.. and the first Blunt Roll for gardeners has arrived to Tucker Taylor.
One happy apron indeed.
Farmers and Chefs - it is a privilege to outfit you.

Passion Project - Blunt Roll

I have been neglectful of this site lately, but for good reason…

I have been working diligently on designing the Blunt Roll, an apron made with chefs in mind.
It’s been described by chefs as “awesome”, “soigné”, “sexy”, amongst other flattering phrases. That is what makes it all worth it, that’s who I made them for.

It’s handmade with denim and leather, and it’s washable - yes, washable leather! It doubles as a knife roll, it has an adjustable leather neck strap and long apron strings to fit any chef. The detailing sets it apart, accented with knife brands. It’s handmade here in Hogtown by Roots Canada. Local and quality.

I’m proud of it because the people I made it for seem to love it, doesn’t get any better than that.

Only a couple of days old, I hope that you see them on warm bodies in restaurants soon, but you can see them here too…
www.thebluntroll.com

Uniting knife wielders since 2013: The Debut of the Blunt Roll Apron... →

thebluntroll:

Chefs work hard, really hard and they get dirty.

Blunt Roll wants to outfit chefs everywhere in quality aprons that look as good on them as their food looks on the plate.

The Blunt Roll design is inspired by the classic ‘uniforms’ worn by craftsmen such as butchers, farriers and blacksmiths….

Mardi Gras means breakfast for dinner

Fat Tuesday means pancakes and when you are making cake for dinner, it just makes sense to make the best.

April Bloomfield's pancake recipe in A Girl And Her Pig is worthy at any hour, so they just made sense for Pancake Tuesday.  Light, staked high and incredibly cake-like when plated, they end up sweet and spicy with the addition of pequin peppers crumbled atop.  I now add pequin to dishes as much as I always incorporated vanilla.  Couple them and, well, prepare for bliss.

April Bloomfield’s Pancake Recipe 

*from A Girl And Her Pig, adapted ever so slightly, by me.

Batter:

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

Kosher salt  *(I used Maldon)

4 large eggs

1 3/4 cups whole milk

4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted  *(I used duck fat)

* 1 vanilla bean (scraped)

extra butter for the pan and to finish

Add sifted flour to mixing bowl and mix in a couple of pinches of salt.  Create a well in the centre and crack your eggs into the chasm.  Then slow and steady, whisk your milk and 3/4 cup room temp water in by whisking from the centre out.  Once it is smooth and (to quote the book) liquidy, whisk in your melted butter (or in my case, duck fat and vanilla seeds).

The recipe called for an 8 inch nonstick pan, but I prefer to use my copper pans for everything, and it worked like a charm.  Heat your chosen pan on high heat for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat, add a touch of butter and either swirl it around or do as I did and wipe it around with a bit of paper towel to evenly distribute.  Pan in one hand, ladle in the other, drop in enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the pan once swirled around.  These are crepe-like cakes, I used just about 2 1/2 tbsp per pancake.  Return to the heat and after about 15 seconds, give it a shake just to release it from its grip on the pan.  Cook each side for about 30 seconds or till golden. If you are an ace, you can flip them but a spatula to turn is perfectly acceptable here.  One after another, butter at will in between and pile them as you go to form the most appealing cake of a meal.

 

I added a side of my bacon that I flour and bake at 400 for 15 or so minutes.  It keeps its figure and creates the most brilliant crisp.

Top your castle of cakes with a pat of butter, as much maple syrup (I have a Noble maple syrup habit that I refuse to kick) as makes you grin and crush some dried pequin chillies on top, you will not regret it.

For breakfast, of course!  For lunch, why not?  And for dinner, don’t you deserve it?

Any unwelcome religious overtones aside, this is a deserved tribute to those that provide us with so much more than we are able to give back.  It is a miracle that so many farmers have continued to labour as they do, against all the odds and sparse reward.

May farmers everywhere move into the spotlight and harvest the support from us all that they so richly deserve. 

Ok, so maybe Winterlicious isn’t the worst thing ever…

I have never eaten at a restaurant that participates in Winterlicious, during said event. There are many reasons for this, but the most important among them is.. I do not support the torture of our city’s restaurant staff - as a rule; I understand food costs and do not see a win for me, as a diner in this senario; and, as someone who doesn’t go shopping on Boxing Day either, I prefer to avoid crowds that revel in the deal more than the meal.

