Tag Archives: Prince Edward County

Spiced Prunes from The Manse Boutique Inn

28 May

Weekend getaways can be so restorative, especially in a place as magical and charming as Prince Edward County.

Neil and I fell in love with the County a few years ago when we first visited for the annual event Taste the County and then again for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. Every time we’ve been back since we’ve fallen deeper and deeper for this exceptional region of Ontario.

There’s no shortage of things to do and see from visiting wineries, farms and local artisans, to antique hunting, beach-going, walking the main streets of the small towns, and of course, eating. You do not go hungry when you visit the County. 

With so many local farmers and food producers, there’s a real sense in the County that people truly care about good food and using the freshest local ingredients. 

On our most recent trip to PEC, we had the pleasure of staying at The Manse Boutique Inn in Picton only three weeks after its grand opening and it was absolutely spectacular. Aside from the stunning setting in the century old building, the food at The Manse is definitely a draw thanks to Chef Chris Wylie who runs the inn with his wife Kathleen.

Breakfast is included when you book one of their seven lovely rooms and it was a highlight of our weekend. Chef Wylie smokes his own bacon, cures his own salmon and takes a lot of pride in his food, which was apparent to Neil and I through chatting with him.

Chef Wylie’s delicate cured salmon on potato pancake

House-smoked bacon & the most amazing ‘Hoito pancakes’ at The Manse

He was kind enough to share his recipe for his delicious spiced prunes, which he serves at the breakfast buffet along with thick Greek yogurt and a homemade nutty granola – a perfect breakfast in my books.

Thanks to Chef Wylie for sharing this recipe with Communal Table readers!

Spiced Prunes

500 ml Earl Grey tea

150 ml Marsala wine

100 g brown sugar

Large zest of one orange

1 clove, whole

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

250 g prunes

Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove zest and spices. Serve the spiced prunes with the syrup along with yogurt & granola.

One Year of Communal Table

26 Mar
Italy Food
Jenny, Neil and food in Italy.

One year ago today, Jenny and I were doing something we’d never done before – setting up a food blog. While that ‘first’ may not have the same excitement factor as, say, jumping out of an airplane or buying a house, for us it was a pretty big deal. It got us into the world of social media and has allowed us to learn a lot about that world in a short amount of time. It gave us an outlet to combine something we’re both formally trained to do – communicate with words – with things we both love to do – enjoy food and share interesting stories. And perhaps most importantly, starting this blog gave us yet another thing we can enjoy doing together as a team.

We started Communal Table last March not quite knowing where we were going with it. As our About Us page says, we chose the name Communal Table because we liked the idea of it being a place to gather and share food as well as conversation about passions, interests, opinions and life in general. If you look through posts from our first three months or so, you’ll see one focused on music (another shared love of ours), and a restaurant review interspersed between our more common recipe posts. I originally intended to provide the occasional music post here, and I think we both thought we’d do more restaurant reviews. But it didn’t take too long before we both realized that those types of posts just didn’t feel like a natural fit.

Meatballs Communal Table
Our meatballs with pine nuts and raisins, inspired by a trip to New York.

Jenny and I love cooking together, so our original recipes have been the focus of most of our posts over the past year. In fact, we’ve shared so many of our recipes that we recently added a recipe page to the blog so that our readers could access meal ideas without having to scroll through a year’s worth of our posts to find something that appeals to them. We’ve posted about some of our long-time favourite recipes, like our meatballs with pine nuts and raisins and my olive oil ice cream, and we’ve also written about creations that came to us in a moment of inspiration, like our poached egg on grilled Portobello and asparagus pesto, and aglio e olio pasta with seared fennel-dusted tuna and broccolini. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these dishes – and hopefully trying them out yourself – as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them.

Angeline's Inn and Restaurant Prince Edward County
Angeline’s Inn and Restaurant in Prince Edward County, a great place we had the pleasure of staying and eating at.

The blog has also given us the chance to take part in some great events and explore some amazing places. Our trip last fall to Prince Edward County stands out in particular, because it got us out to an area we’d heard so much about but hadn’t yet seen, and it turned out to be a beautiful place with so many inspiring people. The recent Almost Famous Chefs’ Competition gave us the chance to see the next generation of great chefs in action. And of course, we participated in the February Kitchen Play event, which forced us out of our culinary comfort zone by asking us to cook with a common ingredient (Canadian beef) in an unconventional way (by using it in a cocktail recipe).

