Sunday, 20 October 2013

Mercer Hall

104 Ontario Street
Stratford, ON


In her opinion:
Many of you know that I equate chefs to rock stars in my foodie world. I've had the privilege of meeting quite a few of these rock stars...the tormented but talented beyond belief Jonathan Gushue/Kurt Cobain, the hip and wonderful Vij Vikram/Neil Young, the always charming and giving Jason Parsons/Bono, the super sexy David Rocco/Adam Levine, the extraordinarily gifted Jason Bangerter/Marcus Mumford, the dynamic and super cool John Horne/Ewan Currie but I had yet to meet my foodie Gord Downie. That was until I met Tim Larsen of Stratford's Mercer Hall Restaurant at this year's Savour Stratford Culinary Festival.

Tim Larsen is cool, down to earth and a locavore. His cooking philosophy is impressive and his cuisine even more so. After watching Tim and Sean Collins at the Local Chef spotlight presentation at the Toronto Star's Culinary Stage where they prepared a "Bloody, Hearty Breakfast", I knew I needed to visit Mercer Hall Restaurant. Why not for a Thanksgiving brunch?

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that my family usually doesn't make a big deal about, so we often look for great places to eat on this holiday and often come up short. But this year while I was on Facebook, I noticed in my news feed that Mercer Hall Restaurant would be opened on Sunday and Holiday why not. We debated about the Nosh Monday - all you can eat tapas adventure or the brunch. But in the end it was all about the "Chicken and Waffles"!

Mercer Hall Restaurant is a nice long room with a good looking bar on your right that greets you as you walk in. The room is divided into three areas - the bar area, the middle dining room area which shares space with the kitchen and the end dining room area(those are my descriptions and not the restaurants). They are all nicely decorated and illuminated by some gorgeous chandeliers  The place is doubt about it but it is also unpretentious. And it's that combination that makes you feel welcome.

We were seated by the lovely Jessie Larsen (chef Larsen's wife) who also served as our very efficient waitress during our meal. After filling our water glasses, Jessie asked if we wanted a drink to start our meal...well, since it was Thanksgiving and I have a lot of blessing to be thankful for; why not have a drink drink? I decided on the Aperol Spritzer. A wonderful combination of Aperol, Prosecco, orange juice, soda and a slice of orange. 

This drink is not overly sweet with its unique infusion of sweet and bitter orange. It was a good way to start my brunch off.

For my main, I knew exactly what I wanted and had actually call dibs two days prior to ordering it when I made the reservation for brunch. It was definitely all about the "Chicken and Waffles". Described on their menu as 14 herbs and spices, 
Belgian waffles, maple syrup and house-made hot sauce.

In a word - FANTASTIC-AWESOME-INCREDIBLE-SUPER-DELICIOUS-GOODNESS...I know...that's actually 6 words - I can't help it. It was one of those dishes that you were already sad after the first bite because you knew it would eventually come to an end. I loved it. The fried chicken was boneless thighs and fried to perfection. The Belgium waffles were light, airy pillows of goodness. The maple syrup and house-made hot sauce, the cement that brought the whole dish together. It was by far some of the best, if not the best chicken and waffles that I have eaten.

We don't normally order a whole dessert each after a wonderful main but I wasn't passing up the chance to have Chef Larsen's dessert. I decided on the "Sticky Toffee Pudding". It was served with a caramel and pecan sauce, caramel ice cream and a beautiful sugar wafer.

I love sticky toffee pudding - it's comfort food at its best and this dessert did not disappoint. I ordered it along with a cup of coffee and that combination is heaven. The cake was delicious, the pecan caramel sauce incredible. The toffee ice cream...refreshing and delicious. I really enjoyed this dessert.

We had the pleasure of a visit from Chef Larsen during our brunch where we talked food and most importantly about his love of the Big Mac, which really hit home with me! His visit only reinforced his passion for local food and my opinion about what a fabulous guy he really is. Definitely my Gord Downie!

Overall, I loved our brunch at Mercer Hall...I will definitely return. It's one of those places that makes you feel welcome because their food is beyond incredible, their service is perfect and the overall ambiance - fabulous. Unpretentious and extraordinary sums it all up! 

