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Everything posted by estufarian

  1. I think Chatto's been anticipating the legalization of smoking materials - except, of course, you won't be allowed to smoke them in Toronto restaurants! Only a couple of months ago he was raving about Perigee - which took almost its entire staff from Avalon. If Perigee is so good (questionable - but he thinks so), then how can Avalon lose so many people - and at the same time jump from #4 last year to #1 this year? This is a major inconsistency - unless the previous top 3 have seriously declined, which they haven't. I'm not sure what game Chatto is playing here - but it's not a true ranking of Toronto restaurants.
  2. Late Bottled Vintage Ports from 1994 A quick primer for those not very familiar with LBV port – can be skipped by the cognoscenti. Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Ports should NEVER be mistaken for ‘Vintage Port’. A genuine Vintage Port requires aging for many years (typically 12-25, or even longer), while LBV’s are intended for current consumption on release – but some are capable of improving with age. Other than price (LBV’s around $12-20 US; Vintage from $40 up on release; more for an old Vintage), the best way to distinguish is through the ‘small print’ on the label. A ‘Vintage’ port will normally be bottled in the second (sometimes third) year after harvest, while an LBV is 4-6 years after harvest. So, for this tasting of 1994 LBV, all the wines were bottled between 1998 and 2000 (in contrast, 1994 vintage ports were bottled in 1996). So most of the LBV aging occurred in barrel, which reduces the fruit notes and introduces some chocolate/coffee/toffee hints. Also ‘most’ of the LBV’s have thrown their sediment in barrel and/or are filtered to remove sediment, whereas vintage ports lie on their sediment in bottle. So LBV is regarded as a ‘commercial’ wine and is often seen on restaurant wine lists. However, some LBV’s (often described as ‘traditional’) are bottled ‘early (after 4 years) and may throw a sediment in the bottle. Typically ‘traditional’ LBV ports are released later – maybe 8-10 years after the vintage, whereas the norm is to release when bottled. 1994 is considered an excellent vintage for vintage port, by many reports the best vintage since 1977. But LBV ports are generally considered to be dominated by a ‘House’ (i.e. producer) style, although there are certainly some variations by year. For example, Taylor (included in the tasting) issued a 1992 then followed with the 1994 – there wasn’t a 1993 (at least in the Ontario market). And when they ran out of the 1992 they had to bottle the 1994 ‘early’ to provide market continuity – this was done in 1999. But they only bottled enough to carry them through the shortfall, bottling the remainder in 2000 (Taylor usually bottles after 6 years) – so we had both samples in this tasting. Our tastings are almost always blind – the participants know which wines will be served, but do not know the order, so any votes tallied are without knowing the identities. General conclusion was that these wines are excellent value (priced between $15 and $25 Canadian) and very palatable – but definitely lacking the complexity and ‘grip’ of a vintage port. I’ll report my notes, but the groups ranking (based on about 80 people). Comfortably in first place was a real surprise: Calem 1994 LBV (bottled 2000) – one of the cheapest. It also had the most sediment, which is not typical of LBV wines bottled after 6 years, suggesting that it was not filtered (maybe that explains why it showed so well). My notes suggested that more new oak was used as both toffee and vanilla were noticeable. I scored this much lower, as I don’t expect that much ‘wood’ in an LBV – but it was obviously a crowd-pleaser. In second and third places were the two Taylor 1994 LBV with the bottled 1999 beating out the bottled 2000. However, these were obviously similar as the rankings showed. Stylistically these showed high alcohol and very ripe fruit. The 2000 bottling seemed to have a more refined bouquet (more blossoms than fruit). In fourth place was Graham’s (bottled 1999). I placed this first overall, praising its balance of fruit and acidity, particularly the finish which seemed drier than most of the others which finished quite sweet. Fifth was the Offley ‘Traditional’ (bottled 1998) – which surprisingly didn’t have a sediment (possibly filtered before bottling). Sixth was Dow’s (bottled 2000) – not at all typical of Dow – hot with dominant alcohol and fruit fading. Seventh was Delaforce (bottled 1999) – the most acidic wine we tasted. And in 8th (last) place Fonseca (bottled 1999) – this a real surprise as Fonseca is one of the more consistent houses. Yet all four bottles poured were defective (IMO) with strong mercaptan notes (that’s a sulphur compound often described as ‘skunky’). Too much of a coincidence for all four bottles to be that way!
