By Christine Donnelly

“I can’t eat… any… more.” My dinner companion was pausing for emphasis while tugging at the confines of her pencil skirt. “Look at my side profile!” she lamented, “I’ve got to go stand in the dark.”

Overwhelmed at What’s on the Table?, the 5th annual fundraiser for The Stop Community Food Centre , we had just eaten our way through a smorgasbord of decadent samples from Ontario’s top chefs, best restaurants and finest wineries. In two short hours we had gone from dinner, to cheese plates to deserts. Then, faced with grilled skate and enoki mushrooms in lobster and saffron broth from Chiado, we were hesitant, but not unwilling.

We jumped back into dinner again.

“Food is transformative” said Nick Saul, The Stop’s Executive Director, addressing the buzzing crowd. “It is powerful. It builds community.” And as testimony, Wednesday night’s $225 per plate event, housed in the soaring and beautiful Wychwood Barns, raised over $290k to support The Stop’s critical anti-hunger programs.

Community advocates for sustainable food systems and education, The Stop was feeding 120 people per day through their drop-in center last year, now, according to Danielle Goldfinger, the Stop’s Event Co-ordinator, that number is closer to 220. Use of the food bank has increased by 30%.

These programs are funded primarily through the proceeds of this one event, which included silent and live auctions for sumptuous items like a vacation in a Tuscan Villa, a Tiffany pendant and a gorgeous Greg Girard photograph which I circled and sighed in front of all night long. Since I couldn’t afford the photo’s $2k minimum bid, I decided instead to donate $50 to purchase a food hamper. Tara Marttinen, a Stop volunteer, explained that, “The purchase (of a hamper) buys a family of 4 enough food to last for three days.” In all, close to 70 hampers were sold.

Bloated and exhausted by 9:15pm, my dinner companion and I had sampled food from Amuse-Bouche, Cowbell, C5, George, Canoe and Scaramouche before we found a quiet corner near the cheese table to sit down. Delectable apricot and pistachio bread from Langdon Hall and triple cream brie from Quebec were served on plates from the Cheese Boutique where sommelier Pam Misener asked with a broad smile, “Is that the sexiest cheese you’ve ever had?” My dinner companion, her mouth full, eyes closed, head in her hands, just nodded yes, yes, yes.

The Stop’s Chef Chris Brown
Scrambled eggs from Scaramouche
Inside The Stop’s Green Barns
Brent Preston from The New Farm