In his opinion:
Mercer Hall, I have been wanting to try this place for a very long time. The reputation gathered by this establishment in the very little time it has been open is truly commendable. Also, it is not easy to establish oneself in a city like Stratford that already has many great culinary destinations ranging through all types of food.

After meeting Chef Tim Larsen at the Savour Stratford event, we made it a priority to go and check out his restaurant and I was pretty excited to do so. Some of the marvels of the restaurant also became a hinder in deciding when to go and eat. On Mondays they have tapas night (Nosh), and I'm a huge fan of tapas, maybe stemming from my 3 trips to Spain. Then there is the already legendary brunch served everyday and let's not forget Thursday is oyster night. Then of course there are some specialty days as well...

So many options and a decision had to be made. So for our first time we chose the brunch option. We arrived at restaurant and it is well decorated somewhat "pubish" but better appointed and modern than a traditional English pub. Very inviting and bright with plenty of space and a few different areas to dine in. The prominent bar occupies the whole entrance to the right and it seemed like a popular place to just hang out and have a few drinks.

I perused the menu for a few minutes, undecided on what to order (surprise, surprise) so I decided in the meantime to order myself a cocktail. I went with the Negroni Spagliato. I know it sounds like something dark from Italy but its actually campari, sweet varmouth, procesco and a slice of orange, very good and refreshing even if a bit more tart than I expected.

Negroni Spagliato
I finally made up my mind and since I couldn't pick the the Chicken and Waffles (someone called dibs on it, no names though), I decided to go with the already famous Mercer Burger. This burger consists of an outstanding short rib patty (oh so good), emmenthal cheese, mushroom "ketchup", roasted shallot aioli and heirloom tomatoes. After one bite into that burger it hooks you into wanting to bite again even if you haven't chewed the last bite, it's that good.

Fortunately I was able to pace myself, take one bite at a time, not chock and savour this extremely tasty burger (that sounded like Pulp Fiction). Anyway, it is a great burger and the fries that were served with it were fresh cut and perfectly done. Big mention has to go to the roasted shallot aioli that I requested for my fries, I could dip anything on that all day and night, very good!

For dessert, the decision was so much easier. As soon as I heard the words crème bruleé the decision was made. If you are a reader of the blog you know by now that those words are like Kryptonite for me...I gotta have it! Especially since this particular crème bruleé was espresso flavour and came with soft cinnamon mini doughnuts. Delicious.

The Good: Great menu, outstanding locally sourced food and a creative chef. The service was also very good.
The Bad: It's closed for 2 days (Tuesday and Wednesday) during the Winter Season.
The Verdict: Outstanding restaurant that rivals any other in Stratford. The food is great, the menu inspired and a chef that uses traditional techniques in a forward thinking menu. A must try when in Stratford.

I give it 4 out of 5 Olives as rating

Mercer Hall on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Artisan Baker

1423 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON


In her opinion:
I only recently found out about the Artisan Baker. When I read about this midtown cafe that had recently opened up, I was quite intrigued. The idea of a French chef, Bruno Beaudoin using local products in a traditionally French method made me smile. On a trip last summer to Prince Edward County we stopped in at L'Auberge de France in Belleville, Ontario and sampled some French pastry before heading down into the county. Much like Chef Jean-Marc Salvagno from Avignon, France and L'Auberge de France; Chef Beaudoin from Lyon, France and the Artisan Baker capture the taste's of a French bakery or cafe in Canada.

We had enjoyed a lovely lunch in the city at Chiado, but wanted to stop in and try what the Artisan Baker had in store. We were shown to a table by Sean who would also be serving us. I ordered a coffee with cream and a glass of water. We then asked to see the dessert menu.

Sean brought over a lovely tray of desserts for us to choose from. Since we had had a three course lunch at Chiado, there wasn't much room left for a full dessert. So we opted to get one dessert for the three of us to share and since little man wanted the berries from the beautiful berry cream puff, that's what we got. 

Sean brought over the berry cream puff and all three of us dug in. I tweeted that one single bite had transported me 6000 kilometers to Paris, France and that's exactly what this pastry tasted like. It was just like the pastries we had enjoyed during our trip to Paris. These were excellent.

We also picked three other pastries to bring home. We got an almond croissant, a chocolate eclair and a mille-feuille. The almond croissant was excellent. The cream filling was very delicate and delectable. The pastry itself was gorgeous. It was perfect croissant pastry. 