  3. He doesn't take reservations! Makes it a little difficult to organize.
  4. estufarian

    Chateau talbot 1937

    Haven't had the Talbot but the couple of 37's I have tried had harsh tannins and the fruit is fading or has now faded. I'd compare them to the 75's in structure. I have to admit the Cordier style was never my favourite, tending to be very 'hot' - but the Talbot was perhaps the best. And 37 is considered the second-best vintage of the 30's (after 34). Being from St Julien there's also hope that more fruit would have been present originally, but my advice would be to try it sooner rather than later, although good chance it is still palatable (because of the tannin) even though not particularly exciting.
  5. Stick with your Bordeaux plan. It will still go surprisingly well with the lobster as it's a rich seafood. I recall how shocked I was having Chateau Latour with seafood (not within your budget unfortunately) - despite my doubts it was an extraordinary match and the participants (10 of us, over 10 years ago) still talk fondly about how surprised we all were.
  6. I allow 2½ hours. But I could probably return in under 2 hours (less traffic - you fight early rush-hour traffic on the way up). When you're paying that much it makes sense to linger and appreciate it and not have to worry about getting back. I've heard of people taking a limo (but heard it costs around $1000) and others who paid a driver (hard-up student) to drive them. I want to maximize the experience and for the additional cost ($75-125Cdn for two at a B&B) it's really a no-brainer for me. Especially after all that wine.
  7. Eigensinn Farm! Everybody talks about it – it’s even on top10 lists of the best restaurants in the world. But no reviews anywhere (other than the special events). Should I burst the mystique bubble? With only around 50 diners per week and maybe a 40-week season (sometimes less) only 2000 diners per year can try this experience. So, is it hype, or is it the real thing? Having eaten at many (at least 4 permanent and several guest appearances) of Michael Stadtlander’s restaurants my accumulated knowledge predisposes me to expect a passionate dedicated chef whose commitment to an organic, nurturing lifestyle (all aspects, not just food) is backed by solid cooking skills and lesser business skills. He’s also one of the “nice guys” and I’ve yet to find a chef in Canada who can beat Michael in food and wine matching. But organic food must still pass the taste test – and it helps if the meal comes in a smooth progression, rather than a mixture of rushed courses followed by hour-long pauses (as happened at previous restaurants). Even at Eigensinn, the experience has evolved from the original B&B to “fill the small room” to a more controlled usage of time and space. This time I called in August for a reservation for 8 people – a group of us who try to get to Eigensinn annually (that way we get 3 oz portions of each wine – the minimum acceptable to allow as many wines as possible). But the new rules are that no groups larger than 6 will be served – this because of the potential problems in the kitchen serving larger groups simultaneously. However, if we book the whole room (hence not inconvenience other guests), then we can have up to 10 people (we stay at 8). But there are only 2 days available in 2003 (all others already having at least one table booked), both in December. So we have 3 months to anticipate and pray for no snow. We are told the time to arrive (recall this is the family home with normal household requirements including managing a school-age son). We call 5 days prior for a ‘tentative menu’. From experience we know to expect last minute changes depending on availability and freshness (a previous example was when the promised guinea-hen was no longer available as the entire flock – free range of course - had been killed by raccoons the night before). It’s promised for 48 hours ahead; arrives – hand-scribbled and 80% legible – 36 hours ahead; and contains minor changes by the time we’re served. We’ve already planned a tentative slate of wines, but the lack of a ‘serious’ meat course (pork and duck are the promised ingredients) means we drop the big reds and scramble to add pinot noirs. But as usual we throw in an extra half dozen wines for last-minute changes. We congregate at our regular B&B and are welcomed as the old friends we now are. The arrangement includes being driven both to and from Eigensinn so that we do not have to worry about drinking and then driving. As Eigensinn does not charge corkage, this is a significant issue. The B&B’s rely