5-years in the making, @OliverBonacini's @ChefHorne takes us to Canada's North.
Canada's North has always interested me, from it's breathtaking landscapes to it's rich culture and history, the North is uniquely Canadian. When Chef Horne first mentioned doing a series of cross Canada tastings, this region was by far the one I was most interested in, and looked forward to. Needless to say, this was a fantastic meal, and really, what meal isn't when you have great company and someone like Chef Horne working with some incredible ingredients. Every bite was smart, thoughtful, and tasted wild.
This was one of the most unique and different menu's I've ever had, I've said that before, but this one was truly special, and from talking with Chef Horne, it's a menu he's never going to do again. Chef Horne demonstrated such skill in bringing together all these different elements, and highlights wild ingredients like never before. From the first bite to the last, the theme of the North resonated throughout the entire meal. Tonight's meal was so special.
Left to right: Venison, Seal, and Caribou. Served with Mashed Potato, Red Vein Sorrel, and Mustard Seeds.
Paired with Rosée Lemonade.
Venison was very much on the mild side of flavours, without being told it was venison, it would be hard to tell exactly what it was. The seal was be far the most interesting, looks like any other kind of lean jerky but tastes like gamey fish. Caribou had a more intense game flavour to it. The mashed potatoes mellowed everything out. I'd take a bag of seal jerky any day!
Course 1: "Unknown Fish"
Juniper Smoked Inconnu, Dandelion Purée, Arctic Char Caviar, Fried Bannock, Arctic Rose Cream, Capers, Juniper Berries.
Paired with Coffin Ridge L'Acadie Blanc, Grey County Ontario 2013.
From the Mackenzie River, inconnu is a species of freshwater whitefish that is perfectly suitable for smoking due to it's oily flesh. Aside from being a local source of protein for residents in Canada's north, much of the inconnu caught is sent to Siberia where a large market exists. To Chef Horne's knowledge, this is the first time inconnu has been served in Toronto.
The inconnu was smoked for 4 to 6 hours, and you're served 3 distinctive pieces from the belly, loin, and tail. The smoke profile and texture of the fish changes with each piece; from fatty to lean, a gradient in smoking intensity. For the wild rose cream, the wild roses are harvested, dried, then folded into crème fraîche. The cream with the saltiness from the arctic char roe, and the smoky inconnu, all served with fried bannock, this makes for a perfect bite and a great way to kick off the theme of the evening. On a side note; if the demand for this fish increases and is readily available, this dish would make for a perfect picnic item!
Course 2: Wild Rabbit Agnolotti
Foraged Mushrooms, Caribou Moss, Wild Cranberry, & Matsutake Mushroom Cream
Paired with Terlan Pinot Noir Montigil Terlano Alto Adige Italy 2011.
Caribou moss, aka reindeer lichen, like most plants in the north, is a slow growing lichen (only 3-5mm per year), and as the name suggests is an essential source of food for caribou. However, it is traditionally used as a remedy for kidney stones and diarrhea, and is usually prepared by soaking until soft and served with berries, roe, or lard. In this case, Chef Horne soaked the caribou moss for 3 days, changing the water every day to clean and hydrate the dried lichen and then fried and used as garnish.
The rabbit was braised in rabbit stock for 2 hours, cranberries were served fresh as well as powdered along the edges to cut the richness of the matsutake cream sauce that was poured table side. The earthiness of the lobster mushrooms and chanterelles along with the bold flavours of the rabbit provided a nice foundation for the cream sauce and cranberries to balance everything out. Easily one of my top 5 dishes I've had from Chef Horne.
Course 3: Arctic Char
Swiss Chard, Preserved Oyster Leaf, Pine Shoot Oil, Wild Rice
Paired with Dr. Büklin-Wold Riesling Trocken Pfalz Germany 2012.
Wild rice is one of the few grains that grows in the north, and is a major source starch. The rice is puffed, and served with the braised vegetables. This was one of the most interesting dishes of the evening because of the oyster leaf. Raw, these leaves have a salty, complex minerally taste to it. Exactly what you would expect from an oyster. Seriously, it tastes exactly like an fresh oyster. Salted and cured, the flavours are more subtle and worked well with the dish. However, if you were to eat the leaf on its own, we enjoyed the flavours and textures of the raw leaf (pictured below) more than the cured version because of the almost mushroom texture the leaf has and the brighter oyster flavours.
Intermezzo: Buttermilk snow with sea buckthorn
Course 4: Caribou Hind
Fermented Black Currants, Braised Rock Tripe, Rye Berries, and Birch Bark Jus
Paired with Rennie Estate Winery 'G' Assemblage Beamsville Bench Ontario 2011.
Served on a bed of barley and roasted turnips, the caribou hind was simply roused with alder. It took 5-years for Chef Horne to bring in wild caribou to Canoe, and it was worth it. Rock Tripe is also known as 'Wood Ear' for all the Chinese folks out there. This dish brought together the whole theme of the evening for me. Perfectly cooked to a rare finish, the caribou was incredibly tender, moist, and full of earthy gamey flavour. One thing I've learned with game meats is that you want to eat it while it's hot, and this was no exception. As the meat cooled, the irony game flavour intensified, and overwhelmed my companion…more meat for me! It's these big bold flavours that I've come to expect from Canoe over the past few years, and it's the reason why I keep coming back. If there's one place that know their meat, it's Canoe.
Course 5: Frozen Tundra
Wild Honey Mousse, Berries, Gold Leaf, Balsam Fir Cream
Paired with Midnight Sun.
Once again Pastry Chef Gonsalves out does himself with the dessert. Served white chocolate pearls with a graham cracker filling and with wild blueberries, covered with a white chocolate blanket and wild honey mousse wafers. This arctic white dessert was a perfect end to a very memorable meal.
Petit Four: Bark
Chocolate and Cedar Gelée