Along the way, we’ve met many people – fellow food bloggers, chefs, PR people, store owners and others – who’ve let us into their worlds and given us some great advice and support. Mary Luz Mejia at Sizzling Communications, the team at Rock-It Promotions, The Drake Hotel, Fiesta Farms, and Toronto food promoters and social media stars like Joel Solish and Suresh Doss are just some of the people we have to thank.

We’re moving into year two with a much better idea of how this blog will look than we had at the start of year one. But we also have some new ideas, both for Communal Table and for other projects we’ve been brainstorming, so we’re not entirely sure what the next year will have in store. Of course, the adventure is what continues to make it interesting. Thanks for reading over the past year, and we hope you’ll continue to do so and share your thoughts with us along the way.

Thanks,

Neil and Jenny

Communal Table Kitchen
A slightly blurry, in-the-moment shot of us getting our hands dirty in the kitchen.

Angéline’s Restaurant & Inn

14 Oct

Neil and I are storytellers by nature. With his journalism background and mine in television, we share a soft spot for a good, inspiring and relatable story. We love talking to people and discovering what makes them tick, and we take personal inspiration from people who are doing amazing things, especially in the food industry.

And so, what was supposed to be a quick overnight visit to Prince Edward County to experience “Taste!” turned into a lovely weekend full of pleasant surprises, both for our palates and the storytellers in us. It felt like everywhere we went, every corner we turned, we found the most interesting people, the most surprisingly delicious food and some real County hospitality.

This was particularly apparent in our experience dining and staying over at Angéline’s restaurant and inn in Bloomfield. It’s a beautiful, quirky (in all the right ways) and charming place where the food itself has just as much of a story as the young owners who have transformed it over the last three years.

At 24 and 21, siblings Alexandre and Melanie Fida may be the youngest people in the county to own a restaurant and inn, but what they’ve managed to accomplish with their new incarnation of Angéline’s is truly amazing.

Alexandre & Melanie

Twenty-three years ago, Alexandre and Melanie’s parents moved to Ontario from Switzerland and searched for a place to open a restaurant. They ended up in Bloomfield and saw the potential that the area had, even though there wasn’t a ton going on there at the time. It was hardly the destination it’s now become. Their chef-father, Willi Fida, wanted to open a high-end restaurant that offered a true culinary experience, even when there wasn’t anything else like it to be found in the area. So, they transformed a run-down Victorian house, using the main level for the restaurant and moving their family into the rooms upstairs. On the property right next to the main house was a small motel with a few cozy rooms, which became the inn. Alexandre and Melanie literally grew up at Angéline’s (whose name is actually taken from the original owner of the property) and watched the area change over time, with their father bringing inspiration to people across the County – especially food producers.

As Alexandre told us, “My dad was really very talented. He stayed true to what he believed in. When we first moved here, he would work with the farmers. No one knew what an endive was, so he talked to them and encouraged them to grow them. With time, the farmers began expanding on the produce they grew; at the time it was very focused on potatoes and carrots. Locally, he’s kind of known as the granddaddy of fine dining in this area.” Pretty impressive, given the reputation the County now has for quality, locally-produced food and wine.

Neil and I spoke to Alexandre for a long time, mesmerized by how intelligent, well spoken and open he was about his story and the history of Angéline’s. He and his sister didn’t originally plan to take over and transform the restaurant and inn at such an early stage in their lives. But when their father suddenly passed away in a tragic car accident in 2007, everything changed for them and they had a decision to make; keep what they knew and had grown up with, or let go and start fresh, breathing new life into a place that their parents had built over two decades.

After the community pulled together to help them get back on their feet, they chose the latter path. They decided to reinvent while still staying true to their father’s legacy. Neither of them have a formal education in hospitality, but they grew up surrounded by it. Their mother, Monika, was a teacher of hospitality in Geneva and had run the place for so many years, so they knew they had a good foundation.

It took them a few years to really make it their own. But they have since transformed the Inn itself as well as the restaurant’s menu, maintaining their father’s core values of using local, fresh ingredients and keeping everything as pure as possible, but also injecting a fresh take and a younger feel.

The restaurant under Willi Fida was very classic French right down to the way that things were plated. Alexandre and Melanie didn’t want to lose that completely, but they did want the menu to feel more playful and inventive. So they put an ad online looking for a new chef, and in a stroke of fateful luck, Executive Chef Sébastien Schwab “found them”, according to Alexandre. The fact that he was French-trained, and that he liked having fun with presentation and ‘playing’ with food, made him a great fit for their new beginning.