So, imagine my surprise at my morbid curiosity when I stumbled upon the menu for a restaurant that sounded too good not to check out, regardless of their submission to this winter food ‘event’. I came across Parts & Labour's Winterlicious menu when Ivy Knight from Swallow Food tweeted it this past weekend. So, on Sunday night, on a whim, I decided to turn in my Winterlicious virgin card.

I have not been into Parts & Labour since their opening party. It was a great night, a glimpse at a room like no other and yet, sadly, I hadn’t made it back to actually eat there till Sunday night.

The dining room at P&L reminds me of MOMA. It is reminiscent of many a very cool art instillation. The sleek bar, great music and communal tables give the open space substance. Upon arrival though, we were led to the back, through the dining room and into the kitchen space. Across from the pass, sit three stand up tables of four. True dinner theatre should always be this and not that dramatic drivel. The only thing better than being in the kitchen, is eating within view of it.

Point of this story, is that any restaurant that can pump out food like this during the deep dark depths of Winterlicious, is worth many return visits when this fest is over. Three courses for half or less of their usual price, all designed to attract more diners the rest of the year… not usually a winning combo.

I stand corrected. Pork belly to write home about. Served in a bowl of what is best described as pure comfort and joy, the oats with trotter and maple syrup were like a warm hug. The belly was moist and incredibly substantial for what is a limited ‘special menu’ budget. If they would open for breakfast, I would make the trip for this each day. Two quail? How are they managing it? Crispy kale, beautiful beets and a delicious parsnip purée. And dessert. I cannot adequately describe the decadence or appeal of the P&L doughnut. Crispy, yeasty, beg-for-mercy and another, kind of treat.

Before we had even ordered though, we had glanced the list of terrines written on a white board. We were seated in the kitchen, so why not ask? The chef himself, Matty Matheson, was kind enough, on the fly, to oblige the request and served us some of the most appetizing head cheese around.

Because we arrived early, we were finishing as the onslaught descended upon P&L. The chits stacked up like odds in Vegas and my heart went out to the brigade who would be slicing through weeds for a few hours to come.

So, live and learn. I still have no desire to participate in Winterlicious, but because I made this exception, I discovered that I had been missing out by not dining at Parts & Labour. As soon as it is over, I’ll be back.

Sundays just got better..

This is what I remember brunch being like, this is why I used to love brunch.

Apparently The Black Hoof used to do brunch. I had never been but upon hearing about their return to the weekend tradition, I decided to check it out.

Hosted from Hoof Raw Bar, next door to The Black Hoof, this quaint and cozy room is the equivalent to lounging in your well lit loft in Paris or New York over your Sunday breakfast.
Having wandered into the Raw Bar for the first time last summer on my way to a concert, I sat at the bar and remember thinking how right Jen Agg had gotten it. I love this room, it feels right. Simply appointed and warm, every aspect of the space is directed towards one end - enjoyment. One cannot help but relax in this room and focus on two things alone - food and company.

The blackboards that hang from the wall listed all things offal. Brunch has become special again. Nothing has done more damage to ‘brunch’ as a concept than thousands of restaurants serving the same eggs benny in consistently dwindling quality. There is a resurgence of a proper nod to the laziest meal of the week in some fantastic Toronto spots - and this is one of them.

The offer of french press coffee was enough to make me want to order champagne in celebration. Good coffee is as fundamental to brunch as horses are to rodeo. The coffee at The Black Hoof is worth the minutes you wait before making the plunge.

Choosing from the menu was more difficult than I expected. I don’t often find myself wanting everyting available. The blood pudding mcMuffin was a must. I grew up eating blood pudding and if it is done well, it is divine. The idea of it in this classic breakfast sandwich as the ‘ham’ was as playful as it was brilliant. Arriving on a flip tray, wrapped in checkerboard paper, this is the best mcMuffin I have ever had the pleasure of. The Hoof should prepare for a line up of desciples looking to take these babies out each weekend.