heavily on Eigensinn for business and the symbiotic relationship has aided the whole area. We’ve planned for snow, which hasn’t yet arrived, so we’re early. A quick phone call and we turn up at Eigensinn 30 minutes early. The dogs greet us in the parking yard (the area in front of the barn) and we proceed up the path built from the bases of broken wine bottles, through the laundry room/reception area (to remove coats and boots) and into the dining room lit by dozens of candles and a log fire. Wines are unpacked and lined up and glasses produced for the first Champagne (NV Brut – Montaudon: a quaffing Champagne, good structure with a lingering lemon finish). Apart from the immediate family (Michael, Nobuyo and son Herman) there are 3 ‘assistants’ all trainees; a sommelier/server and two kitchen apprentices. The Champagne disappears during the greetings and we get updates on this years developments, including the Stadtlander film, shot to show the philosophy of the operation with views of the farm in all seasons and the construction of the ‘underground’ kitchen (built into the slope of the land using old tyres filled with earth and stacked with the spaces filled with clay) which will be used to cook outside for the special events. This is previewed on a laptop – yes, they do have electricity! Nobuyo suggests saving our next wine for the amuse gueule course, as it will match better, so we open a sherry (Principe Pio – Lustau; a dry oloroso sherry, elegant and dry, yet with a round mouth feel and good acid, making an easy drinking wine) which quickly disappears as we watch the rest of the film. Hmmm. A Champagne and a fortified wine on empty stomachs. The noise level is already high – now we know why Michael doesn’t want additional guests with large parties. I’ve been nominated to take notes (usually we just sit back and enjoy) and people are telling me what to write down. This isn’t a restaurant review – it’s nothing like a restaurant; no menus; no formality, yet a beautifully presented table with fine glassware and cutlery. The room decoration is ‘artistic driftwood’. Lampshades for the electric bulbs are woven from twigs, feathers and shells. The ceiling features painted pools of colour outlined in thin wooden branches. A wooden vine trails completely around the room. The fireplace is stone but everywhere else the decorations are natural, stones, shells, both broken and unbroken pottery and wood. The walls are an ochre sand-like colour. But, back to the table. First warm damp towels are offered and then the amuse gueule platters are served. The platters are natural wood of course, as are the chopsticks we use to eat this course. This is a strongly Japanese influenced course with seven separate ‘bites’ presented with clam, mussel and oyster shells as plate decorations. In no particular order, these are: Head cheese with grated radish, mustard and horseradish Squid sushi with rice and wasabi Tuna marinated in soy and maple syrup on a sweet butter potato Malpeque oyster in sake on the half shell Atlantic salmon tartare on toast Soup of mussels in clam chowder with saffron Fresh smoked ham (made at Eigensinn) The wine that we had deferred – Krug Grande Cuvée; complex, persistent bubbles with a very long finish but a touch of oxidation and apples in the finish. Champagne with raw (mostly) seafood – a stunning match for a spectacular course. If any criticism, the ham was somewhat mismatched and could have been eliminated although my remaining sherry was also the perfect match for the smokiness. But the remaining bites were seamless, joined by the chewy texture (which did extend to the ham) and the temperature of each bite was perfect – the soup was hot and the others were NOT straight out of the fridge (which has bugged me at other restaurants). The next course was described as ‘Essence from Venison and Wild Mushrooms’ – a somewhat understated description of what we received. First the base was smoked venison stock with matsuhake and pine mushrooms (I understand that Michael has a regular forager that brings him local wild mushrooms). This contained a minced venison ‘dumpling’ and was topped with a thin slice of foie gras (cooked in the broth) and cèpes. This was served in a hand-made pottery bowl, which sat in a birds nest suspended in a triangle of natural branches. Absolutely spectacular again. And served with a perfect wine match. ‘Boston Bual’ Special Reserve – Rare Wine Co. This is a special madeira blend that is medium sweet, smoky and has good acidity. The smoky/earthy notes were perfect for the mushrooms and venison and the sweetness and acidity combined were