A couple of weeks ago my wife and I enjoyed 24 hours of food and drink unlike anything we’ve experienced in recent memory. Several of the experiences were private at the homes of friends, but there are two publicly-accessible highlights I particularly want to share.
Get yourselves down to Bolete in St Catharines. You’ll be glad you did, and glad you were still able to easily book a table and experience a creative menu that changes every week. The opening of this stunning new restaurant, helmed by Chef Andrew Macleod, has been one of the most anticipated in the region in years.
Readers will perhaps remember Macleod from past columns where I wrote about his talents as the chef at Spencer’s on the Waterfront, or perhaps winner of the Chef Street Fight at Centro Market a couple of years ago. Macleod won this year’s prestigious Garland Canada International Chef Challenge in PEI, and has been working hard to get
Bolete open. His passion for great food and plating were in full evidence when we popped down for lunch.
Chef served a dish I had never experienced before, Ancient Grains and Inari was a clever play on a Japanese dish melded with a hint of Niagara flavour. Albacore tuna on warm quinoa was everything it could be, while Salt and Pepper Humbolt squid were reminiscent of what he used to do at Spencer’s. It was a simple dish, accompanied by ginger mayo, chili and cilantro, with a muslin-wrapped lemon, but just way nicer than I recall. All the food was reasonably priced, the atmosphere pleasant and the furnishings refined and beautiful. Above all it was wonderful to see Macleod back where he belongs and happy in his own space. This restaurant is destined for greatness.
Also in the category of extra-ordinary was a thirteen-course dinner organized by Chef Tobias Pohl-Weary (Full disclosure: my wife and I were invited to attend as guests of the chef). Pohl-Weary is someone I wrote about previously when he operated Red Canoe. At the time I described him as having “built a reputation as a master of innovative and modern Canadian cuisine based on a stellar culinary pedigree and thoughtful commitment to Ontario-grown food and wine.”
Pohl-Weary now runs Topowe Events a high-end catering company. In turn Topowe organized a seven-pop-up series called the Blue Dinghy Kitchen Series. It was more than just a dinner. It was part of an evolutionary series of multi-sensory events that have seen Pohl-Weary, return to doing what he truly loves. I sat down with Chef after the event and hope to share some of his thinking in a future column.
For now let me just say that I think there are very few chefs I know who would have attempted the menu he did, let alone (mostly) pulled it off in challenging circumstances. It included Sturgeon Marrow, Distilled Water Soup, Whelks with hay, and my, and Chef’s, favourite plate, smoked duck pastrami with stewed fruits nestled in a bed of grape leaves and live coals (really!). Each dish was accompanied by some rare liquid gems, some rescued from Red Canoe’s renowned cellar by Pohl’s partner and mixologist/sommelier Eamonn Kelly.
There is still an opportunity to participate in one of the event series: the final pop-up is December 3rd and there is also an after party that you can attend even if you don’t partake in the dinner. The dinner will see concepts from prior events in the series re-surface, and will be a collaboration with chefs from Born and Raised Restaurant in Hamilton. You can get tickets via one of the links above.
Finally, two other items of note.
There’s a notable changing of the guard ongoing. Chef Stephanie Brewster has left the RBG’s kitchens, and will be following her dream of opening a new tapas bar, Fuego, on Lakeshore in Oakville. I’ve also heard one of Waterloo’s top culinary talents is heading to a gig in Hamilton. I’m not sure yet exactly where he’s landing (the RBG perhaps?), but anything involving Chef Mark Andrew Brown, the award-winning, young Executive Chef at the venerable Charcoal group in KW, will be worthy of note. He recently spent a one month stage with the 3 Michelin Star, Le Bernardin in New York, and it is a mark of Hamilton’s culinary ascendancy that he is headed to the Hammer.
Second, I’ve been advised Taste of Burlington is evolving based on 8 years of success. The promotion – involving over 30 restaurants - will focus on a winter program running Monday February 20 - Sunday March 12, 2017. The popular launch party is set for Tuesday, January 24th, 2017. Tickets are available via their website and tend to go fast. It is nice to see a Burlington craft brewery tied to the event: Nickelbrook replaces long-time sponsor Cameron’s who were “making some changes with respect to their involvement in events” according to ToB’s Linda Cvetanovic.
If I don’t write again before the holidays I wish Season’s Eatings to all and to all a good time!
Alex (Alex can be reached on twitter @AlexBielak)