Heart ‘n’ eggs. This is even more involved and incredible than it sounds. Not only is the sous vide and seared heart delectably dressed with a salsa verde that sings in perfect harmony with the meat but there is more.. the eggs are scrambled with marrow and served in the bone. Perfectly cooked eggs have become harder to find at brunch than Hoffa. The eggs here are not only the right texture but the addition of bone marrow brings a little heaven to earth.

A few weeks ago I was crowing on Instagram about my decision to add duck fat to my homemade waffles and once even top them with pulled pork… I thought I might give up ordering waffles when out because of it. Well, the Black Hoof makes fried sweetbeads and waffles that will have you wondering why they were ever served with chicken. Chives, jalapeño butter and a Sriracha maple syrup, a truly excellent blend of flavours.

It cannot go unsaid that the price at The Black Hoof’s brunch, is right. We have all been gouged and taken advantage of while partaking in brunch in the city. What a surprise and delight to eat so well, enjoy so fully and smile when the bill arrives. Also, Ms. Agg works the room like you want to see all owners or managers when you eat out. You know things will go well for you when the captain is steering the ship this well.

Top off all this with a brunch staff that is clearly not miserable to be serving you, hung over and angry to have to be working on Sunday at this hour. Seamless service with a smile…. The Black Hoof should teach brunch.

This Group of 7 delivers on a first-class concept

This past Monday night, at Beast Restaurant in Toronto, The Group Of 7 Chefs hosted their first collaboration of 2013.  A Vegetarian Dinner designed and executed by four of their group and a guest chef, started their busy year off right to a sold out room of herbivores and omnivores alike.

Chef Chris Brown from The Stop Community Food Centre, Matty Matheson from Parts & Labour  , Bertrand Alépée The Tempered Chef , Scott Vivian of Beast Restaurant and their guest, Ted Corrado, managed to pump out a feast from the cozy little kitchen on Tecumseth.  These chefs were all smiles, describing their courses to the crowd as we ate and socialized with guests - revealing their sincerity, not only for their love of cooking but also relaying their genuine belief in community.

As a diner who rarely eats an entire dinner sans meat, I was intrigued to see what these chefs would roll out for a meal devoid of it.  I love my vegetables but I believe it takes a great deal of thought, skill and imagination to turn out a great vegetarian meal, especially when serving guests who may not be vegetarians.  This meal had me considering eating like this all the time.

Beautifully carved mini wooden bread boards were adorned with mini bread rolls baked to a perfect dark hue along with mini baguettes, shared between guests at long, communal tables - we literally all broke bread together.  

An amuse of braised celery root stuffed with mushroom mousse and sprinkled with pumpkin dust was one of the most delicious teasers I have ever had.  Foraged mushroom soup followed - a forrest of fungi, radish, “lots of butter” and a dried porcini, miso broth poured table-side, was warm, inviting and rich with flavour.

A melt-perfectly-on-your-tongue smoked ricotta gnocchi was elevated by kale, chestnuts and pecorino.  The next step was a gorgeous plate of smoked endive, roasted eggplant, parsley purée with candied hazelnuts and blue cheese foam.  The last course was a delicately plated panisse that would leave David Lebovitz envious.  Accompanied by sunchoke purée, pickle and chips, topped with broccoli seedlings. 

The evening was rounded out delectably with a rum baba, served with sides of lime chantilly cream and candied toffee pineapple… sweet success.  The dinner was balanced, perfectly portioned and the atmosphere incredibly inviting.  

Many of us don’t often enough get the pleasure of dining this way - incredible food, shared with others, more akin to a party than a restaurant dining room.  Meeting the diner next to you and sharing the experience and conversation is too rare a treat in most places.  Perhaps it is because although communal tables are found in some restaurants, the essence of communal dining is not just about the physical table, it is what these chefs have managed to exude, capture and share; community temperament.  

The Group Of 7 Chefs, who also include Kevin McKenna of Taboo, Mark Cutrara of Cowbell and Mark Dufour of Earth Rosedale, are a meeting of like-minded culinary visionaries who not only believe in, but support everything from community, local, Canadian, sustainable ingredients, to farmers, winemakers and more.  Not limited to our borders, this past November the group invited Matt Jennings from Farmstead Inc. in Providence RI, to host a Dairy Dinner with them at The Royal Winter Fair.  These chefs are forming a community to improve the food we eat and how we think about eating it.  Real talent and fine food made from superior ingredients, without the stuffy staff, fancy linens or diners feeling inferior to those serving them.  Joining forces with other cooks to encourage and assist our farmers and good food in general, while also making dining more collaborative and fun, is not only ingenious, it is vital.