More than just playing with the food, Alexandre took to playing with the design of the space as well. After graduating from Toronto’s Ryerson University in interior design, he saw the inn as the perfect blank slate to put his talents to work. They decided to renovate the rooms in the main house to create two suites which Alexandre carefully decorated with a mix of antiques brought over from Switzerland and modern elements that really give off a homey, comfortable and unique feel. More than that, the walls of the inn and restaurant are filled with art by local artists. Everything’s for sale, is one of a kind, and is always changing. To Alexandre, it was important to support local artists as much as local food producers, and to encourage the younger generation to keep growing and evolving the County in every way.

One of three charming dining areas

The café, where fresh coffee and croissants are served to overnight guests

The mix of old and new and the quirky elements that make the place so unique really spoke to me and our stay there was such a calming and cathartic experience.  It felt special. It felt like a place that had taken a lot of care to build. We stayed in the newly renovated “Champagne Suite” in the main house and had an amazing meal at the restaurant that really embodied everything that Alexandre told us about the new concept for Angéline’s. We could taste the fresh ingredients, and we experienced the quality service and attention to detail, while still being surprised and delighted with the playful presentation of the food and interesting ingredients. The atmosphere was warm instead of stuffy, and everywhere you looked you were surrounded by art and creative elements in the design. Design complementing the food and vice versa, all together creating a full experience.

Lounge area in the Champagne Suite
Bedroom

The serene bathroom – a touch of modern amidst the antique charm

Asking questions about the art actually lead us to a visit down the road to see local artist (and server at Angéline’s!) Tammy Love’s shop, “HandWorks”. More than just her gallery, it’s an eclectic artist’s lair filled to the brim with incredible hand-made finds and stories to go along with each. Tammy will share them all with you as she charms the pants off of anyone who steps through the door, giving them her ‘spiel’ inviting them to touch everything, laugh, scream for help and just play. And that’s how it goes in the County… one story leads to another, one visit to a warm and friendly place leads you right down the road to find more of the same.

What Alexandre and Melanie have done with Angéline’s feels like just the beginning, as the County continues to grow with restaurants, wineries, art galleries and shops. And they plan to continue evolving as well, with their focus shifting to re-designing the rooms in the inn and revamping the café at the front of the restaurant. We feel so lucky to have experienced it for ourselves, but more than that, to have been invited to share in the story of the place and of the wonderful people who have brought it back to life.

Now for the fun stuff – a walk-through of our incredible meal:

Amuse Bouche: Beet Carpaccio with Avocado Oil & local herbs

The amuse of local beet carpaccio w/ avocado oil and local herbs was served with a ground cherry (my new fave!), and paired with Casa-Dea VQA Cuvee 2008, methode cuvee clos – a bubbly glass of heaven.


First Course: Trio of Soups served in a specially-designed holder

Soup #1: The most amazingly fresh corn soup we’ve ever had – it tasted like eating freshly picked corn right from the husk. The simplicity yet intensity of flavor in this soup blew us away. Made with sweet corn from Vader farms.

Soup #2: Spiced Tomato from Vicki’s Veggies. Perfectly spiced, savory and smooth. Delicious!

Soup #3: Zucchini from Hagerman Farms. Clean and simple.


2nd Course: Seared Foie Gras on House-Made Gingerbread

Pan seared foie gras with local apples flambeed in calvados, house-made gingerbread, with balsamic reduction, honey nectar and local sunflower sprouts. Seriously. This was probably even more amazing than it even sounds. It was truly so well prepared and decadent and delicious. We could have stopped after this dish and we would have been very happy. This dish was paired with Huff Estates Chardonnay 2008 VQA

 

3rd course: Lamb Ravioli with Sweet Pea Emulsion

Local lamb ravioli on sweet pea emulsion with sunflower sprouts and basil from the chef’s garden. This dish was paired with 2008 pinot noir county cuvee from Rosehall Run. It was beautiful and the ravioli were delicious, but the sweet pea emulsion was a little too spicy for some reason. Still, a gorgeous course and the heat didn’t stop us from polishing it off.

