Monday, April 8, 2013

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

I love brunch - when I have time, it is my favourite thing to do on Saturday mornings. And although I love the arts and music, I have never been to the opera.

So, I was thrilled when I was invited to join the Edmonton Opera for its Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch at the Sutton Place Hotel on April 7.

The brunch is one of the diverse ways the Edmonton Opera presents the art form to audiences. It is part of a quarterly series for Opera patrons to enjoy a meal while listening to performances by cast members of the forthcoming production. In this case, it is Tchaikovsky's romantic Eugene Onegin. This production is notable as it is one of the few Russian operas the Edmonton Opera has presented.

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

As a result, the food had a Russian and Eastern European theme to it. Along with traditional breakfast items like eggs benedict and sausage (although in this case the sausage was turkey), there were Russian dumplings, cabbage soup, beet salad, three cheese tortellini, roast chicken in a mushroom and sour creme demi-glace, blinis (thin pancakes), and several other salads.

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

It was quite an unusual assortment of foods for an 11 a.m. meal indeed. Quite frankly, if served later in the day many of the items would have made a fine supper. That being said, the food was well prepared and the staff extremely helpful and friendly. I had to make a couple of inquiries into ingredients and was promptly given the answers I needed so I could make the right selections for my plate.

My mimosa #yegfood

First, I had a mimosa, which was absolutely spectacular. I wish I had gotten the name of the champagne being used, because it was very resonant with the orange juice, without being overpowering. The coffee being served was also excellent - I drank mine black, which is rare for me.

Russian inspired food. #yegfood

Of the food I sampled, I enjoyed the roast chicken the most. Moist, tender, and carved, the sauce was deep and delicious. It went well with the has browns, which were sliced, pan fried potatoes that were lightly seasoned. The rice was a little watery for my taste, probably a victim of the steam tray. I especially liked the cold beet salad with walnuts - the beets were soft and flavourful, and the creamy dressing brought all of the components together very well.

Cabbage soup #yegfood

The only two items on my plate that were slightly traditional were the turkey sausage and blinis. I liked the sausage well enough - someone at my table commented that they did not taste much different than the pork variety (I would not know). The blinis were slightly sweet and quite spongy. I like the flavour but found them hard to cut as a result of their texture. Finally, a cup of cabbage soup certainly felt Eastern European to be eating, although it was basically a beef soup with lots of cabbage.

Dessert #yegfood

By the time I hit the dessert table, I was already quite full yet tempted by the choices of cheesecakes, layer cakes, mousses, fruit, and pastries. I settled on a small croissant, which was flaky and melted in my mouth. I also had a small danish, which I think was strawberry under its lattice topping. Of course, I could not resist a serving of the decadent chocolate mousse.

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

Slightly earlier than indicated on the program, the performances began. Cast members from Eugene Onegin performed short selections of Eastern European opera, particularly from Dvorak, Bartok, Rachmaninov, and Tchaikovsky. I enjoyed the variety of songs and their brevity allowed for a substantial program in a short span of time. For me, these "bite-sized" portions of opera were an excellent introduction to seeing the art form live.

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

I was tempted to head for a piece of Oreo cheesecake after the performances were complete, but I was utterly stuffed. This was the final brunch of the season. Next season, they will take place at the Petroleum Club.

Many thanks to the Edmonton Opera for a delicious and entertaining experience!

For my full photo set from the brunch, click here.

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