Boralia

It only seems fitting that with my 27th birthday occurring next week to write about another birthday dinner I had earlier this year. In June I went for dinner at Boralia to celebrate one of my favourite people in the world’s birthday: Cynthia.

Boralia is a restaurant that is serving historically inspired dishes representing the cuisines of Canada’s aboriginal population and early settlers. You won’t see any stereotypical representations of Canadiana in this restaurant. There are no Hudson’s Bay blankets, or stripes of colouring drawing on this imagery. There is no overuse of antlers and pelts adorning the walls. There is a large mural illustrating a lush green forest, and natural materials are used throughout the restaurant. The simplicity and use of other iconography to conjure images of Canada is welcomed and prepares you for the redefining of Canadian cuisine and culture.

We started with the L’éclade and Red Fife Levain Bread & Cultured Butter.

borealia_ss_8Photo Credit: BoraliaLeclade-credit-Nick-Merzetti-e1419037958616Photo Credit: Eat, Drink, Travel

Mussels smoked in pine needles and pine ash butter  c.1605

The interesting thing about the menu at Boralia is that each item is given a date at the end of the description, informing the diner of the historical period that this dish is from. The L’éclade is a dish that was brought to Canada by Samuel de Champlain and was a favourite among his crew. The history nerd in me loved this attention to detail and historical accuracy.

The presentation of this dish is beautiful. The bowl of mussels is brought to your table covered in a bell jar. The server slowly lifts the cloche to release fragrant smoke that has been infused with pine needles. The smoke slowly dissipates in the air but the smell and flavourings of pine are maintained in the butter. The mussels are tender and salty, infused with smoky and floral tones from the pine. Ordering the side of bread is a must but not for the bread itself; rather to soak up all the delicious butter pooling at the bottom of the bowl.

Next we ordered the Pigeon Pie.

9.Borealia-Nick-Merzetti-featured-image-644x415Photo Credit: Source Unknown

Pigeon Pie with roast squab breast and asparagus c.1611.

If you have ever walked in Toronto with me, you would know of my hatred of pigeons. They are dirty and messy and I cannot tolerate people who feed them. The fact that I could eat my animal enemy was enticing.

The pie crust was buttery, flaky and crunchy: it melted over your tongue as if it was purely made of butter. It was a perfect pie crust. The filling however, was not worthy of being encased by a crust this good. The filling was not bad but it was nothing impressive. It was a typical meat pie filling: carrots, pies and a thick gravy. The taste and texture of squab was not apparent in this pie.

The squab breast on the side was the representation of the meat that I was looking for. The breast was seared on the outside, creating a crunchy shell around the whole piece that locked in the juiciness of the meat. The meat was tender but a bit gamy; squab tastes and feels like a mixture of duck and chicken. It has the richness and flavour of duck but the softness and almost creaminess of chicken. I would be perfectly happy with an order of the duck breast without the pie.

Next we had the Pan-Roasted Elk.

imagePhoto Credit: The Globe and Mail

Pan-roasted Elk with wild rice-crusted egg, cranberry gastrique, burnt onion, and radish.

I wasn’t blown away by this dish. The cranberry gastrique was my favourite component of the plate. The tartness was a nice accompaniment to the rich, gaminess of the elk. The elk was slightly tough and did not have much flavour beside the gaminess that is typical of elk. The wild rice-crusted egg was good. The rice added nutiness to the dish that gave it a woodsy, more rustic taste. The egg oozed over the elk and help distract from the toughness of the meat.

To finish we ordered the Louisbourg Hot Chocolate Beignets.

b6Photo Credit:  Dine Magazine

Louisbourg hot chocolate beignets with spiced chocolate ganache, beer batter, and lemon sugar c.1795.

These were delicious. This is one of the simplest but best desserts I have had at a restaurant. The beignets were hot from being recently fried. They were the right balance of fatty, savoury and sweet. The chocolate ganache was warm, rich, silky and viscous: it slowly oozed out of each beignet with every bite. It was the best chocolate I have ever eaten. The lemon sugar added a light, citrus flavour to the decadent beignets and made them not taste quite so heavy.

I would recommend a visit to Boralia. It is a nice, upscale taste of home. We are often criticized for not having a national cuisine but I think Boralia is the start of that movement.

Happy munching!

Cranberry Margaritas

Photo Credit: Gimme Some Oven

Feliz Navidad! If you are celebrating a tropical style Christmas or are just missing the warmth after Toronto’s insane ice storm this weekend, I suggest you trek out to the store and pick up the ingredients for this cranberry margarita. A margarita is a drink that will instantly sweep you away to a warmer place. The cranberry pairs naturally with the lime citrus tones of this cocktail and give it a more festive feel.

Recipe is from Gimme Some Oven (my latest find and newest crush) and can be found below the cut.

Happy boozing!

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Cranberry Cherry Pie

IMG_4844I am addicted to making pies. I don’t bake anything else. And I think I am getting better. It has become a standing thing that whenever we get together with our friends Al and Jamie, I bake a pie. They never ask, and I never actually tell them, I just show up with a new flavour pie in my hands. Please, if you secretly hate it, I will stop.

Last time we got together with them I made a Cranberry Cherry pie (from Better Homes and Gardens). This was a new recipe that I was trying out and it came with its own pitfalls and challenges. I did my first lattice top which I think turned out pretty nicely and it was my first time using frozen fruit for a pie. When using frozen fruits for a pie I would suggest letting the fruit completely thaw and drain, to help limit the amount of liquid in your pie. Besides the excessive amount of liquid in the pie, the flavour of the filling was sweet with a slight tartness from both the cranberries and the cherries. There was a bit of citrus from the orange zest which complimented the zing of the ginger; but since I don’t love ginger, I would not use this next time. If you do want to use ginger, I would suggest not using candied ginger because it doesn’t melt or become part of the flavour. It stays whole and very distinct.

I liked the combination of cranberries and cherries but because the filling was so liquid I don’t know if I would attempt this again or just fault the recipe. Also, there are too many types of pie in the world to make the same recipes twice!

Recipe below the cut and happy munching!

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Apple Cranberry Hand Pies

Fall is the season of pies. There is just something comforting and cozy about smelling butter, discount cinnamon and harvest fruits oozing out of the oven and into the rest of the house.  Although apple and pumpkin are classic fall pies I am trying to experiment with new flavor profiles and combinations this fall. I am looking forward to baking with pears, salve a fruit I don’t give enough credit to for its flavor and versatility and pumpkin, a vegetable that is only used in October and November and therefore does not get enough time to shine.

My first pies of the season were apple cranberry hand pies. Hand pies are a trend I like, but I actually prefer a slice of pie. Hand pies are more convenient to eat but are more time consuming and tedious to make. You also do not get as much filling and cannot easily eat the pie with ice cream.

photoA few weeks ago I picked up this handy hand pie mold from Loblaws for $5.00. I picked it up in the hopes that this mold would ease the process of making hand pies. The one pictured is actually from Williams-Sonoma and therefore probably unnecessarily expensive and not worth it. However, for $5.00 – how can you say no?

I promptly threw out the recipe with the box and had to scour the internet for an alternative recipe, which lead me to Williams-Sonoma’s apple cranberry recipe and photo of the device.

IMG_4578Apple cranberry is a type of pie I had never had before but it is delicious and I recommend everyone try it/make it. The cranberry tartness rounds out the sweetness from the apples and brown sugar. The cranberry works with the spiciness of the cinnamon and nutmeg in a different way than the apple does, bringing together a new type of flavor from the apples and cranberry. It’s a new spin on a classic fall pie.

Recipe below the cut and happy munching!

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