeongdan (삼색경단), glutinous rice cakes filled with yellow bean powder, green bean powder and black sesame powder. I love them so this was perfect way to end the meal for me. Accompanying them were hwachae (화채), fruit punch, which is always enjoyable in summer.
We were also treated to a beautiful fashion show showcasing various hanbok (한복), Korean traditional clothing, from formal court dress to informal every day wear. I particularly loved the dresses which are inspired by Gisaeng (기생), Korean female entertainers. Everything was so gorgeous! It made me want to dress in hanbok again.
All in all, it was a magical evening! A beautiful setting for the event, an informational & friendly reception to start, delicious food to sample, great conversation with the lovely people at my table, and a gorgeous fashion show to end the evening. Oh, and a fabulous gift bag with lots of reading material (it appeared that I got a special one too) on Korean food. I already love Korea and Korean food but Rendezvous Korean Cuisine made me fall in love with it all over again!
P.S.I want to give a shout out to my fabulous Korean hair stylist, Kim from Pelo Salon & Spa in Koreatown. I went in before the event to get my bangs trimmed and asked for a simple updo but when she found out where I was going she gave me a beautiful and elaborate style. Way more formal than I’ve ever worn my hair but it was absolutely lovely! I received many compliments! ^^ Thank you so much!