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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Following the Food Chain...


It's certainly been a bountiful summer. Aside from our own vegetable garden and fruit shrubs/trees, I have made a point of harvesting "outside the box", so to speak - collecting produce from what Nature and some generous friends have provided. This includes the wild leeks (aka ramps, pictured at left) and fiddleheads in the spring, both which were first time introductions to our dinner table.

Recently, I was given elderberries by a friend, which I made into a syrup to be used later in the winter, with yogurt, crepes or deserts. A
loaded crabapple tree which was growing at one of the markets was the source of fruit for a beautiful clear red jelly. I've already found a recipe for rose hip jelly, since my rugosa roses are loaded with them this year. Our pantry is starting to look very colourful, now: I've also made bright yellow zucchini relish, salsa from our tomatos, pesto made with basil and garlic from the garden and a canned tomato/veggie base, which will go into this winter's lasagnas, soups and chilis. But I digress...

A few weeks ago, one of the chefs who shops regularly at the Inglewood Farmers' Market came by with a voucher to be used towards a dinner at his restaurant. Chef Erik Kjaer, along with his wife, Peta, and daugher, Erin, own The Market Hill Cafe, which is about a 25 minute drive from our home. Ralph and I arrived with good appetites, and we certainly were not disappointed!

Erik's workspace faced us as we entered, and he greeted us with a smile as he continued with his kitchen duties. His daughter showed us to our table - I chose to sit at the beautifully upholstered bench, while Ralph's chair faced the fireplace. The room had a simple, but elegantly tasteful decor (we found out later that Erik did all the work himself). Music that ranged from light jazz, to the Beatles, to folk classics, played quietly from the kitchen area (inspiration for Erik, maybe? ;) A few vases of fresh, pastel coloured lilies were a lovely touch to the wonderful surroundings in which we could relax and enjoy our dinner.

Our menu featured specials that included locally-produced and raised food - lots of choices. There was lamb from Bert Niewenhuis, produce from Sandra's Garden, Willow Creek Heirlooms, and Caledon Farm and of course, our own mushrooms :D.

Ralph started with the Kale, Tomato and Walnut soup, while I had crab cakes with home-made seasoned mayonnaise. So far, so good! The presentation was beautiful, and the food very yummy, with "just right" sized portions for appetizers.

Deciding on our meal was a little trickier, with the variety available, but in the end, we opted on a glazed Salmon steak on rice with vegetables for Ralph, and an open-faced Yorkshire pudding, topped with braised lamb in a shiitake mushroom glaze, also with vegetables (slightly crisp, julienned carrots, squash, beans, onions and beets - perfect accompaniment to both entrees). Between forkfuls of food and contented mmmm's, we agreed that the food was outstanding. This was especially nice for us, because I love cooking, and am a pretty good cook, which sometimes leads to disappointments when we go out. Not this time, in fact, we decided to go all the way, and ordered desert!

Ralph had an apple crisp, hot out of the oven topped with ice cream, and I chose a homemade maple pecan pastry which "sandwiched" a scoop of ice cream - a little on the sweet side, for our personal taste, but delicious, nonetheless! The other choices also included a fresh peach pie with meringue topping and Erik's own cherry/cranberry/lime cheesecake. As we enjoyed the ambiance of the almost-full restaurant, we commented that it was indeed a gem, right in our own backyard, practically. To top off our wonderful evening, the surprise was that, even with our drinks (selections included Ontario VQA wines) and all the food mentioned above, our meal came to under $100.

We were so happy to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labour, as well as some of my fellow vendors' at the market, in such a relaxing atmosphere. The food was prepared magnificently and truly a feast for anyone who appreciates good cooking, but especially "local" good cooking. Thank you, Erik and family, for a wonderful evening!

The Market Hill Cafe is located at 19834 Airport Road, Mono Mills, ON. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 am - 2:30 pm for lunch, and 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm for dinner, reservations recommended at (519) 941-5150.

Oh, and just to be fair, I hope to visit some of the other restaurants who are taking part of the Eat Local Caledon Challenge for the month of September. Trust me, when you combine chefs who are passionate about their work, with fresh, delicious local produce, you are in for a taste sensation! Treat yourself to what our local community has to offer, you won't be sorry!