The chocolate eclair consisted of excellent choux pastry filled with delicious chocolate custard. It was very good.

The mille-feuille had a lot to live up to...afterall, mille-feuille has been my favourite pastry since I was a little kid...I love puff pastry. This pastry was very good. The puff pastry itself was excellent, the icing absolutely delicious and the pastry cream was soft and delectable. 

The Artisan Baker is a great spot in midtown Toronto which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner or just coffee and dessert. I hope to return for dinner soon. 

In his opinion:
Every chance that I get to sample a little bit of France in Canada, I jump at the opportunity. This is because I love French cuisine and also because French chefs tend to love their food more than their families, possessions and even "La belle Pais", France itself.

French chefs have the reputation of being extremely dedicated to their craft. Most want to take their passion everywhere including school cafeterias in France that boast classically trained chefs. Unfortunately. this was the wrong day for us to be visiting this great establishment as we had very little room for food after finishing a 3 course meal at Chiado.

We decided to split 1 dessert and take a couple more home. There was never any guarantees that the extra "to go" desserts would make the hour drive home as it is indeed hard to know you have French pastries in the car and not eat them.

I ordered an iced Latte that was very well done, perfectly balanced and extremely tasty. Refreshing also taking in consideration the hot temperature outside but emphasis on the taste above it all. 

We were shown a plank with the available desserts and ended up picking the Berry Cream Puff. The pastry we shared was absolutely delicious. The puff pastry itself was so soft and fresh and worked very well with the berries and chantilly cream. 

The Artisan Baker is extremely nice and inviting with a plethora of sweets and great food as well.

For some amazing French pastries or equally good French food (or both), check out the Artisan Baker, well worth the visit!

The Artisan Baker on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


864 College Street
Toronto, ON


In her opinion:
My husband had a lot to do with this meal...he had simply asked why we were doing only two Summerlicious events. He was right! Why only two? We had had a beautiful dinner at Bent and then the perfect anniversary dinner at Canoe, why not go for a third?

After checking to see what was still available on such short notice, I was lucky enough to book a table for three (we brought our non-foodie child with us) at Chiado on a Friday afternoon for lunch on Sunday, the last day of Summerlicious! We have had many good meals here and Portuguese food is still my favourite, so why not indulge at a fraction of the price!

When we arrived at Chiado, we were shown to our table in the Senhor Antonio section of the restaurant. We got a table near the bar. This section of the restaurant wasn't too full and that was actually nice as we felt we got great service from our waiter, Stanislav. 

Stanislav filled our water glasses right away, while another waiter brought us Portuguese corn and white bread, beautiful black olives and filled our tiny side bowls with excellent olive oil. They also brought out some butter for our picky eater. Stanislav then took our drink orders, I started with a glass of Alandra White. This was a lovely wine full of fruit and floral aromas. It tasted clean, fresh and well balanced. It was perfect for my seafood heavy meal.

For my appetizer, I ordered the "Grilled Sardines with lemon, garlic, extra virgin olive oil."

This was just so good. I love bbq sardines as any good Portuguese person would and these did not disappoint. I received two beautiful, de-boned sardines on a lovely lemony salad of fennel. I really enjoyed this appetizer which was a refined version of something that can be quite homey!

For my main, I ordered the "Filet of Seabream" (dourada) with a warm salad of green beans"

This was half a seabream, filleted and beheaded which was perfectly cooked. It was seasoned just right. The warm salad had green beans and gorgeous beets in a light vinaigrette. I really enjoyed this component of the dish. Beets are quite underrated and actually when prepared correctly can make any dish magic, much like they did on this plate.

For dessert, I picked the "White chocolate Flan". It was served to us by the Executive Sous Chef at Chiado, Sergio Abrunho. A young chef from Madeira who we follow on Twitter. Sergio also brought out a lovely plate of cookies (Ethan appreciated this gesture very much and grabbed one before the camera could even capture it). The flan was served with lovely berries and a berry coulis. This was a delectable light dessert. I thought it was the perfect ending to our meal.

Overall, I would say that this was an excellent lunch. The service was excellent, the food was delicious and the overall experience was very good. I wouldn't hesitate to return to Chiado.

