I don’t typically do restaurant reviews here at The Seasonal Gourmet, aside from occasionally discussing restaurants I’ve tried in my travels. Reviewing restaurants isn’t my area of expertise and there are other great websites dedicated to providing reviews. However, I feel that a recent meal I enjoyed should be discussed as a great example of seasonal eating at its best.
As everyone knows, winter seasonal eating in northern climates is not without its challenges. It’s been a long time since the farmer’s markets of summer and we have a while to go before the first crops of spring. Jamie Kennedy is a renowned chef who owns a number of restaurants in Toronto and was an early champion of local, seasonal eating in Ontario. My favourite of his restaurants is the Wine Bar, located on Church Street downtown. It’s casual and inviting with exposed brick walls, bottles of preserves on display and an open kitchen at which you can sit and watch the chefs in action. The menu is composed of dishes made from local, seasonal ingredients and served as small portions for sharing. I like this style of eating (it’s similar to Spanish tapas) because it allows you to try a number of different things. The menu changes daily and wine pairings are suggested for each course.
I’ve visited JKWB (Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar) many times and I always come away both satisfied and inspired. It’s not fancy food – many of the dishes are rustic preparations such as braises and his most famous dish is french fries – but I always find something on the menu that interests me as a cook and recipe developer. A recent meal was no exception.
We started with a plate of house made flatbreads with three kinds of dips: Leek with White Bean, Parsnip-Maple and Celery Root. All were delicious but my favourite was the celery root – it was creamy with a hint of celery flavour. We then moved on to a bowl of Cabbage and Parsnip Soup. While this sounds like something eaten by orphans in a Dickens novel, it was actually a rich, creamy, complex soup that was a little different from winter soups offered in most restaurants. I look forward to trying my own rendition of it.
After a great start, we continued with more hearty dishes (bear in mind the portions are small and each dish was shared!). Seared Scallops with Braised Leeks and Smoked Pork Shoulder arrived perfectly cooked, followed by a Braised Beef Cheek with Roast Potatoes that was meltingly tender with a hint of rosemary. The final main dish was Duck Confit with Buttered Turnip. Again, it sounds boring but the turnip was almost sweet and paired well with the crisp skinned duck. To finish the meal, we tried the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Chantilly. The moist cake with toffee sauce and cream may have been the highlight of the meal.
Other tempting items on the menu that we didn’t try included Grilled Albacore Tuna with Beets and Mustard Vinaigrette, Entrecote of Beef with Northern Woods Mushrooms and Local Organic Fries as Braised Beef Poutine. All of the dishes used seasonal vegetables and local purveyors where possible. The result was innovative and most importantly, delicious.
And that, my friends, is how you can eat well with the season in the heart of a Canadian winter.
- Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
- 9 Church Street, Toronto, Ontario
- Wine Bar Chef: Dan DeMatteis
- Pastry Chef: Rachelle Cadwell
- Executive Chef: Jamie Kennedy