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Royal Greeting

Tiffany Mayer, St. Catharines Standard


$10,000 – a plate dinner with prince a ‘casual elegant affair’

It was a meal fit for a prince.

And more than a few hungry, royal-watching philanthropists hoping to rub forks with his Royal highness Prince Edward.

The Earl of Wessex visited Niagara-on-the-Lake Sunday to have dinner with 20 guests who dished out $10,000 a plate to attend the event.

Prince Edward arrived at the winery with little fanfare and more than a half and hour late.

A photographer snapped photos as guests shook hands with the prince before he was whisked inside for dinner.

“It’s kind of a casual elegant affair,” said Suzanne Janke, Stratus’s director of hospitality and retail.

One with a meal prepared by celebrity chef Michael Stadtlander, who served striped British Columbia spot prawns, Nova Scotia lobster, squab, roasted lamb, pork and fish from Georgian Bay.

Most of the items on the menu were sourced from and around Stadtlander’s Eigensinn Farm near Singhampton, Ont., ranked ninth best restaurant in the world by London-based Restaurant magazine in 2002.

“You’ll have a taste of the landscape,” Stadtlander said about the menu.

Saturday evening, Stadtlander was packing up all the ingredients at home for a meal he had spent the past three  weeks preparing for.

“It’s a little stressful because it’s a 20-course meal.  If they were coming here, it would be a breeze,” Stadtlander said, adding the kitchen  at Stratus is small.

“It’s not that it’s a prince. It’s just a question of having everything organized,” he said.  “You really want to be the best you can possibly be.”

And at $10,000 a plate, “you have to be that good.”

It’s the first time Stadtlander, whose menus are typically 12 courses, has prepared a service for British royalty.  But serving blue blood is old hat for the chef, whose wife, Nobuyo, hails from Chinese royalty.  She also acted as liaison between the dining room and kitchen Sunday.

The private function was fundraiser for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program, of which prince Edward is chairman.

It also included a reception and six course  wine tasting with Stratus winemaker, J.L. Groux.

Musicans from the Shaw Festival provided a musical interlude between the main course and dessert.  Performing numbers from A Little Night Music, which opened at the festival earlier this month.

The preparation for the royal visit piqued the curiousity of visitors and residents, who have been calling the winery to find out what the fuss is about.

Janke, who was at the winery Saturday to continue assisting with preparations, said readying for the event was a lot of work.  “But it’s an honour,” she said.  The 3½- hour event was also an example of paying it forward, Janke explained.

Originally, the dinner was intended for 10 people.  The Standtlander made meal was donated by Stratus for last year’s Niagara Wine Auction.  The auction benefits the SickKids Foundation and the St. Catharines General Hospital Foundation.

Janke said the successful bidders, Toronto couple Janice and Earle O’Born, expanded the guest list and resold the tickets at $10,000 each to raise money for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program.

“In the end, this has fostered three charities,” Janke said.

Prince Edward is the Queen’s youngest son and seventh in line to the throne.  He has been in Ontario since Thursday to honour young Canadians with the Duke of Edinburgh’s gold awards, which recognize youth achievement in community service and physical fitness.

His stop in Niagara is his last before returning home to Surrey, England, today.

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