a perfect foil for the foie gras. Next was the Foie Gras course. Sourced from a single farm in Quebec, this was sautéed and served in a duck jus, accompanied by mashed blue potato and pear, roasted parsnip and roasted Spanish onion with arugula sprouts. This was a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your point of view) portion. The foie lacked the firmness of a seared presentation, and because of the jus the richness was more subdued. The pear was absolutely perfect – when perfectly ripe it is my favourite fruit. I could happily have just eaten pears – OK I’m exaggerating because I wouldn’t have passed up a perfectly seared foie gras either. This dish was subtler than anticipated, so it fades in the memory. Classic French cuisine fans would probably have been more impressed than I was this time. The wine was a 1994 Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive – Zind-Humbrecht. VT’s are my favourite match with Foie Gras and this didn’t disappoint. The acid in this wine seems to have dropped a little as it aged, but it wraps perfectly around the fattiness of the dish. But drink up now before the acid drops further. Onto the soup course. It probably goes without saying that the soup bowls were handmade etc., and mounted on a raised turned wooden plate. I’ll abandon further descriptions of the plates as the point has been made. A very concentrated Jerusalem Artichoke Soup supported sautéed Halibut, Hot-Smoked (at the farm) Salmon belly and Sea Urchin, decorated with a tarragon leaf. Not an easy wine match. I had saved some of the Madeira, which was again a fine match. But we also brought out the first dry wine 1999 Puligny Montrachet, Les Folatières from Joseph Drouhin. This proved too light for this course, so was retained for the ‘fish course’ to follow. While we were eating the soup course, a grill had been brought out and placed on the dining room wood fire. The next course was partially cooked here in the fireplace, then returned to the kitchen to be served as: BBQ Pickerel and Braised Lobster with roasted kohlrabi, lobster bisque and angel hair pasta. The texture was perfect here, but I found the whole dish a little sweet without the definition of the previous courses. The Puligny Montrachet was fairly lean and structured but the vanilla from the oak worked well with the sweetness of the dish. The second wine 1996 Meursault, Les Tillets had more personality, with a slight nuttiness and good acidity but didn’t work as well with the food, although by itself was more impressive. For those not keeping count, we’re already up to 7 wines (2 of which were fortified) so we planned a short break now. It had started snowing and our next course was a blackcurrant sorbet with reduced apple cider and honey. This was served in an upturned broken champagne bottle punt, which nestled in a mound of the fresh snow. Some of us tracked out to the smokehouse, while others circled around the table a few times – and one actually had a 10-minute nap on the dining room sofa. You just can’t do that at the French Laundry! You also can’t do that if there are other patrons. Sometime during this respite, one of the farm dogs managed to sneak into the dining room and quietly lay under the table for the rest of the meal – presumably hoping for some gourmet crumbs. After a 15-minute pause it was time for the main courses. A roasted suckling piglet chop with hedgehog mushrooms and black trumpet mushrooms in a ‘sweet sauce’! I can’t get more specific here as a heated discussion broke out about the origin of the piglet. Some heard ‘Red River Farm’ and some heard ‘Eduardo’ – that being the name of the piglet before it graced our table. Among the various simultaneous discussions were references to ‘The Restaurant at the End of the Universe’; the wisdom of naming farm animals and just how friendly one should get with ones dinner. To protect the sensitivities of the tenderer members of the group we didn’t pursue the matter to a resolvable conclusion or a complete description of the dish. There were also other parts of the piglet on the plate too. Outside the controversy, I found the pig rather fatty without much flavour (I recall that it was a ‘heritage’ variety, not the bred-lean varieties we get commercially). We had two wines a 1994 Riesling Clos Windsbuhl from Zind-Humbrecht – all minerals and petrol and surprisingly high alcohol. In theory this was a perfect match with the pork. The second wine was 1997 Pinot Noir – Dry River, one of the top Pinot Noirs from New Zealand. This had some beet and cherry character – almost a cross between the North American and