In his opinion:
For those of you unfamiliar with Chiado, (there shouldn't be any of you) this restaurant has been a staple in the fine dining scene in Toronto for many years. It is my favourite Portuguese restaurant in Canada but not only because the ratings say so. It consistently delivers great food, amazing ambiance and service that is unparalleled in this city.

I admit that I struggle to contain any bias I may have when I describe this restaurant but considering that in most of my experiences at Chiado happen with me surrounded by non-Portuguese, then somehow any feelings of patriotism that may come through are dissipated by the authenticity of the food.

The restaurant, properly divided into 2 main rooms is elegant without being stuffy, some might even describe it as having an "Old World Ambiance". Throw away the pretentiousness and the desperate need to be hip, found in most TO restaurants and you'll find Chiado, a lovely dining room with timeless elegance that is so uncool that it is actually pretty cool.

I started off with a glass of red wine while feeling torn between choosing what item of the menu I wanted as appetizer and the idea that I could not sample it all as I so deeply wanted. Everything sounded amazing and my choice became arduous. I finally had to chose one, so I did,  the "Tartar of Salmon" served with avocado mousse and fresh apple.

This had to be some of the best Salmon tartar that I have ever had, if not the best. The salmon tasted unbelievably fresh, fluffy, cut into perfectly cubed pieces with a faint hint of citrus and involving tiny pieces of fresh apple. The avocado mousse was a perfect contrast to the faintly salt and peppered pieces of fish. Truly delicious and leaving me wanting more.

For my entree, I ordered the "Pan Seared Skate Fish" on lemon coriander risotto. This restaurant is mostly known for its fish, seafood and great wine selections but that doesn't mean that they can't make some outstanding meat dishes. Nevertheless, fish becomes my choice nearly every time I dine here just because it is that fresh and good...and I love it obviously.

The skate was tender, flaky and moist on the inside but with a slightly crispy skin on top. Great contrast of flavour and texture even before you bite into the coriander risotto that was perfectly cooked. This combination is a winning one in my books and a perfect display of amazing risotto in a non-Italian restaurant.

For dessert, I ordered the "Pecan Tart". It was simple, sweet and served with fresh berries. Not as exciting as the rest of the meal but a definite winner.

The Good: Perfectly cooked fish, amazing service and a hard to find way to keep Portuguese dishes traditional but with a "haute" touch.
The Bad: It is a special occasion restaurant after all and not wallet friendly for everyday visits, but well worth it.
The Verdict: What can we say that hasn't already been said? Elegance, poise, serving the best fish/seafood in town and making it look effortlessly. The service is legendary and ranks up there with the best in town as well. We were even quite impressed by our waiters knowledge of Portuguese cuisine, especially not being Portuguese himself. Try the octopus and the scabbard fish which are legendary at this venue.

I give it 4 out of 5 Olives as rating

Chiado on Urbanspoon

Friday, 11 October 2013

Sunday Brunch at The Cambridge Mill

130 Water Street North
Cambridge, Ontario


In her opinion:
Friends of ours suggested getting together for Sunday Brunch at the Cambridge first I wasn't sure given the fact that our little man doesn't really like food (a foodie mom's nightmare) and they charge $19 per child. However, avo came to the rescue and volunteered to watch him (I can't justify paying that much for a child when he would have only bread), we agreed! I was actually pretty excited. After all, the Cambridge Mill is the venue that started this Tips Are Included! blog

Fighting a pretty bad cold, I went in with a good attitude. Our waiter Joey brought us coffee as we waited for our friends to arrive. The coffee was delicious. We also ordered a couple of mimosas (these along with Bloody Marys and Caesars are included in the $41 cost per person).

The Sunday Brunch buffet is split up in several rooms with one section containing hot entree and breakfast items and the other rooms containing salads, dessert and seafood.  This is what I ate and drank:

-prime rib
-lime and chili corn
-perogies with sauted onions and sour cream
-peameal bacon
-eggs Benedict with Hollandaise
-smoked salmon
-oysters with traditional accompainments with Grey Goose Vodka
-different cheeses and crackers
-Alaskan king crab legs
-strawberry croissant bread pudding
-coconut cream tarts
-key lime pie
-a cappucino
-a mimosa
-a Caesar (extra spicy)

What she ate and drank.
I would be lying if I didn't say the Cambridge Mill has a beautiful Sunday Brunch spread. The food that I had was very good. It was perfectly seasoned and delicious. I'm sending a huge shout out to whoever makes their perogies (one of the only items not made in-house). These were delectable little pillows of goodness. I also want to say that their "Strawberry and White Chocolate Bread Pudding" topped with Creme Anglais was one of the highlights of my brunch experience. So so good. 

Having said this, I will say that I too was a little disappointed. Not in the food or the service. The service was excellent...Joey was an excellent waiter. The food, like a said before was very good. However, the thing that I find disappointing is the value of the experience. It was $82 for two of us plus tax and tip...for the amount of food and drinks that I ate and drank, I can't help but think that it was pretty pretentious. And let's not forget that it costs $19 per child. It is a good special occasion brunch but not realistic as a regular Sunday outing for an average family.

In his opinion:
This was our first time here for brunch, having been for dinner a couple other times and blogged about it. 

This brunch experience is a treat for Cambridge, there is nothing else like it in the city and allows people to experience good food in a brunch setting, something that has been lacking for many years in this city. Well, we do have Langdon Hall's brunch down the street but that's a whole different level, at least for most people in Cambridge. Let's not forget that this is the city where people populate restaurants like "The Keg" thinking it's a fine dining establishment.

The brunch served is quite extensive, there is food spread out in 3 different rooms with a mix of cold and hot plates and everything in between. In the main hall room you can find the "breakfast portion" of the brunch with the usual suspects like eggs benedict, sausage, bacon, etc..  Beside these hot and ready dishes you can find a couple of ready to order breakfast stations. In these stations you can have made for you on the spot crepes, omelets or eggs any way.

In the next room you can find a good selection of desserts, coffee/cappuccino/latte stations, freshly squeezed juices, some mostly cold seafood and even an oyster bar. Adding to the selection and to please adults and children alike there is also a chocolate fountain and plenty of fresh fruit to dip in it. There is also some charcuterie, a sushi station, breads, cheeses and smoked salmon to name only a few. Like I previously stated, the selection is extensive and for the most part, of great quality.

Armed with my mimosa (included in the brunch price) and some great quality coffee I started doing my rounds, sampling as much as possible and savouring some good dishes. I will attempt to give you the "skinny" on what I loved and/or what I didn't like so much about all that I tried.

The Good Stuff: Very good quality coffee and included mimosa/champagne (well sparkling wine) were a great way to start things. There were also juices and milkshakes but I wouldn't know it since sparkling wine is a much closer friend of mine, almost BFF like.

Of the breakfast food section, the crepes were well executed, the eggs benedict were great and the omelets I must say were excellent. The fresh berries and perogies were also highlights of that section, the rest was good not great.

in the opposite room the fresh Alaskan Crab (even though it was cold) was very tasty and so were the mussels and gravlox. I was excited to have some oysters and they were good especially with the addition of Grey Goose Vodka as a topping. The selection of cheeses, breads and especially desserts was good, with lots of choices of tasty treats with a bit to please every discerning taste. 

Lastly. the fresh fruit selection was also quite good. The service also deserves an honourable mention with my coffee cup only awaiting filling once in the whole time there. The cappuccino was also a highlight.

The Stuff That Wasn't As Good: The sushi was extremely disappointing. I know I shouldn't expect much from a brunch selection of sushi but it pails in comparison to the other selections. The oyster station never had more than 3 Oysters available to be taken, not sure if this was from the inefficiency of the shucker or the constant line up of people waiting for them. Overall, not much more to report on this, as the food does speak for itself in most ways.

I deliberately spent my review focusing on the quality of the food and not mentioning the $41 price of the brunch buffet. Although the price is steep, the food is plentiful and one can argue that mimosas, Caesars and sparkling wine included in the price can easily tip the scales on to a positive side.

I'm still unsure if a typical family of 4, 2 adults and 2 children would justify going to eat brunch here regularly at the tune of $120 plus tax and tip (roughly $155-$160). It is certainly a great experience and the gorgeous setting has to account for something after all. Comparing it to its sister brunch at Spencer's On The Waterfront, it has more but feels less satisfying.

My overall opinion is that if you haven't tried it yet, you should! It's a great experience and the satisfaction chances are very high!

