The Mad Scientist

Stadtlander Swag

It’s been about a year and a half since the Everyman and I made our culinary pilgrimage to Eigensinn Farm.

That one short trip 18 months ago could have such a profound effect on me afterwards was something I had not expected.

The trip, given to me as a Christmas present in 2007, was a culinary curiosity that happened to hold some cachet.  Speaking of its impending date to a few coworkers revealed that the quaint, fancy dinner was more sought after than I’d anticipated.

Attempt one ended abruptly when our visit to Collingwood was cut short by a snowstorm that left us stranded at Blue Mountain for the evening.  In a sense it was a blessing in disguise, as an emergency wisdom tooth removal a few days prior had left me worried that I would be unable to enjoy the meal.  Graciously, Stadtlander’s wife Nobuyo managed to reschedule our dinner for the following weekend, so 7 days later we descended on Blue Mountain again for our chance at the culinary fireworks known as Eigensinn Farm.

Bacchus

Even in the midst of winter, the kaleidoscopic nature of the property was not lost on me.  As part of my present I received a copy of their self-published book entitled The Heaven On Earth Project, a chronicle of the construction of the outdoor sculptures that feature prominently in the farm’s summer dinner series.  The various statues and installations were meant to be used as elaborate presentation and cooking stations scattered throughout the farm.  Though I was somewhat disheartened that we would not get that experience, (being the middle of winter at the time) the cozy atmosphere in the small farmhouse dining room more than made up for the shortfall.  Where else could you enter a restaurant and see part of your dinner cooking over the room’s hearth fire?

Grill

As course after course streamed through the small dining room, what struck me most was the utter simplicity of each component and portion of the meal.  While not exclusively local, a fair percentage of the ingredients hailed from no further than outside the back door.  There was a measure of calm assurance that emanated from the food, leaving diners with the impression that every single ingredient in a dish had a specific purpose, as envisioned by the chef.  Flavours were exceptionally clean and clear, left unmuddied by the chef’s laserlike intention for the guests experiencing the meal.  Even the Everyman’s and my allergies (nuts and shellfish) did not seem to cause the chef any undue hesitation, and as the rest of the diners noshed on lobster and scallops, we were treated to the tenderest, juiciest, freshest tasting chicken I’d ever had in my life.

I know that the consommé we were served changed the Everyman’s outlook on food (he still mentions it all the time) but the overall experience changed mine.  After spending an evening at Eigensinn, my ideals shifted.  I no longer felt the need to make food taste like anything that it wasn’t.  I’ve always been a stickler for quality, but after that meal, I came away knowing that high quality ingredients are beautiful, and I should just let the flavours speak for themselves.  The sustainable nature of the farm also inspired me to start growing most of my own produce in the summer, and to seek out thoughtful local artisans for the things I couldn’t  grow.  Part madman, part genius, part consummate host; that one delight-filled night changed the course of my cooking, consuming and growing forever.

Thank you, Stadtlander (and the Everyman).  You probably have no idea what that one evening meant to me, but I will always be humbled and grateful for having the opportunity to be in your presence.

Until next time…

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