Burgundy styles, but lacked complexity. The fruit was solid and straight through with a touch of sweetness and earth but the alcohol gave a hot finish, which was the final impression. Again, while we were both discussing and eating the piglet course, the grill was brought out and placed on the living room fire and parts of the next course were grilled over the fire. Advertised as ‘Eigensinn Duck’ we still awaited the final presentation. Essentially we had different parts of the duck served half a dozen different ways. This, in itself, was not a surprise as I’ve had several variations of this dish over the years. What adds a dimension here is that you know the duck was raised right here at Eigensinn – it’s not just a clever preparation but almost a communion with the food. And it’s that dimension that sets Eigensinn apart from any other fine dining experience I’ve had. And this course (even more so than the piglet) underlines Michael’s philosophy, reverence for nature and passion. Even if this dish had been prepared more spectacularly elsewhere, I can’t imagine feeling the same connection as one gets here. Magic! Ok. So what did he do with it? On the grill was skewered duck stomach and red cabbage on a plum twig. Also the neck stuffed with the liver to make a sausage. The breast was roasted and served in a German Xmas Cookie Sauce (containing nuts and molasses). The leg had been confited and there was a dumpling and a strawberry marmalade – and a small Xmas tree cookie. Our wines were a 1996 Charmes Chambertin from Jadot; again alcohol was obtrusive, with dominant flavours of cherry skins in particular. A sturdy wine that contrasted nicely with the duck. The second wine was 1989 Royals Club ‘Blue Stripe’ from Remoissenet (this wine is an ‘overproduction’ from a designated vineyard in Burgundy that has been sold off (legally) to reduce the permitted yield to be maintained – believed to be Corton). This was a quaffable wine with a hint of stewed beets and a sweet flowery finish. Almost certainly not a Corton as lacks the structure but possibly a Volnay. A nice wine but too light for the food. Surprisingly I found the best match for the duck to be the Clos Windsbuhl riesling that I’d saved from the previous course. Next the cheese course – camembert, chevrochon and a couple of others I didn’t note. Probably because by now the group were singing ‘Golden Oldies’ from the 50’s and 60’s. Did I mention we had great wine? And with this course we had 1990 Grand-Puy-Lacoste – one of the finest wines of the evening. perfect balance of fruit tannin and acid with pronounced blackcurrant flavours. Dessert was apple strüdel with maple sugar, a wild blueberry compote, lemon sage honey cinnamon ice cream and a plum poached in a red wine and Hennessey Cognac reduction. I have a note on Poire William in there somewhere too. This was accompanied by a 1989 Gewürztraminer Heimbourg Selection Grain Nobles from Zind-Humbrecht (only a half bottle as we didn’t want to over imbibe). This was all honey and surprisingly high in alcohol. A dessert in itself. And to finish Grand Fours – petit fours doesn’t begin to describe it. A four foot long split log placed on the table containing about 3-dozen items. Truffles – dark light and white; banana and tangerine sorbets; various almond cookies. And coffee/tea/infusions of choice. Accompanied by a Dow 1977 Vintage Port – which we didn’t quite finish (until breakfast the next morning). So how was it overall? The best meal I’ve ever had IN CANADA. This one was exceptional and exceeded all previous Stadtlander meals (and I’ve had dozens). I even skipped last years trip as I preferred a conflicting function and wasn’t convinced that the effort and expense justified was warranted. But this year I really ‘got’ Eigensinn for the first time. It’s unique. Can I recommend it unreservedly – no! We had the place to ourselves, which breaks down a lot of the formalities and ‘regular’ culture associated with fine dining. I don’t think we could have opened up as much to the experience with other patrons in the same room. We wouldn’t have relaxed as much – and also we would have to be cognisant of their feelings and experiences. And, of course, you probably couldn't match the range of wines we had. But will I return (even at $250 per person, no credit cards)? Absolutely! And the sooner the better (which means earliest next spring given the waiting list). And breakfast at the B&B was superb. Fresh juices. Selection of fruits. Freshly baked muffins and biscuits and a superb Frittata. Contact me directly for the name of the B&B if you can get an Eigensinn reservation.
  8. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would work well. If you can find it Cloudy Bay - otherwise ask your local retailer.
  9. After a meal at Truffles (in the Four Seasons, Toronto), the bus-boy, while clearing away the dishes asked " And how was your meal MR. ESTUFARIAN (but using my real name)". Any/every restaurant could do this for everybody who made a reservation - but how many do?
  10. Only if you have a plane. Allow 2 ½ hours assuming there are other vehicles on the road.
  11. estufarian


    By now, you're probably more confused than ever - way too much information. The reality is that 30-yr-old and 40-yr-old are very fine and rare ports, and will cost in the $75-150 range. But the good news is that I've never had a bad one! So buy the cheapest you can find. Graham's is good - but I find it the sweetest of all the 'aged' tawnies, and you specifically identified that you didn't want them too sweet. The other commonly found 40-yr-old is Taylor, Fladgate - and this is usually even more expensive. The producers with Portuguese sounding names are usually less expensive, but rarely seen (at the 40-yr-old level). The key to all these is that they are aged in wood for 'many' years (the 40-yr-old can be thought of as average age 40 yrs - but that's not the legal definition). This means that you like wines 'bottled after 25(say)+ years in wood'. So don't get 'bait and switch' to another wine without checking the bottling date (all of LBV, Colheita and Vintage are required to include both vintage date and year of bottling - the latter usually in smaller type).
  12. Don't know how I missed the white truffle course - thought I'd reviewed the whole menu. Although maybe I have a built-in $100 filter! And I was also kicking myself for not thinking of asking for additional/replacement dishes. Just didn't cross my mind. Now perhaps if a server had mentioned that it was possible to add/substitute...... but that would have required superior service! And, as for the quiet respectful atmosphere - wasn't it you who told us not to make too much noise or dance on tables. Maybe everybody there read your advice.
  13. This is a little late – too many things happening on my return to spend time posting (organizing an event for 4-500 people). But I was there at FL with Stone (actually not with him, but probably adjacent to him – we were the communicating couple, not the silent ones). And substantially his review was spot-on. Good, some excellence, but below expectations. It won’t make our top 3 meals of 2003, but is currently in fourth place. And the cost (for two) was more than the combined return flights for 2 from Toronto. We wanted to try as much as possible, so ordered one Chef’s menu and one ‘Tasting of vegetables’ (also 9 courses) so got to try 18 different preparations. This automatically excluded the Wood pigeon, as it could only be served to two people. But our strongest memory is of the course we DIDN’T get – and weren’t offered – a white truffle pasta dish that was served to an adjacent table and at least one table downstairs – the wooden presentation box (holding the truffle) was brandished in front of each diner before the huge truffle was removed and grated on the dish. As it was the adjacent table this was hard to miss – and even harder to ignore as the aroma wafted past – destroying (or enhancing, depending on your viewpoint) the dish we were served just ahead. OK. So some of these were regulars (they’d been there the previous week) with first-time guests, so maybe ‘special’ treatment is warranted. But it certainly made us feel like second-class diners as we were not deemed worthy of being offered this dish. In fact the service throughout was certainly distant – going further away than respectful. Examples: #1 we asked for menu copies to make notes. We were told we couldn’t use the menus presented, but they would bring us some. They only appeared after a second request at the second course – and were identical to the ones that had been removed. #2 We asked if there was an option to have wine servings with each course. The response was that it depended on what we chose. So we chose the set menus and there weren’t wine choices to match those! #3 we had to ask several times for menu explanations when the dish served didn’t match the menu (example when Stone couldn’t find the black pepper shortbread) – nobody pointed this out – we had to ask. Yet the menu was dated that day. And we loved the fact that sauce spoons were served with every course (OK it was superfluous for several dishes) enabling every morsel to be scraped up. Stone has expertly described the tasting menu, so I’ll only add any differences I encountered. First we were served our amuses: a Cornetto each; one with tomato and eggplant caviar (ho-hum) and one with salmon and crème fraiche (very cold, probably straight from fridge) Cauliflower “Panna Cotta” – we also found the texture very firm, but our caviar didn’t “explode” – we both commented on the lack of texture – but I loved the perfect saltiness. Moulard Duck “Foie Gras au Torchon”. Huge portion and excellent. I found the Brioche rather underdone but finished it before all the foie gras. A compliment to the service – a second serving of brioche was brought which was perfect (although how did they know I would run out? It takes time to toast the second one – maybe it’s here ‘just in case’). Served with chervil and Maldon sea salt (I think). Toro – loved this dish. My notes say ‘explodes with flavour’. I also noted the ‘brunoise’ and really liked the sweetness of the candied almonds. And the Yuzu zest was almost overpowering – except it contrasted well with the fattiness of the dish. “Macaroni and Cheese” – Oh Dear! What a disappointment. The Lobster was overcooked and muscley and the orzo tasted like pasta with cheese and cream added rather than integrated. Served with a parmesan crisp that seemed slightly soggy. Pork Belly – seems to be this year’s fashionable dish. More subtle flavours than I’ve had elsewhere. Just didn’t zing. Selle d’Agneau – Lamb is consistently my favourite meat and this was OK but lacked something. Also the temperature was warm, but not hot. Loved the cippolini onions and salsify but our portion of chanterelle mushrooms was almost invisible – perhaps they strayed over to Stone’s table. I even commented at this point that we were well into mushroom season and I was disappointed how few dishes used that fresh local ingredient. “Tomme de Savoie” – usually one of my all-time favourite cheeses. But I was surprised that it was served warm (interesting presentation though). And the promised Black Pepper Shortbread and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil were neither in evidence. But we did get Pumpkin shortbread and pomegranate oil. Sorbet Course – exactly as Stone described – although we got hints of fresh vanilla as well. Chocolate “Velours” – similar notes to Stone – except I tasted a hint of orange in the crème rather than ginger. And we had gold leaf on top (perhaps because we ordered more wine). Our ‘mignardises’ were the same except the crème brulee was disappointing (brulee not really burned, just melted, and no hot/cold contrast). The vegetarian menu was actually more exciting. Of course, it used fresh local ingredients and I think this is what ultimately made it more satisfying. Pureé (sic) of Chestnut Soup with Braised celery Branch and Celery Root – strong flavours and great consistency and served very hot. A great antidote to the thunderstorm outside. Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Hosui Asian pears, Glazed Tokyo Turnips and Whole Grain Mustard sauce – a brave dish; Brussels sprouts and turnips! The sweetness of the pears was the most notable feature of this dish. But the textures were all similar. Slow Baked Heirloom Beets, Garden Lettuces and Red Beet “Essence” – visually stunning and just as tasty – except for the “essence” which was actually a gelée. Roasted Jacobsen’s Farm Butternut Squash with Sautéed Swiss Chard and Toasted Italian Pine Nuts – another excellent dish with the squash presented as ‘gnocchi’ (but some comment between us as to whether ‘Jacobsen’s Farm’ squash could be identified separately in a blind squash tasting). Rue-Scented Walla Walla Onions, Navel Orange “Suprêmes”, Marinated Sweet peppers and Niçoise Olive Vinaigrette – some interesting flavours but seemed more of a mélange of ingredients rather than matching flavours. I found the olive dominated everything. “Carnaroli Risotto Biologico” Shaved Périgord Truffles and Truffle “Emulsion” – simply perfection. Perfect in every way. And the sauce spoon was essential for this dish. “Montbriac” Belgian Endive “Marmelade”, Sultanas and Napa Valley “Verjus Gastrique” – this was a blue cheese course, but fairly mild. Excellent flavour combination. Maui Pineapple Sorbet with Banana Bread and Chocolate Pudding – the banana bread was actually a muffin and the other two ingredients were large quenelles. Again, not quite sure why these ingredients were matched – the textures and colours were interesting but the flavours seemed distinct and separate. “Dégustation de Fenouil” Toasted fennel Sablé, Fennel “Marmelade” and Fennel Sorbet with a Citrus-Baby Fennel Salad and Piquillo Pepper “Coulis” – here the flavours did match well – a very interesting combination of temperatures, textures and sweetnesses. Excellent dish. So, all-in-all a pretty good meal – but it doesn’t blow one’s socks off. And another misstep – the check was missing three glasses of wine, which we pointed out and that cost us an additional $80 (yes, for 2 glasses of Billecart-Salmon champagne and a 2000 Wehlenen Sonnenuhr Auslese from a middling producer). Overall a very good to excellent meal – but at these prices we do expect more. And the two half bottles of wine, recommended by the Sommelier were very safe choices (a 2001 Chassagne-Montrachet and a 1997 Brunello) – despite our pointing out that we were fairly adventurous in our wine tastes. Of course, given a limited selection of half bottles and multiple courses these may indeed have been the best options. But everywhere else on our trip the Sommeliers managed to pair wines very well – we got the impression that at the French Laundry it was ‘easier’ to just give us a red and a white.