Cambridge Mill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Farmhouse Tavern

1627 Dupont Street
Toronto, ON


In her opinion:
I first heard about Farmhouse Tavern when I laid eyes on it this summer on our way to our last Summerlicious lunch at looked like a happening place, so I did a little research. This convinced me that I should add it to my list of restaurant to visit. I should have known that it was a happening place, after all, it was featured in Toronto Life's "Where to Eat Now, 2013" issue. It's actually number 5 on the list.

I can totally see why. Darcy MacDonell has a little gem in the Junction. Chef Alex Molitz creates wonderful fresh farm to table cuisine. I knew I was going to enjoy our brunch just based on the buzz that this restaurant was getting but I ended up having a truly amazing meal.

We decided to forgo the patio for indoor seating instead. The decor is rustic...farmhouse chic is how I would describe it. 

Our server Alex brought over glasses of ice water and told us what they had on tap. I decided to go with Junction Craft Brewery's Shacklands Farmhouse Wheat beer. And I am so glad I did. This is easily the best wheat beer I have ever had. It had the best nose I have ever had in a wheat beer. The flavour was even better. Sorry Rickard's White and Hoegaarden. This was exceptional!

We decided to get a couple of things off the brunch menu and share them family style. After asking Alex about a few of things on the menu, we decided to go with "Farmhouse Poutine" and the "Mother and Child Reunion with Foie Gras". Farmhouse Poutine consisted of a potato hash with rabbit rillette, Thunder Oak gouda and braised leaks. (I know I probably messed that up!) The Mother and Child Reunion consisted of a salad made of heirloom carrots, radishes and 100 kilometer greens, two duck eggs coated in panko crumbs and deep fried, duck prosciutto, honey, toasted house made bread and for an extra $9 we got a slice of foie gras placed on top of the prosciutto. (It's incredible how a slice of foie gras can make a man happy or at least my man!)

Okay, where to was heavenly! I think that is the best way to describe it. It was really amazing. I think the fact that we were having such ingredients as rabbit rillette and duck prosciutto, duck eggs and foie gras only heightened the experience to a whole other foodie level. The farmhouse poutine was so so good. The hash was excellent, the rabbit rillette delectable and the Thunder Oak gouda brought everything together perfectly. The mother and child reunion is known as "the threesome" on the dinner menu with the slice of the foie gras. It was my perfect idea of a felt almost sinful having these incredible ingredients served on a butcher block! Salty, sweet and savory. A true threesome of deliciousness!

Overall, an amazing experience. The food was outstanding. The service was perfect and the ambiance relaxed and comfortable. I really enjoyed our brunch at Farmhouse Tavern and want to return for dinner.

"Mother and Child Reunion with Foie Gras" or "the Threesome"

"Farmhouse Poutine" or "Hangover Poutine"

In his opinion:
At the Junction in Toronto, where the street signs coincidentally say "Rua Da Madeira" (Madeira being the island of my birth) there is a not so secret gem in the city's food scene. At first, it may be easy to miss given its location a stone's throw away from Dundas Street, but I would advise you to look for it. Don't just drive by! Stop, park and make sure that you can cross this off your "foodie places to try" list because you won't be disappointed.

As you approach the Farmhouse Tavern you will notice the patio that surrounds the front of the building and a great alternative to the indoor seating options, even if you are not in the " be seen" neighbourhoods of downtown. The decor offers a rustic meets hippie approach with some stuffed animals in the mixture. Garage sale type mismatched glasses and country flea market furniture pieces complete the look.

The stars of this oasis of retro rustic chic are definitely the dishes. The food is unapologetic in its composition and the names of the dishes bring an aura of mystery, keeping you guessing what "Mother and Child Reunion", "Threesome" and "Cover Girl" actually means. The chalkboards on the wall give you the menus and the undecipherable dish names but a quick talk with your server and the mystery of the dishes goes away easily.

It was very hard to stay away from some of their overly bogged and talked about signature dishes like "The Barnyard Burger" ($20) or The Ploughman's Platter ($24) but we decided instead to share a couple of different dishes, giving us a closer insight into the local farm driven food that they so proudly advertise. I decided to start with a pint of the seasonal Beau's All Natural Brewing Company beer, which was the perfect way to start the meal.

We opted to share 2 dishes family style and when given the option to throw foie gras into the mix for an additional $9, we obviously agreed. The dishes we chose were the "Farmhouse Poutine" and the oddly named "Mother and Child Reunion.

The "Mother and Child Reunion" consisted of breaded deep fried duck eggs, duck prosciutto, honey, a heirloom salad and a slab of Foie Gras in the mix makes it a dish called "Threesome" in the dinner menu. The duck eggs were fantastic, some of the freshest and best tasting I have ever had and the seared foie gras was definitely a great addition to this plate. This is a curious concept of adding foie gras to most dishes for an additional $9 (recently increased to $10) but it seems to work very well.

The "Farmhouse Poutine" was outstanding and dare I say, one of the best I have ever had. The fresh cut cubed fries are coated with Gouda (Thunder Oak) rabbit rillete and braised leaks. Normally that description would be enough to sell this dish to any food loving person in this world but I will add that the topping are generous and extremely fresh, making this dish a must have for any poutine/rabbit fan out there.

The Good: Farm driven food is the theme and it actually works. The freshness of the ingredients, the locally sourced food really takes on a new level in this restaurant.
The Bad: At peak times it is hard to get a seat in this place, so reserve, reserve reserve. The prices are in line with a much fancier and better located place in the downtown core but still well worth it in my books.
The Verdict: Chef Alexander Molitz and owner Darcy MacDonell (of Le Societe fame) have a winning concept in this great restaurant. The food is superb and the service was outstanding. The buzz has been high and mighty since it opened and for a change it's nice to see a restaurant deliver on it's fame and reputation.

I give it 4 out of 5 Olives as rating

Farmhouse Tavern on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Savour Stratford - Toronto Star Culinary Stage

Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival
Stratford, ON

September 21, 2013

Property of Savour Stratford
The Toronto Star Culinary Stage is an important part of the Savour Stratford experience. It provides an opportunity for festival goers to watch a cooking demonstration and ask questions of some pretty awesome talent in the culinary world. This year we had the opportunity to attend four of these demonstrations. They focused on four different world cuisines keeping in mind this year's theme of "globally inspired, locally grown". We attended the local chefs, Burmese, Brazilian and finally Trinidadian demonstrations.

All of the demonstrations were fascinating, informative but most of all fun and engaging. We really enjoyed Chef Larsen and Chef Collins' local chef spotlight which focused on local ingredients and suppliers. Naomi Duguid presented from her recent cookbook, Burma: Rivers of Flavours. Demonstrating the complexity of this often overlooked cuisine. Chef Mara Salles from Brazil was endearing and sweet. She presented as a nervous English speaker during her demonstration of uses for manioc or cassava but her English was lovely. And finally, we watched Food Network's own, Roger Mooking and his demonstration on Trinidadian cuisine. Roger was extremely fun and worked his audience like the entertainer he is.

Below, we have provided a section on each of the demonstration we attended where you can see the different chefs in action and get their recipes (we've even included a couple of extra celebrity recipes). Enjoy.

1. Local Chef Spotlight - Tim Larsen and Sean Collins

Chef Larsen and Chef Collins presented "A Bloody, Hearty Breakfast". Here is the recipe. Even if you don't want to make the blood pudding or the cured pig's heart (I totally understand - even though it was delicious), give the biscuits and Hollandaise a try.
2. Naomi Duguid presents Burmese Cuisine

Naomi presented several different salad recipes from her new book, Burma, A Rivers of Flavour. She supplied the "Chicken Salad, Burmese Style" recipe. Find it here.

3. Mara Salles presents Brazilian Cuisine

Chef Salles of Tordesilhas (a top restaurant in Brazil) presented different uses for manioc and prepared farofa and a crepe like dish. However, we were not able to obtain her recipes. We have however, found a recipe for farofa similar to how Chef Salles prepared it if you are adventurous enough to try.

4. Roger Mooking presents Trinidadian Cuisine

Roger Mooking presented his recipe for "Cashew Spiced Chicken" and "Broccoli Dust". Find the recipes here. We also found a great blog post about Roger at Savour Stratford in the Huffington Post -

Also enjoy these recipes by Toronto Star Culinary Stage presenters:

Vikram Vij's - "Vij's Family Chicken Curry"

Elizabeth Rivasplata's - "Humitas or Steamed Corn Cakes"

Jordan Lassaline's  - "Egg Hoppers, Sri Lakan Pickled Eggplant and Pupusas"