The Meat Locker

On a quest yesterday to find some pigs ears and pork cheeks, I ventured to Kensigton market. I had heard tell of a wonderful new butcher shop that had recently hosted a dinner by The Group of 7 Chefs.

Where Baldwin meets Kensington, in the heart of the market, I found a little slice of meat heaven. A deli counter that offers sandwiches, gorgeous gourmet pies nestled under glass fridge, warm and helpful staff…. it’s a time machine to when shopping for dinner was akin to fun and adventure.

All variety of fresh meat is on offer. Much organic, lots of game and even a variety of fresh, novel eggs - you don’t find duck eggs at your big box store.

Peter Sanagan, formerly of kitchens such as Auberge du Pommier and Mistura amonst others, returned to Toronto and brings local treasures to lucky shoppers. Housed in the fomer Max & Son butcher shop, Sanagan’s Meat Locker is a welcome addition to our historic Kensington.

Offering product from farms such as Black Bow Farms, Forsyth Farm, West Grey Farms, Ontario Harvest, Everspring Farms, King Capon Farms and so many others, Sanagan’s is giving our farmers the means to showcase their goods in the city. Farming is not just a necessity that we rely upon, it is a lifestyle, a commitment to never ending work and an art that is so often undervalued. Sanagan’s dedication to offering our farming community a stage to shine on is something that benefits us all.

Unfortunately for my dinner menu, they were out of pigs ears. The beauty of a place like this is that you don’t care, there is such an abundance to choose from that coming in with a list seems ridiculous. Letting their display create your menu is so much more rewarding and frankly, how shopping leads to great dinners - fresh and inventive.

They are so hospitable at Sanagan’s, that when I inquired about duck fat (which I have been known to use as butter), I was told that there was none for sale. Upon overhearing this, another staff member, who was rolling out dough, offered to part with some of his private stash to sell me. This is what a trip to the butcher should be like. Alice had Sam, Toronto now has Sanagan’s.

New Year - Kitchen Style

It is a fair assumption that most cooks are not thrilled to be stuck at the stove each New Years Eve instead of with family and friends, drinks in hand.  I, however, have come to look forward to my New Year tradition of working in the kitchen, churning out the plates for the dining room revellers and toasting the stroke of twelve with the staff.

In fairness, I am there by choice.  Each year at this time they welcome my extra pair of hands but many have spent countless New Years Eves in the kitchen, hard at work.  One of these chefs has clocked over 15 years running, at the stoves, on New Years.  This was my third year in an apron, amongst a brigade of hard working chefs, serving up special fare for a well heeled crowd in the dining room above them.  As they cranked out festive delicacies below, the crowd they served sipped champagne, relaxed and made merry.  This, is not unlike any other night.  The significance of New Years Eve for the kitchen though is that the rest of the world is off, enjoying the party with the ones they love. 

So it is a testament to their attitude, passion and incredible dynamic that they move through this evening with the same focus, dedication to craft and witty banter that accompanies any other service.  Just add champagne and a shot (or two..) at midnight.

The kitchens full of renegades everywhere make your evenings what they are, and on some nights, even a little more appreciation is in order.

NYE prep


NYE at the pass

NYE goodies

NYE scrub



Thank you chefs, always - but an extra glass raised to you all at New Years.

Sweet Sake

After stringing my fifth popcorn garland for the tree, it occurred to me that this popcorn could please humans too.  This elf was going to begin to tackle the baked gifts.

It’s time to give and these sweet confections can also be made palatable and fun for an adult audience.  I have been in full ‘gift baking’ mode, trying to come up with interesting edibles that package well and will be lighthearted enough for the season.  Both of these recipes can be tailored to your particular friend or host and can be packed up in jars, bags or any other vehicle to please.  There was sake in the fridge.

Sake & Pink Peppercorn Popcorn

per 8 cups of fresh popped popcorn

1/2 cup sake (or water or other spirit..)

