Posts Tagged ‘Michael Stadtlander’

Silencing My Inner Critic

I grew up in a restaurant family.

While other kids got to have play dates and scheduled outings with their moms and dads, I enjoyed an absentee relationship with mine; 2 of 3 being terminally addicted to their kitchens.  In the years that my parents were together I barely saw my mom because she’d leave for work while I was still at pre-school and not return until 2 or 3 in the morning.  After my parents separated, my mom and stepdad were too busy chasing their restaurant dreams to worry about things like family all that much, so I lived with my dad and only saw them a couple times a year.

Despite many wonderful things I learned and was inspired by during my time in their restaurants, the one thing that continues to irk me to this day is the overly critical nature that they’ve imbued in me.  It was never more evident in them than on the rare occasions when we would go out to eat as a family.  Rather than enjoying the brief time we had together, they would categorically pick apart whatever we were eating, regardless of whether it was a cheap trattoria or a fancy French bistro.  They’d then move on to analyzing whether they could make a particular dish better, and consequently discuss how to do so.

It drove me nuts.  Had I been older it probably would have driven me to drink, but at that young age all I could muster was a withering roll of the eyes.  I didn’t see them often, so all I wanted was to make the most of our time, but they never let up.  For years I vowed I would never be like them, determined to be happy with whatever was set before me, instead.

But, over the last few years I’ve found their somewhat unsavoury trait rearing its ugly head more and more in my demeanour.

Between working in their kitchens and stints at culinary school I’ve had plenty of time to develop an overly picky palate.  In a lot of ways it’s been for the best; I’ve gained a certain level of disdain for junk, fast and pre-packaged food-like substances in favour of slow (or what I like to call real) food.  On the flip side, it also makes friends and lovers (unnecessarily) nervous wrecks when feeding me, and coworkers assume I’m some sort of snob because I choose not to eat their hydrogenated oil filled crap or corn syrup laden goodies.  Even though I’m relatively quiet about my beliefs and standpoints on food (preferring to internalize rather than proselytize) most people assume I’m some sort of elitist crank or cow hugging moon maiden, anyhow.  That I don’t care what anyone thinks of me or my habits seems to stymie them all the more.

I often try to rationalize that I’ve only taken on the best parts of this annoying habit from my parents.  Instead of critiquing things for how bad they might be, I strive to only indulge in tastes of ridiculously good food because I think it satisfies your body, soul and cravings more.  Of course, that’s a mantra that’s easier said than done…


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.


The Foodie 13 – CanCon Cookbooks

Yup, it’s about time for another gloriously informative Foodie 13.

Being such a proponent of local food, I thought that perhaps it was time to round up the best Canadian content cookbooks to go with all of that local food.  After all, who better to instruct you on how to cook local bounty than those who live in the same climate?

You may notice that the list skews heavily on the non-television personality side of things, and that is completely intentional.  With the exception of James Barber (who really was a national treasure) and Elizabeth Baird (who I don’t believe is actively on television anymore) you will not find any “brands” gracing this list.  Instead, it contains books that were written by artisans who inspired me, and masters who impressed me with their craft.  And in case anyone was wondering, Susur’s book was left off the list because I just don’t have enough hours in the day to cook his kind of food.

1Jamie Kennedy’s Seasons by Jamie Kennedy – As magnanimous in print as he is in real life, Seasons is jam-packed with the best of Kennedy’s local, seasonal, artisanal eats, including a recipe for his trademark frites.  The accompanying vivid photos make even the humblest of recipes seem absolutely drool-worthy.

2 – The Heaven On Earth Project by Michael Stadtlander – Part arthouse project, part beautiful story, this cookbook chronicles the building and usage of some of Stadtlander’s more esoteric statuary on his Singhampton farm/restaurant property.  A very intimate peek into the mind and heart of one of Canada’s greatest culinary geniuses.

3 – Fat by Jennifer McLagan – My favourite of McLagan’s two books (the other being Bones) even though I adore bone marrow, (which is both a bone and a fat) Fat unravels the stigma behind… fat.  A book filled with richly descriptive recipes, colorful photos and reasons why high quality fats (in limited quantities) should be a part of everyone’s diet.


The Foodie 13 – Desert Island Fare

I probably spend more time than is normal thinking about what I would do if I ever became stranded on a deserted island.  I can assure you there’d be no montage of Castaway or Blue Lagoon moments, but if there were other people trapped with me, I imagine it would quickly devolve in a similar manner to Lord Of The Flies.

