Zuppa Theatre: Pop-up Love Party at Lion & Bright

On opening night for Zuppa Theatre‘s Pop-up Love Party we snuck in just a few minutes before the scheduled start time, grabbing two seats at the bar in a packed Lion & Bright. The vibe was energetic and exciting; luckily we had enough time to order a couple fantastic negronis and settle in before the show began.

Pop-up Love Party is an interactive theatre and food event. Inspired by Plato’s Symposium, the show consists of three actors (Ben Stone, Stewart Legere and and Susan Leblanc) giving monologues about love. A paired seven-course snack menu, designed by executive chef Daniel Burns yet executed by local chef Dennis Johnston, accompanies the production. The menu claims to “heighten moments of the production,” with its flavours and textures. 

E.T. sandwich

E.T. sandwich

We’re not regular theatre folk, so I’m not going to review the performance in that way, but let’s just say we really enjoyed ourselves; there was comedy, music, aerobics… and just lots of fun. The snack menu was thought-provoking, at times delicious, and at time perplexing. I’d like to think I caught on to the performance-paired moments of the menu, for example, while Stone gave a rather heart-wrenching speech about how everyone we love will eventually die, the ginger sorbet with lemon we were served had so much zing… it was just, well, a little hard to swallow.

The wine was flowing and the venue was full of enthralled people, enjoying every moment of the show. In the end, the food left you with a lot to contemplate, just like the performance. Congratulations to Zuppa on the sold out run (they wrapped up on March 29), and thank-you to their marketing gal Jennifer for the complimentary tickets!

Pop-up chef series finale at Front & Central

Fourth course - piggy (sous vide pork tenderloin)  in a mushroom blanket, roasted shallots, bread pudding and parsley sauce.

Fourth course – piggy (sous vide pork tenderloin) in a mushroom blanket, roasted shallots, bread pudding and parsley sauce.

What better way to avoid a Nova Scotia winter rut (food and morale) than design a series of delicious tasting menus with your friends?

Tasting menus are the way I like to eat. I enjoy running the restaurant that way,” says Dave Smart, chef and owner of Front & Central in Wolfville. “This was the second year for the series. I start them in January when the dust settles from New Year’s.”

The “pop-up chef series” for 2014 ended on April 25, and I was lucky enough to be invited, as Dave’s guest (his treat), to cover the last of the event via social media. The guest chef on this particular date was Peter Dewar – and man, do these guys’ styles work together well (not to mention Peter is a member of Culinary Team Canada). They presented a five-course tasting menu at an unbelievable price of $50 per person, along with an optional wine pairing at only an additional $25. Tickets were sold in advance.

Of course I brought Geir along (nothing like chefs cooking for other chefs) and we made a night out of it in Wolfville, taking advantage of the special rate for this event at Victoria’s Historic Inn. To make it even more convenient, the inn is within walking distance from Front & Central.

Second course (my favourite) - "bread and butter", which was chive hollandaise and rye bread pudding.

Second course (my favourite) – “bread and butter”, which was chive hollandaise and rye bread pudding.

From the pop-up series Dave says he’s “had lots of great feedback from guests, and many repeat diners.” It’s no wonder. The service is fantastic — it’s easy to tell the staff genuinely enjoy the tasting menu format — and the restaurant is beautiful. The food absolutely went beyond our expectation in creativity, taste and plating.

A highlight for me was second course, called “bread and butter”. This was chive hollandaise paired with a rye bread pudding, meant to be eaten together… each spoonful was better than the last. Check out our dinner, starting with some fantastic gin cocktails, course-by-course in the gallery below.