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!

Barque

Happy birthday to my favourite person in the entire world, GC!!! Well, technically his birthday was July 3rd and we did celebrate that day, I am just operating on a bit of a delay. On the suggestion of a coworker we decided to check out Barque Smokehouse for the birthday dinner.

We were seated on the patio – a cute little patio, off the side of the restaurant with twinkling lights. It was cozy and felt like someone’s backyard patio. When we were seated at the table we were greated by Barque’s signature popcorn – yums!

We ordered cocktails – GC ordered the Bourbon Smoked Sour (not pictured) and I ordered the Barque Caesar:

IMG_4068The Barque Caesar with vodka, Clamato, seasoned with pepper, Tabasco, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce, garnished with pickled asparagus and a slice of lime, and rimmed with smoked and candied bacon. This may be the best Caesar I have had. It was spicy, and thick, it tasted like a cocktail rather than tomato soup. It was garnished beautifully and it wasn’t ridiculous looking (unlike another Caesar I will be featuring on the blog shortly). The smoked and candied bacon was the perfect hint of savoury, fatty, sweetness to round out the flavour palate of this drink. I highly recommend it if you are a Caesar lover.

We started with an order of Smoked Chipotle Wings.

IMG_4062This wings were delicious. They were slightly small but when thinking about meat this should be viewed as reassuring rather than disappointing. It means that your meat is coming from chickens that are not on steriods and other growth horomones. The meat was juicy, tender and perfectly cooked. The sauce was SPICY. We made the rookie move of assuming that because we love chipotle mayo and the Mexican restuarant “Chipotle” we can therefore handle this heat. We cannot but they were still delicious.

Next we ordered the Barque Sampler for two. Barque Sampler for 2

Barque

The Barque Sampler for Two with Meat: Beef Brisket, 2 Beef Rib, and 2 Competition Chicken Thighs and Sides: Fries, Cuban Corn, and Fennel Slaw.

The meats were better than the sides and I am totally ok with that. The beef brisket was tender, and had a rich, deep smoky flavour. The ribs had this amazing rub on them, that combined a wide range of flavours from coffee to cinnamon. The table beside us also ordered the ribs and asked their server what the blend of spices in the rub was. The server was unable to give away all the spices but brought out a small container of rub for them! The chicken thighs were tender, smoky and had a delicious sweetness from the sauce. There is the disclaimer on the menu that because the meats are smoked they will not come to you piping hot but warm. Eating this meal in the summer is perfect: it is substantial and filling but you won’t get hot and uncomfortable while eating your dinner (or is this just a problem that I have?).

The fries had a spice on them that was similar to the popcorn spice which made the fries sweet rather than salty – neither GC or I appreciated this. Fries are best when they are enjoyed in all their salty glory. The Cuban corn was sweet, had a hint of spice but was too cold to really enjoy. The kernels had done that awful thing where they start to shrivel once cool and all the juiciness from the corn disappears. The fennel slaw was my favourite part – tart and acidic with a fresh and citrus quality from the fruit. This is the prefect salad for summer.

I would have loved to be able to eat dessert but alas, there was no room. We later went home and enjoyed homemade mini twix cheesecakes (previously featured here)!

Barque was my first really introduction to this neighbourhood and I love it. It feels like a less busy and more mature Annex. We will definitely be going back to sample the endless options combined in the sample platters.

Happy munching!