Fireworks at The Inn at Bay Fortune
I’m Dining Out Here
by Andrew Sprague
In 2015 Chef Michael Smith and his wife Chastity Fizzard purchased the Inn at Bay Fortune. It brought Smith full circle to the restaurant where, in the early to mid-nineties, he launched his career as one of Canada’s most popular celebrity chefs. Smith re-branded the restaurant as Fireworks. The food would be cooked in a large stone hearth over fire. Diners would sit at large communal tables. Fireworks would offer a completely unique dining experience that went far beyond just sitting and eating. The Inn, the food, the staff, the grounds…each promised to play a part in a one-of-a-kind evening in a one-of-a-kind setting.
That is a lot to live up to.
We were invited by friends to join a group of 12 at Fireworks in mid-August. I’d heard mostly excellent reviews, and I couldn’t wait to take it all in.
We arrived a little after 6 pm for what’s called oyster hour. As we explored the grounds and the inn we found food stations. In the herb garden there was sausage; at the hearth, smoked salmon; on the lawn, cocktails and smoked brisket and slaw tacos; in the prep area, all you can eat Colville Bay oysters. I could have easily eaten enough to spoil the rest of the meal but I took my time and paced accordingly.
Before taking our seats in the restaurant Chef de Cuisine Cody Wallace led the staff and patrons in a toast to the farmers, the food, the place and the historic year. A little bubbly and we were off to our table in the restaurant. It was a nice touch.
The meal began with fermented heritage bread served with a trio of spreads. It was followed very quickly by seafood chowder garnished with Irish moss. They were both delicious, but there is much left to describe, so I’ll move on.
Next was fresh caught bluefin tuna served seared and tartar. It was remarkable. The texture, and the smoky flavour of the seared loin married just perfectly. The tangy citrus of the tartar cleansed the pallet after every bite. It was the best of all courses in my opinion, but we were nowhere near done.
Next was a beautifully presented salad from the Inn’s gardens. The server explained the dressings came from below ground, and the greens, seeds and fruits from above. It was a sharp salad that helped keep the digestive system from bogging down on account of the rich flavours and large servings.
I took a break here, and went for some fresh air. It ended up being a good idea. The next plate was a monster.
The wood grilled chicken breast and smoked chicken legs were served with fire roasted, steamed and sautéed vegetables, and dressed with chanterelle chicken jus. It was a rich, smoky, hearty assault on the pallet, and I say this as a compliment. It left me feeling breathless, like I’d just been kicked in the gut, but again, in a good way. It was one of those plates of food that are so delicious that you gorge until you feel pain, and then throw down your utensils, wave your napkin in a sign of surrender before throwing it down in front of you to hide from sight whatever might remain.
For dessert was pound cake and blueberry compote. But at that point it didn’t matter. Fireworks had lived up to its billing. It was completely unique and the food was delicious. When I got the check, though, I got to thinking.
A bottle of wine, a glass of wine, two cocktails and two seats at the table was $430, tip and tax included. The booze was very expensive at $14 to $16 per cocktail. That’s a price most Islanders either wouldn’t or couldn’t pay. And for those that would, there’s a gamble involved. What you eat is what they’re serving that night. You might like it, you might not. And unless you’re a vegetarian, or have some sort of other restrictive philosophy or condition, you get what they put in front of you.
Since that night I’ve asked a lot of people a lot of very pointed questions about their experience at Fireworks and I’ve heard a mixed bag of answers. Some didn’t like the food. Others disliked the communal dining. Some thought it was their best meal ever.
The conclusion, Fireworks is a very expensive, but truly unique dining experience that for the average person is both a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and a bit of a roll of the dice.