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 tbsp pink peppercorns, crushed with a mortar & pestle

sprinkle of Maldon salt

you will need a candy thermometer for this…

(I also made vanilla, rose & lavender popcorn and tequila, vanilla & lime popcorn with this recipe.  The alcohols are interchangeable as are the other flavours)

Set up a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

I like to freshly pop my corn on the stove, in a large stock pot, with a little vegetable oil.  I suppose you could use the microwave kind, but I would suggest one without butter.  I cannot make any definite claims in this area, however, I do not own a microwave.   Keep the popped corn warm in the pot on the stove while you cook up your topping. 

Into a saucepan on medium-high heat, mix together your corn syrup, sugar and liquid (when I am using vanilla beans, I also add them at this stage).  Bring to a boil, insert your candy thermometer and cook to the hard crack stage, about 300 degrees (this will depend on the climate in your environment).

When the temperature is getting close, lay your popcorn out on the baking sheet.  Once the temperature is reached, pull it off the heat and add your peppercorns (or lime, lilac or bacon or anything that is going to make you giggle) and stir it in, quick as a bunny.  Now drizzle the hot (as molten lava) liquid onto your popcorn as easily as you can and toss with anything that won’t stick or melt, like a couple of wooden spoons or a spatula.  Distribute as evenly as possible, but it will set quicker than you think.  It will taste fantastic regardless.  When was the last time that your butter was easily distributed on each kernel at the theatre?  Still went down pretty well, didn’t it?  Wait the 10 minutes till it cools, break it up and consume responsibly or package it up for some lucky recipient.

Sake & Pink Peppercorn

Tequila, Vanilla & Lime

Vanilla, Rose & Lilac

Sake, Vanilla & Pequin Pepper Marshmallows

1/2 cup cold sake

2 cups sugar

3 7g packages of unflavoured gelatin

2/3 cup light corn syrup

pinch of Maldon salt

1/4 cup water

2 vanilla beans, split and scraped

8-10 pequin peppers, ground with a mortar & pestle

a large bowl with about 1 cup icing sugar for dusting

(I have made these with other boozy concoctions like tequila and lime, bourbon and vanilla or amaretto and vanilla - they all work like a charm.  Pick your favourite and sub it in for the sake in the gelatin stage and the final stage where I have the peppers for any other spice or flavour)

Line an 8x8 (or really any size pan you desire, it will simply change the shape) with plastic wrap.  Spray it down with a touch of non-stick spray.

Into the bowl of your electric mixer, prepped with the whisk attachment, pour your packets of gelatin over the cold sake and let it sit for 10 minutes while you are busy at the stove.  In a saucepan, with the stove at medium-high, combine your syrup, sugar, vanilla beans from the pod and water.  Bring to a boil and allow to boil rapidly for just a minute or two.  Off the heat and drain slowly into the mixing bowl with the mixer at high speed.  Once the hot liquid is all in, add a pinch of Maldon salt (or any other coarse salt) and let the mixer go for 10 minutes.  Next step is to add in your pequin pepper dust and mix it for another minute to incorporate.

Pour the mix into the prepared pan and spray another piece of plastic wrap with non-stick spray.  Put the spayed side onto the marshmallow and gently smooth it out so that you have a relatively flat surface.  

Walk away.  Leave it to set for 2 hours and then cut it into your desired shape with a sharp knife, or cookie cutters (coating the blade with non-sitck spray helps) and toss them in the bowl of icing sugar to lightly coat them and prevent them from sticking to everything they come in contact with.

This well scented, sweet and spicy version is a tasty and inventive, for a curious, adult palate. Bourbon and vanilla can kickstart a dessert or your of-age hot chocolate, but really, anything works.  Make the marshmallow please you.  You will never buy a bag of marshmallows again.  Don’t forget, they can also be made for the kiddies, with just vanilla, or cinnamon, star anise or whatever they crave.  These homemade, fresh versions melt into their cocoa like butter…

I can’t stop making marshmallows…

Rolling Out The Love

I miss living down the street from Babbo. We are incredibly lucky here in Toronto, the restaurant choices are vast and getting more impressive every day. That does not, however, preclude a misty eye when I remember a favourite spot, in another place that I once called home. That New Year’s Eve a few years back at Babbo in the West Village that my toddler danced around the bar and fell in love with pasta holds some blissful memories - the kind that stick.

This little trip down that memory lane that was Waverly Place, had me picking up Mario Batali’s cookbook and sighing. As I opened it, I realized that the image I had opened to was to be dinner. With only an hour and a bit to spare, how appropriate that I had stumbled upon his ‘mint love letters’….

Mario Batali’s Mint Love Letters - from the Babbo Cookbook

* I cut this recipe in half. I should not have because that little girl and I polished these off and could have had more!

1 pound sweet peas (fresh or frozen)
2 cups mint leaves (reserve some for garnish)
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated)
1/2 cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper (I used my mortar and pestle)
salt

basic pasta dough (which he offers a recipe for in the book)
basic tomato sauce (also a recipe in the book, but I made mine)
1 pound merguez, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 pound Pecorino Romano for grating

I first put on my sauce so that it had time to simmer and evolve while I tackled the rest. This was going to be short order cooking for an untested treat, but half the fun is in the fantastic craze of it all. I often think that I create this for myself because cooking at home can lack that delicious ‘pressure’ that drips from the walls of a professional kitchen.

Second attempt ever at pasta dough. I have the machine, a present from last year and this would be it’s maiden voyage. I love the bread and pasta recipes that call for a manual mix. The well in the middle of your flour pile… it was a swift and meaningful blending of (again, I cut this in half):

31/2 to 4 cups flour
4 extra large eggs
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

The flour on my large cutting board, a well made in the center, and the eggs and oil into the well. Starting by beating the eggs and oil in the middle, I gently brought in the flour until it was incorporated. Then it longs to be kneaded. A little more flour on the board and I kneaded for a good 5 minutes. One hopes for elastic and sticky. I then put the ball into a bowl and covered it with a kitchen towel for 30 minutes.

As my tomato sauce continued to work independently, I needed to add the merguez. In it went to simmer and enhance my ‘gravy’.

I set up my food processor. The peas went into boiling water for just a minute, then straight into an ice bath. The mint followed this process but boiled for 10 seconds only, before sharing the bowl of ice. Both were drained together.
Into the processor went the peas, mint, cream, Parmigiano cheese and salt and pepper, pulsed to a smooth paste.

Out came the pasta machine. I rolled it first with a rolling pin and then, once it was thin enough to fit into the machine, I rolled it through several times until it was at the thinnest setting. Once it was cut into about 3 inch squares, each got a dollop of the pea and mint filling and was folded over into a little package that resembled an envelope shape. The recipe didn’t call for it, but I didn’t want to risk these babies bursting open as they cooked, so I added two steps. I egg washed the edges before folding and I used my goofy little rippled vegetable cutting tool to trim the edges, hoping for a further seal. Laid neatly out on a cookie sheet, they waited.

A full hour had now passed, my tomato sauce could be transferred to the food processor or a pulse. This worked perfectly for me because my little girl is adamant that she not only does not like tomato sauce, “I am an agilo e olio girl, extra garlic!” but she also will not accept meat (which she loves) in her sauce. I was now going to be attempting to sneak two things, not easily hidden, onto her plate.

The love letter pasta went into boiling water for about 3 - 4 minutes and then drained and tossed in with the sauce in a saucepan, on low heat, with the extra mint, chopped up. A quick toss and then onto a plate, with some Pecorino Romano grated atop.

Not only could I not believe the joy and ease with which this unbelievable dish could be pulled off but, other than a first wary glance, the Little Miss took one bite and didn’t come up for air until she asked for more! The creamy sweetness of the mint and pea filling mingling with the spice of the lamb sausage and the bite of tomato - you really do fall in love.

That is twice now that Chef Batali has had my little girl wrapped around his culinary finger with pasta. Oil and garlic, these Love Letters and April Bloomfield's gnudi are now requested weekly. Time those little fingers learn to roll and shape.

The Hosts With The Most - Ruby Watchco

Two nights in a row.  

After the first moving experience on Friday night, my first time at Ruby WatchCo, I made a reservation, during dessert, for the next night.  That, really, says it all.

