We planned a weekend around a lunch reservation we booked at Le Pré. Before lunch, we first had a garden tour, which was really interesting. The main gardener is a former pastry chef and is doing a lot of research as well as trial and error to figure out what can grow best on their property. He spoke about their successes and failures as he showed us different crops. We got to sample some wonderful vegetables and herbs straight out of the ground or off the plant, including sweet white turnips, tiny carrots, cherry tomatoes, and fresh peas. We also got to try marigold leaves and a type of sorrel that combined to form an orange flavour, since they are trying to avoid using ingredients from far away whenever possible.
Lunch at Le Pré was wonderful as previously. We had the same server as last year, who remembered us and also turned out to be the architect behind the juice pairing. Service remains at a high level, which is not the case in general in many other places. And the flavours and presentation remain excellent:
YU pasture raised longhorn steak tartare, crunchy pickled garlic scapes, housemade mayo, steamed egg yolk (with a lovely skin on top) with sweet cicely and nasturtium on top. Fresh, fairly simple, nicely accented by the herbs and the scapes.
Juice: Strawberry, nasturtium, drop shot marigold leaves, and nasturtium oil on top - lovely, herbal, less sweet version of strawberry.
2020 Pearl Morissette Roselana - seemed quite herbal and tart with the food.
Sourdough (two massive slabs) made of red fife and Maris Widgeon (very tangy, lovely chewy insides) - with spread of roasted sunchoke, garlic, popped rice and brown butter.
- Razor clams in smoked nduja fat with heirloom cherry tomato and lemon balm - nice kick from some chili and some umami from the nduja fat.
- 2019 Cave Spring Riesling Beamsville Bench - gasoline first, quite acidic, nice body for the meatier clams.
- Smoked halibut (wild, line-caught), buttery green purée, summer squash slices, celtuce, kale, zucchini flower, Acadian caviar, day lily petals - perfectly cooked, lovely smoke flavour, with lots of flavours and textures from the vegetables. Perhaps the best dish for the meal.
- ‘Juice’: Summer tea - marigold, blackcurrant leaf, basil - amazing, basil-y and a gorgeous pale straw colour.
- 2017 Dix Neuvieme Chardonnay - milder, more delicate than some other years - lemon and mineral and maybe a touch smoky at the end.
- Upstate Abundance potatoes from the garden, lobster butter, chervil, snap peas, gooseberries and a green lovage oil and very sour sorrel leaves - awesome combination of flavours with perfect potatoes.
- Juice: Peas with rose monarda - really cool and floral, wonderful bright green colour.
- Friuli - La Castellada, Collio 2016 Ribolla Gialla, orange 60 days skin contact - wonderful, with butterscotch notes.
- Wild snow crab from Bonavista bay, roasted crab butter, beef broth with basil stem, elderflowers, pumpkin seeds, lightly poached , fresh garlic, basils, shiso, sorrels - another contender for top dish with a surprisingly great marriage of the crab with the beefy broth.
- 2019 Pearl Morissette Irreverence - slightly effervescent, lovely and really went well with the basil and crab and beef.
- Juice: Beets, fennel, raspberries (more of a hint) - so earthy and a beautiful purple with a slight foam
Guinea hen cooked over the peach wood grill, jus of false cardamom, cherries, pineapple sage, daikon purée, spicebush, hibiscus leaves, snap dragon flowers - juicy meat, some smoke, lots of complementing flavours from the fruits and herbs.
Sicilian red blend: Curva Minore, Cerasuolo di Vittoria - very nice, cherry-y as promised
Gré des Champs cheese from Montérégie Québec
2020 Pearl Morissette Bonbon ’outer space’ vineyard - another lemberger just for wine club members - fruity and chilled.
- Raspberries with goat cheese mousse and purée and raspberry tuile and aji limon pepper cream - the tart raspberry tuile was particularly fun.
- 2019 Ressac cab franc ’red foot’ vineyard - pleasant, light, cranberry cherry.
- Strawberry spicebush sorbet, tarragon oil, tarragon crumble, tarragon mousse, strawberry compote and grilled strawberries - spicebush gave some hints of cinnamon.
- Marsala Nero D’avola rose Rosammare, Barraco, 2020 - like a Sicilian roselana - cranberry with a mushroomy scent and later, mushroom aftertaste too
- Juice: cucumber, lemon, rose geranium, rose monarda, green grapes - complemented the strawberry beautifully
- Tiny pâte sucrée tartelette of black and redcurrant with meadowsweet custard and flower - over a lovely bowl of herbs including a bunch of red currants (that we ate)
After a nearly 3-hour meal, we headed to Tawse Vineyards. We made the mistake of booking 2 tasting portions and had to instruct them to give us very light pours so we could survive. (At subsequent tastings we ordered for one person only and shared.). Our favourites included:
- 2013 Laundry sparkling blanc de noirs (pinot noir) - apple pear, apricot
- 2012 limestone Riesling - honey, a bit of petrol, with some complexity
Dinner was on the patio at Bolete in St . Catharine’s. It is right downtown and the patio is on the street, which had been blocked off for a street festival. We were not hungry enough to eat or drink a lot, but the food we had was all very good and we’d be happy to try them again.
- Pingue prosciutto with compressed cantaloupe, fior di latte, basil, sweety drops, charred peach - lots of colours, textures, with a nice balance of sweet and salt.
- Dry rubbed honey bourbon duck wings with garlic aioli beside - three wing drums fried super crispy, delicious paprika based rub, bread and butter pickles.
- Crispy skin pickerel on cauliflower puree, cauliflower florets, new potatoes, crispy capers and regular capers, brown butter, parsley and citrus - perfectly cooked fish, with fairly straightforward accompaniments.
For Sunday breakfast, we went into Jordan to RPM Bakehouse (RPM stands for Restaurant Pearl Morissette). You order inside and then take a seat on the patio. Not surprisingly, everything was excellent:
- Scallop roe paté, beet jelly on top, pickled berries - like a seafood mousse, with some sweet and sour accents.
- Sourdough baguette - crusty outside, and moist and chewy on the inside. Easy to inhale the whole thing.
- Chicken confit sourdough flatbread - borage flowers, fennel fronds, arugula and other greens, chili yogourt - very tasty, chicken was salty but good with everything else.
- Blackcurrant danish with rose thyme pastry cream, hazelnut streusel - great flaky croissant pastry with tons of currants.
- Cherry tart with rouge de bordeaux crust, goat cheese, roasted cherries, lemon verbena - huge sweet cherries and lovely firm crust.
We also stopped at their vegetable stand and picked up Upstate Abundance baby potatoes, Hakurei turnips, and celtuce for dinner at home (which were all great). We also took home a strawberry choux (amazing green custard inside - verbena?) and spice bun (apple, spicebush and anise hyssop).
At a tasting at Château des Charmes, our favourites were:
- Blanc de Blancs 2017 Chardonnay, champagne style; second-fermented in the bottle, fruit cream vanilla - delicious, light and gentle.
- Chardonnay 2016 St David’s bench - citrus, floral, smooth and velvety.
- Gamay noir droit 2019 - local naturally occurring hybrid grape - aged in steel not oak, naturally spicy - kind of cherry and mint, almost smoky - very interesting.
And then a tasting at Foreign Affair. They pride themselves on appassimento so we focused on those:
- whisky barrelled 100% cab sauv 2019 - vanilla and a scent of caramel.
- Apologetic 2018 100% cab franc 50% appassimento - green pepper as well as leather and smoke and dried cherry.
- L’Eredita 2017 100% cab franc 100% appassimento - scent of thyme and oregano, with fruit (mainly dried cherry)