 

4th course: Coffee-encrusted Halibut with Parsnip Puree

Coffee-encrusted halibut on parsnip puree with lovage and brunoise of veggies, in a county cider emulsion. This was amazing. It inspired Neil and I to try encrusting fish in coffee sometime. Such inspired flavors! The coffee crunch on the fish was so powerful, yet not overpowering and the parsnip puree was so flavorful and creamy. We loved everything about this dish.

 

5th course: Trio of House-Made Desserts

Desserts in the trio: Chocolate ganache with a hazelnut feuilletine base, vanilla creme brulee &  local cantaloupe sorbet. Ok, I have to admit, we dug into the dessert before even stopping to take a photo. That explains the half-eaten mess on the plate. Everything was delicious. The ganache in particular tasted very ‘Francais’, especially with the feuilletine crust (which has a finely layered and crispy texture).

Finale: Homemade Nougat

Yes, just when we thought it was all over, they brought over a little dish with pieces of glassy-looking homemade nougat that were soft and chewy and so, so good.

The wine-pairings were  chosen by Alexandre himself (who is very well-versed on the wineries in the county) and each dish was described and explained to us as it came to the table. Check out the current menu for more. Angeline’s will be participating in an event called Countylicious in November where they’ll offer a special prix-fixe menu.

Tasting Prince Edward County

7 Oct

Taste PEC

One great thing about living in southern Ontario is how close we are to so many food-producing regions. It’s nice to be able to get out of the city for a couple days and go somewhere that allows you to visit with and appreciate some of the people responsible for bringing produce, meats, cheeses and wine to our tables. Prince Edward County has been on our must-visit list for this reason, and we finally got a chance to check out the County recently.

The ninth annual Taste! A Celebration of Regional Cuisine festival was the catalyst for our visit, and though we managed to see and do a ton over the three days we spent in PEC – some of which we’ll cover in future posts – Taste! was a great way to begin our journey through the County. The event featured approximately 60 area restaurants and wineries sampling their wares at Picton’s Crystal Palace. And while it wasn’t cheap to properly eat our way through the event ($25/person for admission, including 5 sampling tickets; $1 per additional sample ticket, with most food and wine samples averaging 3 or 4 tickets each), it was definitely worth it to connect with the chefs and producers, and see and taste the passion they have in the local ingredients.

Here are some of the things that stood out for us at Taste!

Fifth Town Cheese at Taste PEC

Fifth Town Cheese was sampling a selection of their great cheeses, as well as a pumpkin chevre tart – a perfect fall flavour combo.

East and Main Bistro at Taste PEC

East and Main Bistro – whose chef, Lili Sullivan, and her husband, chef Michael Sullivan, are Toronto transports – featured mini tourtieres. I’m a sucker for great pastry crust, and this one was delicious.

Buddha Dog at Taste PEC

Picton’s Buddha Dog (which has a location in Collingwood and is a fixture at Toronto’s Brickworks farmers market) with their special Taste! creation, a lamb dog topped with Fifth Town Cheese feta and tzatziki.

Waupoos Winery Gazebo Restaurant at Taste PEC

The team from The Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Winery prepares their southwest-style pulled chicken on corn and scallion pancake. This was one of our favorite dishes at Taste!

Waring House and Barley Days Brewery at Taste PEC

The Waring House was serving Barley Days beer-glazed pulled pork sliders. Naturally, we decided to pair ours with glasses of Barley Days Brewery’s County India Pale Ale and Wind & Sail Dark Ale.

Angeline's Inn at Taste PEC

Angeline’s Restaurant and Inn was serving pork-apple-calvados ‘pockets’, which were delicious – so delicious, in fact, that we forgot to take a picture before we ate. When we went back to the booth later to try to get a photo of the food, it was all gone. But we thought their booth design stood out, so I’ve included a photo.

Copper Kettle Chocolate at Taste PEC

This is a small sample of the truffles, barks and ‘shots’ (chocolate filled with local wines) being served by Copper Kettle Chocolate Company. After a couple hours of eating and drinking, I only managed to sample a couple of their shots, but it was enough to convince me to pay Copper Kettle a visit next time we’re in the County.

Taste! A Celebration of Regional Cuisine continues to grow, this year adding a week of programming and related dinners leading up to the main event. Prince Edward County is full of great restaurants, food shops and wineries, and as we found out, it’s worth driving around and checking out as much as possible over the span of several days. But if you only have one day Taste! is a great overview of all the County offers.

Taste! 2010 Prince Edward County

%d bloggers like this: