No sooner had I posted a blog mentioning the Gladstone Hotel’s Harvest Wednesdays’ Tasting Evenings than I received an invite for one of their HW prix fixe meals. Aww! May the wonders of the web never cease! (Note to publicists who think the web isn’t legit media: think again.)
Set in the hotel’s casually-grandiose left-side bar & dining area, the meal was what I’d consider a culmination of the tasting evening I’d experienced a few weeks back. That is to say that it was full-service, full-size meals, instead of little tidbits on trays, with everything inspired by locally-grown ingredients and seasonal availability. the Gladstone Hotel is actively involved with Chick-a-Biddy Acres, an organization devoted to community-shared agriculture, as well as a number of other local, sustainable, organically-minded businesses.
Now, I’d had a very long day, and had recently come from a tiring dance class. Frankly -and I know this will be shocking for some of you to read -I’d been too busy yesterday (and indeed most of this week) to sit down to a proper, adult meal. For me, that’s tantamount to sacrilege. I love eating, and I love cooking, and I’ve not made time for either much of late. So I was really craving a good, balanced, decent adult meal -the sorts of life-giving qualities only such an experience can provide. Greater than merely satisfying a physical need, but providing nourishment to a spiritual one as well. I’m happy to report that is exactly what Chef Marc Breton and his team gave me. Mmmm.
The meal kicked off with two starts -the first, a yummy vegetarian wrap with tofu, veggies, and mint. Its combination of crunch and soft was sensuously satisfying, and the cider-maple and mustard dip that accompanied it wasn’t too overpowering but provided a sweet zing that complemented the bland smoothness of the tofu (organic and non-GMO, provided by Ying Ying Soy Foods, the menu tells me). It was the lightest, most fresh kind of appetizer, the perfect palette-prep for the heavier qualities of the second appetizer, a delicious zuccini salad. Its gorgeous feathery courgettes -green and yellow -were sliced paper-thin and ribboned like feathery jewels against buttery pieces of Niagara prosciutto (yum) and the lot was lightly dressed with a chive-yogurt concoction that wound its way around the tongue slowly, counterbalancing rich and light simultaneously.
For the main course, there was a choice of Eggplant and Mozzarella Croquettes with new potatoes and ramps, or Arctic Char with potato/chard gallettes. I don’t get enough fish in my diet, so I opted for the latter, but was a bit shocked when it was brought, head and all, to the table. I know, I know, the head attached is a sign of freshness, blahblahblah. But fishhead-whilst-dining-at-the-end-of-a-long-day is where my squeamish girlie-hood becomes obvious. I demurely sliced said head onto a sideplate and turned it round, allowing my dinner companion to be given the char-stare through her own meal. Lucky her.
The fish, sustainably farmed by Jim Giggie in Tottenham, Ontario (again, the menu tells me so), was utterly gorgeous: moist, flaky, succulent and sweet. It sat in a wonderfully unctuous sorrel beurre blanc that proved the perfect swampy pool in which to soak, sop and greedily devour the accompanying crispy galettes. But carby flights of fancy aside, the char was the real star. If I could find fish like this anywhere, at any given time, I might eat more of it. Sides were shared -a heaping plate of lemon-glazed steamed veg, including broccoli, carrots, green beans and baby beets -all luscious in their colourful freshness and delicate shapes (though I confess to wishing for more of the latter). The song I heard upon consuming said piece of Arctic char was my happy, previously-very-hungry tummy singing.
Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, dessert glasses filled with moist Blackforest Trifle were presented, complete with sour cherries on top and luscious layers of real whipped cream. Gorgeous, if very rich, especially after the fish. The prior dishes -two appetizers, plus amuse bouches beforehand -were well-stacked so as to be just satisfying enough for the healthy indulgence of the main course; our appetites sated, serving such a sweet, Fredericks-Of-Hollywood-style piece at the finish seemed a bit askew. But what do I know? I’m not a dessert person. It was a tasty little treat, and went nicely with my pinot gris, part of the flight of wines I ordered to pair with each course. Starting off was a Pellar Estates Rose Private Reserve VQA, then Flatrock Chardonnay (again VQA) to match the fish, and finally the Flat Rock Pinot Noir (VQA) to finish. Each was a really well-chosen match that provided me with another avenue in my ever-growing mental city of foodie-ism, even if I’m not sure it’ll make me a fan of Niagara wines in the longrun.
The Gladstone is holding their yummy Harvest Wednesday prix fixe dinners nearly every Wednesday through to October. They’re $35 -which is super-cheap considering a/ it’s Queen West; b/ it’s all ethical, so you can feel good about yourself for eating it, & c/ you get a whacking heap of beautifully-prepared, lovingly-grown/raised food. Oh, and it’s a really lovely atmosphere too -no loud blaring music or bustling atmosphere, but rather, a calm, soothing room with warm wooden flourishes and flickering tealights. Chef Marc Breton even comes around later to chat. Aww. Talk about the perfect way to end a frenzied hump-day.
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Your sophisticated, deliciously descriptive account of the Harvest Wednesday local food offerings was pleasing to read. It has encouraged that stingy part of me that resists the spending of more than a twenty for a single dining out experience (not often including such local delicacies)
I'm Scottish… Thrifty not cheap!
One mild criticism, however, please forgive.
I found the Char head inner debate and decapitation details very humoursly stated while at the same time a bizarre 'phobia' for a food blogger to confess.
It may reveal a North American WASP-ish and outdated attitude towards the practice of 'plating' a whole fish for consumption.
Having pointed out yours', I have discovered that we all exhibit our own variety of
#personalIdiosyncracies. One of mine, I confess, is finding the anomilies in others.
Good lord! From your pictures you definitely inhaled that fish. Feel sorry for the little guy. ;P