  14. Haven't seen him for about 3 years now - used to visit all the time.
  15. Hmm. Carrying wine in attracts a "reduced" all-in rate of about 70% (covering all fees). It's more if you have it shipped. So as long as the all-in shipped cost is about a dollar, then the duties etc would be a buck or two. Of course, samples for trade purposes (not sale; e.g. for wine shows) are often declared at $1 value!!!!!!!!!
  16. Two comments 1. I also endorse the place just south of Cookbook store 2. For kitchenaid, also check out The Bay (or maybe Sears - can't recall which one I used). In their "Big" Sales, Kitchenaid appliances are cheaper there than any of the specialty stores.
  17. As a novice, you are probably best advised to stick to the LCBO - but cultivate the consultant at your local store (or find one that has a consultant - they're listed at the back of every Vintages monthly catalogue). One additional source is the Agent (if the Producer has one). There isn't a complete list, but a good reference source is the OIWSBA - they have a search facility, but not all agents are members. And you have to buy in case quantities. Ontario Imported Wines, Spirits & Beer Association
  18. I can confirm it was brains. And ears (in a different dish). And that was about all the 'meat' that was served. So any meat and potatoes types would certainly feel deprived. And Joe, judge for yourself. Give it a try. Not everything works, but you'll try things that nobody else (that I know of) is coming close to attempting. It is very (perhaps too) cerebral, but flavour is NOT compromised. The price of the meal is a bargain by world standards. And it's not too far from Can Fabes, which I know you'll return to.
  19. I've used the service at Embros (opposite Summerhill Liquor Store) to sharpen my mandoline blade. Very satisfied.
  20. What a brilliant idea - use the internet instead of travelling around the world! Thanks.
  21. A few years back, while visiting Bangkok, we found a 'Chestnut Peeler' in a grocery store. I persuaded my spouse not to get it as "it's heavy and why carry it around when we can buy one when we're back home". We've now searched Canada, US, Germany, Spain and UK for such a thing. Even tried to find it again on a return trip to Bangkok. No luck. But we did find an Italian 'Chestnut Pan'. It is basically a cast iron frypan with holes cut in the base to allow the flames to enter. It came with a 'piercer' that one uses to score the nuts first and works perfectly on our gas range. And roast chestnut soup with a dash of madeira is now one of our 'signature dishes'. Rich and smoky - and worth the peeling effort.
  22. I take some pride in that, when encountering a similar situation a few years ago, I asked for the service charge to be removed (it's BAD service at a minimum to mislead the customer this way). This was refused as the policy of adding the gratuity had been fully informed. Thereupon, I replied that I would not pay ANY of the Bill, but would happily provide my name and address so that they could sue me for any amounts owing! The gratuity, at least, was quickly removed. It goes without saying that I never returned.
  23. Thanks for the notes. Did you try to order any wines? Last time I went, I was only able to order about half of what I wanted - they were already sold out! And I was unsuccessful in the lottery too. So I haven't bothered going back.
  24. But are you saying that the service didn't really gel?
  25. I've tried multiple butters. Without question, my favourite by itself (e.g. on bread) is Burro Ocelli. Of course, I would never think of smuggling it back into Canada!
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