I fist called early in the afternoon on Friday to discover that they could squeeze two of us in, either very early or vary late, I opted for the nine o’clock reso.  I arrived without expectation but as always, I was hoping for good food, and new dining experience and hopefully, a side of charm.

Immediately upon arriving through the second entrance door, there is a warm, casual and sincere embrace.  Any attempt at an adequate description would be left wanting.  Sufficed to say that this spot is all heart.  One is immediately greeted by any one of a number of genuinely jovial and naturally unaffected staff.  The room is effective.  Noble in it’s grasp of home and hearth, a comfortable berth in which to situate yourself for a meal at a friendly table.  An antique file shelf, a long inviting bar, flirtatious lighting and  snug seating are all misleading in their simplistic appearance.  These well executed touches have, no doubt, been painstakingly crafted for one sole purpose - to make you feel at home, in your good friends dining room - a place you love to be in.

Each night is a new set menu.  Seasonal, fresh and inventive, this is food to make you smile from the kitchen of a celebrity chef with an incredibly impressive record.  Lynn Crawford is star of the Food Network show Pitchin’ In, was the only female executive chef for a Four Seasons Property in the world when she was at the helm in New York and  was the star at Truffles, Toronto.  She is Canadian born and one of our sharpest talents.  As an Iron Chef, she battled Bobby Flay - to any of us watching, she won.

This is a chef you can trust.  You need to be able to because there are no choices here.  You come to her table ready to eat what she and her staff prepare.  For some of us, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.  When you know what you like, trust can be a difficult commodity to hand over.  At Ruby WatchCo, it is a pleasure.

Starting with a cocktail, crafted with serious dedication from the bartender, the kitchen has a lot to live up to after her offerings.  The ‘stocking stuffer’ arrived in a Marie Antoinette champagne glass (old world sexy) and was an intimate union of tequila, cherry juice, vanilla, cinnamon and lime.  Garnished with a solitary cranberry that had bathed in cinnamon - best cocktail I have ever tasted.  No shattering of nitrous ice on a triangular teeter totter over lava… this was the genuine article.  No flash needed, substance reigned supreme.  A lovely list of wines, showcasing some VQA gems, there is something to please every palette and any purse.  Also provided, is the option to pair each course with the selections made for each.

Friday’s dinner was started with a lively and hearty salad of lettuces, pickled onions, broccoli and crisp salami, dressed in oregano vinaigrette.  Joined by homemade savory biscuits,it is more than a generous amount for two, served family style (as is each course) and yet, nothing remains.

The main course of bacon wrapped steel head trout was finished to perfection. Add to it apple butter and sides of roast cauliflower, brown butter garlic rapini and lentils with yoghurt so delicious that I could have made of meal of them (and lentils are at the end of my list of favourites). 

A cheese plate is presented before dessert, the perfect amount and a selection made in earnest.  Dolce came in the form of a Guinness spice cake with candied peel buried within.  What an immaculate finish.

To reiterate, it was so good, I went back friends back on Saturday.  

Kozliks’ mustard glazed bacon atop living greens, fried garbanzo beans, sherry roasted radishes and a spicy tomato aioli!  This was so much more than a salad.

Followed by grilled flank steak with pepper mushroom gravy.  Sides of smashed potato and arugula, butternut squash with chipotle aioli and the one that knocked me over, the Hillside Gardens’ Parsnips with walnut butter.

An artisanal cheese plate of chilli goat gouda with Warners Farms’ pears and Chef Lora’s Chocolate peanut butter tart with a delectable coffee whipped cream… oh mercy.  

Two straight nights of farm fresh, eloquently crafted, heavenly dining.

The food is outstanding. The only thing that could upstage it is the family that invites you in.  By far, this is a staff made up of the most effortlessly graceful, knowledgable and delightful cast of characters I have ever enjoyed a meal around.  One cannot help but be tricked into forgetting you are in a restaurant, many times throughout the course of your meal.  This is a dinner party, pure and simple.  What an outright joy it is to eat amongst such efficient happiness.  Couple that with the fact that the menu changes each day and you could happily eat here religiously. They are closed tonight, may be the only reason I’m writing this instead of eating there.

Ruby.  Appropriate, because there will be many a time that I will surely wish I could don a pair of those slippers, click my heals and be back at their place for dinner.