Because of that, I keep a mental list of comestibles I’d want to have with me if that were ever to go down.  The ironic thing about that statement of course, is that if (heaven forbid) it really did happen, there’s no way I’d be prepared enough to have all these good eats with me.  But a (slightly delusional) girl can always dream, can’t she?  With these 13 paradigms of culinary excellence to keep me company, I’d never be wanting for more.

So without further adieu, but in no particular order…

1- Czehoski‘s bacon poutine - There’s nothing better on a grey and blustery day than digging in to a bowl of this salty, creamy, crispy perfection.  If you’ve never tried bacon gravy before, you’re probably asking yourself, what’s the big deal?  Can it really be that different?  Trust me hombres, it can and is.  This poutine is what dreams are made of… decadent, curd-filled dreams.

2- Fat Willy’s ribs - Fat Willy’s is a little hole in the wall barbecue joint in the suburbs of Chicago.  I never expected we’d fine transcendent barbecue in Illinois of all places, but ever since we came home, I’ve had vivid dreams about the smoky tang I experienced there, sometimes to the point that I’m awakened from chewing on my own pillow.  Delish!

3- Terroni‘s mezzo mezzo - This appetizer platter is constantly changing, but always includes some meat, some cheese, some bread and some fruit or veg, plus a small dish of honey for dipping.  My favourite has always been the roasted pear that’s often a mainstay of the dish, and marries well with so many things.


Maybe I Am Just Like You

Susur.  Perigee.  Truffles.  Splendido.  Scaramouche.

Lest you think I’m some sort of overindulgent brat, let me clarify.

This is not a list of places I’ve been; rather, it’s a list of places I will probably never go (some for more obvious reasons than others).

When I was growing up there were not many occasions to go out to nice restaurants for dinner.  Not that I remember anyway; there might have been some before my parents got divorced but I was much too young to recollect them.  The closest my dad (who raised me) and I ever got to a dinner out was a takeout special from Chinatown, or once every couple of months a trip to Vena’s for roti and doubles.  I’ll admit (but am embarrassed to), when I was younger I was ashamed of our station in life, if only because I couldn’t do the things most of my friends could do, like belong to clubs or teams or sports, or have cable or just go to the mall.  While we weren’t dirt poor, we didn’t have money, and our situation was something I hid from even my closest friends for a very long time.  In fact, there are a handful of them reading this blog now that probably didn’t even realize it until I wrote this (not that it matters anymore).  There were years we had to use food banks and others that required social assistance.  The one lasting after effect was that I always felt like I didn’t quite belong around people who had nice things.

To this day there are some restaurants I won’t patronize because I feel that I don’t have anything nice enough to wear and I don’t want to draw attention to myself.  To put things into perspective, there’s a passage in Steve Dublanica’s Waiter Rant that exemplifies the exact situation I’m talking about.  It makes reference to a very posh restaurant he used to work at, and a couple who happen to visit on Valentine’s Day, but soon realize they are completely out of their league.  He takes pity on them and tries to find subtle ways to make their evening without bankrupting them.  The moral of the story?  What’s an average meal for some is an indulgent feast for others.  There are even times when the Everyman and I go to some of our regular haunts when I feel like I’m not fancy enough to fit in.  It’s a feeling that pervades my life every day.

The Everyman, (by contrast) was raised in a household quite different from my own, and sometimes doesn’t understand my issues with classism.  He can walk into places that make me feel uncomfortable and exude confidence something similar to entitlement, like he’s been doing this all his life.  And perhaps he has; I wouldn’t know.  For Christmas a few years ago he gave me a trip to Eigensinn Farm for dinner, and while part of me was ecstatic and couldn’t wait for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the other half of me was nervous and scared that the other guests would look at me and realize I didn’t belong there.  In the end the whole experience was somewhat tinged for me because of my own negative perception.

There will always be a little part of me that’s just the girl who was excluded because she was poor.  It’s the part that keeps me frugal and realistic, the part that tells me to stockpile, the part that feels compassion for the beggars and homeless people who go without enough to eat.  It wasn’t long ago that all that separated me from them was a lumpy bed and a couple of days worth of meals.  It’s a sobering thought.



There seems to be no shortage of fringe dining events and clubs in Toronto lately.

In many cases, the exclusivity of it all really equates to expense.  By that I mean that most of these private dining parties and secret events aren’t really all that exclusive, you just need to be willing to pay (sometimes through the teeth) for them.  From secret supper clubs, to private dining, to charitable events and associations, when it comes down to it, it’s all about money; even when the people preparing and participating in it aren’t.

For example, from what I’ve been hearing lately, the only private dinner club that actually is somewhat exclusive is the supper club that Karen Viva-Haynes of Viva Tastings puts on twice a month.  It’s called 6* (Degrees) Underground and basically in order to score an invite, you have to know someone who knows someone yadda yadda yadda who knows either Karen or Anne from Viva Tastings.  After reading more about it on their own website, I wonder whether having met Karen in her store while shopping there would count.  In the future I just might try to test that theory, since before they decamped from their College St storefront, I did enjoy shopping there.

On the other hand, there’s also Charlie Burger that’s being marketed as an anti-restaurant.  Basically once you sign up on their website they’ll forward you a questionnaire about your opinions on food-related things, and then they vet your answers.  The funny thing about it is that I’ve never heard tell of anyone not being accepted into the fold.  It’s possible that the whole selection process is a gimmick, but the very nature of the events ensures they are semi-exclusive.  We’re not talking about massive banquets serving hundreds of people here, rather 20-30 diners breaking bread in a small, intimate setting.  Since I signed up in February I’ve been invited to 2 events, but have been unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.  From what I heard of the March event, there were only about 30 seats available but they received over 250 RSVPs (as it’s a first come, first serve operation).  Here’s hoping that the third time’s the charm…

Being a longtime advocate for the pleasures and benefits of slow food in my own quiet way, I finally looked into membership in their Toronto Consortium.  I’ll admit that my decision to sign up was spurred on more by a banner ad for their Do It Slow Banchetto that’s happening next weekend at U of T, than anything else, as I tend to walk to the beat of my own drum.  I don’t really feel I need to be part of an organization to believe in something or practice it in my own way (you too, organized religion), but in this case I think the membership donation not only supports a good cause, but gives me access to attend exclusive dinners like this one.  And it turns out that because the Everyman and I are under 30, our couple membership is almost half the price of the standard one… I guess they’re trying to encourage a new generation of slow food activists to take up the cause, and you can count on me, brother!  If there are still tickets left, I’d be really interested in attending this one next week, even though they run $125/head ($150 without membership).  Past posts over at Charcuterie Sundays have made reference to the fact that The Black Hoof crew are preparing some special charcuterie offerings for the event, too.  Plus Cowbell will be there, and we all know how much the Everyman and I heart them.

And lastly, there’s also the somewhat exclusive nature of events like Outstanding In The Field or soon, Eigensinn Farm.  For Outstanding In The Field, this will be their first dinner in Ontario, but from what I gather it’s expected to host upwards of 200 guests.  So really, it’s more like an open air banquet, and the exclusivity is dependent more on people’s willingness to travel overnight in the middle of the week for interesting food, I think.  The Everyman and I will be there with bells on because Mark Cutrara happens to be cooking for the Ontario installment.  And Eigensinn Farm is supposedly drastically cutting back on the number of dinners they’ll hold a month, in order to focus on their new, low(er)scale venture Haisai.  The place was already exclusive enough what with only taking reservations for 12 diners a night, but now that they’re scaling back to hold only a few nights a month, the waiting lists will probably be astronomical.  At times like this I’m very grateful and happy that the Everyman and I got out there last year (again, best Christmas present ever!).  But it sounds like it will probably be a long time (if ever) before we manage to get out there again.


The Tequila Effect And Various Other Stories…

What a weekend this has been.

I had my first in-car driving lesson, during which I was eternally traumatized (because I almost hit a police car).  I then spent the afternoon at a dealership with the Everyman test driving and sitting in cars.  All roads led to cars on Saturday, it seemed.

When I woke up this morning, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and set up my hanging meat cave.  If you’ve been reading, you already know that I’ve been putting this off for the last 4 or 5 days.  What was supposed to salt cure for 5 to 7 days actually ended up soaking for 12.  I’m pretty sure this won’t have any ill effects, except perhaps resulting in a slightly stronger flavor.  Considering that various curing recipes I consulted prior to undertaking this endeavor couldn’t even reach a consensus on the duration of any step, I’m not overly concerned.  The hanging’s been causing me greater grief.  My original thought was the broom closet, but after examining it this morning, I started to worry that it was much too small.  There was also the short-lived plan to hang them in the coat closet, which was dashed when the Everyman declared he’d probably never put his coats in there again afterward.  It became apparent that the broom closet would have to do, despite its shortcomings.  I cleared it out and thoroughly wiped down all the walls, setting down aluminum foil on the bottom to catch any errant leftover brine.  Next, I removed the freezer bags of liquid and jowls from the fridge, gave them a good massage ‘n’ shake and popped one open.  Removing jowl from bag, I noticed it was stiff (as the recipe said it would be) and that quite a lot of briny liquid had seeped out during the last 12 days.  I let as much of the liquid drain off as I could, then set the jowl in a bowl and cut a gargantuan length of twine.  I’ve never been all that good at trussing, and today it was proven even further.  I’m sure that someone who knew what they were doing could have used a third of the twine that I did, but all that mattered to me was that I managed to get it to hang vertically.  Using a handy folding cooling rack strapped to several closet hooks, I was able to suspend meat via twine strung through the rack.  It was big and sturdy enough to hang both jowls simultaneously and far enough away from each other that I shouldn’t have to worry about cross-contamination of flavors.  I can say quite honestly that I’m both proud and embarrassed of my homemade setup.  Proud, because it was quite MacGyver of me.  Embarrassed because it’s incredibly ghetto.  But, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating… so come 3 weeks from now, we’ll just see, won’t we?

Moving back to other matters, the Everyman had agreed several weeks ago to take me out for  dinner to either celebrate (or commiserate) my first driving lesson.  As it turns out, commiseration was required.  We tried to stop by The Black Hoof around 10:30 last night, but the place was absolutely packed and the non-chef owner suggested going to a local bar and having them call us once a table opened up.  Neither the Everyman or I was in the mood to wait for our food or a table, so we gave our most sincere apologies and headed home.  A quick stop at the store for gathering provisions and 10 minutes later the Everyman’s delicious grilled cheese was in my hands instead.  Not exactly what I’d been hoping for at the time, but a boon of a completely different kind.  He really does make the best grilled cheese’ in the world!

Flash forward to this afternoon, and the decision to return to The Black Hoof as soon as it opened to secure a table and some calm before the storm.  We weren’t far off either.  Arriving only 30 minutes after opening, there was but a table of 3 in the back, and several people lining the bar.  I don’t think I’d ever seen it so empty before, and it was quite nice that the volume was still at a conversible decibel.  As we sat down, we both noticed that the menu had several subtle changes, a few new additions and some deletions.  New to the menu were St Johns bone marrow, testina and lentils and a duck confit sandwich.  Dearly departed were the duck confit puff and pork merguez.  Before we left home we’d both vowed to be slightly more sensible than on previous visits, and not eat until bloatation.  Having perused a menu devoid of several of our favorites (even though I knew whatever we ordered would be amazing), I optimistically believed that would be possible.

We started our culinary adventure with a large charcuterie platter and basket of Thuet bread.  No matter my personal opinion of him, Thuet does turn out some really scrumptious crumbs.  The platter was large, and arrived with the customary side of pickled vegetables.  There should definitely be more of those on the plate, especially the cauliflower and onions.  Mmm!  Our platter ran the gamut from mild to wild, and included a fois and goji berry pate, translucent slices of lonzino, meaty beef and dill salami, creamy pork rillettes, slivers of mildish horse braesoala, something that I remember as cappicola and the Everyman remembers as pork shoulder, a smoked venison and cherry salami, smooth rabbit and parsley terrine, silken duck mousse, several rounds of lacy saucisson and small chunks of smoky chorizo.  Now that’s a mouthful; both literally and figuratively!  I’m never disappointed with the meats here; each has a unique flavor and voice all its own.  While I may favor some more than others (the fois goji, duck mousse, horse and cappicola), there never seems to be anything on the plate that I feel I wouldn’t eat it again.  He’s just that good at what he does.  It really is a testament to his skill level too, because whenever the Everyman and I prepare antipasti or charcuterie platters (depending on your cultural leanings) he usually camps out firmly on the meat side, and I meander over to cheeses.  Every time we’ve had Hoof charcuterie though, I tend to match the Everyman bite for bite.  It also doesn’t hurt that the ones I like less, he usually likes more, and vice versa; though we did have a polite stare down over the last of the fois goji.  We feasted like kings, and by the time it was all over, I felt as if I was 75% of the way towards stuffed, which was a drag because I still had another dish coming.  It was at that precise moment that I inquired whether the Everyman still felt it was such a good idea to have ordered the cassoulet.  He said he was fine, so I thought nothing more of it.  I may have also commented that the Everyman was lucky that I planned to marry him some day, otherwise I would have gotten down on one hoof (ha ha) and proposed (to the chef).  Being the Everyman, he at first assumed I was talking about the nerd specimen that had just arrived one table over, with a date who looked 15 years his junior.  Um, not quite.


Kind Of A Bad Name But Really Phenomenal Cuisine…

I stumbled out of bed this morning feeling like I had a meat hangover.  How, you might wonder, does one get a meat hangover?  Well, let’s just find out, shall we?

It all started with my afternoon at work yesterday.  I was drained from staring at my monitor and fixing multiple problems and the boss wasn’t around so my mind started to wander a little bit.  The Everyman had started a new job this week, so I thought to myself that it might be nice to go out after work to celebrate that and also just relax a little.  For about 5 seconds I thought that if I was going to take him out for dinner I should probably let him choose the restaurant himself.  And then I remembered that there was a little place around the corner that I’d been dying to try.  And that is how we ended up at The Black Hoof last night.

The Black Hoof is a tiny little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that opened up in our neighbourhood recently.  Apparently it’s been open since November, but I only noticed it halfway through December on a streetcar ride home from work one night.  The awning out front says charcuterie, and it does not lie.  The Black Hoof is a meat-lovers haven.  I had read nothing but great things about this microscopic 30 seat spot, so I had high expectations as we passed through the front door curtain.  I can tell you right now, they did not disappoint.  Several of the reviews I had read mentioned that the place has become quite a chef’s hangout, and based on the type of food this place serves, I can see why.

Since I was trying to establish a celebratory mood, I decided to start the evening off with a glass of Cava.  Mucho points to The Hoof for having such a varied wine list by the glass.  There was plenty to choose from and a decent beer selection for the Everyman to boot.  The menu is written on a chalkboard at the back of the minuscule room (a la Cowbell), and is designed in such a way as to illicit sharing.  According to my sources it also changes frequently, which is always a plus.  Immediately I honed in on 3 plates that I had to try.  Waiting for our waitress to pop by, I silently wondered whether that was a tad too gluttonous.  Our waitress confirmed that a normal order for a party of two would be one of the charcuterie boards or cheese plates as an appetizer, and then 3 of the selections to share in place of the mains.  Being such champion eaters, the Everyman and I ended up with 5 plates between us and opted to skip the charcuterie altogether.  I even managed to knock a few things off my list of things to try in 2009 in the process too.

The plates started coming out of the kitchen as they were ready, so to begin I had a cabbage soup with marrow bone and toasts placed before me, and the Everyman a few Merguez sausages with a tomatillo salsa and queso fresco.  Before you start squinching up your nose about cabbage soup, hear this.  I hate cabbage and so does the Everyman, but we both ate the soup and loved it.  It was pureed and tasted slightly creamed, and had a hearty, salty, satisfying quality to it.  As I ate it I began formulating a recipe in my head, determined to attempt to recreate it at a later date.  The marrow (which was on my list) was divine; I can’t believe that I waited this long to try such a delicacy.  It was an incredibly primal taste, just right on the tiny baguette toasts and accented only by the the sea salt that was available on the side to add at your own discretion.  So good even that I seriously contemplated ordering another round of the soup with marrow bone as soon as I finished licking the spoon clean.  The Merguez with salsa and queso was no slouch either, being perfectly balanced and just the right portion for sharing.  The Everyman must’ve loved it too because I had only two small bites of it before it was gone.  As I scooped the last mound of marrow from the bone and offered it to the Everyman to eat, he had this look of where have you been all my life aglow on his face.  Clearly marrow agrees with him too.

Next, the kitchen sent out duck confit wrapped in a round puff of pastry.  It sat on the table taunting the Everyman for several moments while I finished the last of my soup, and I could see that it was physically difficult for him to restrain himself from trying it before me.  Finally I put him out of his misery and cut myself a taste so that he could dig in.  The confit was rich and intensely flavorful, and tasted like it was mixed with a slight touch of cherry jam.  The pastry was buttery, flaky, light and wonderful, and was an amazing counterpoint to the luscious threads of confit held inside.  After we devoured it the Everyman joked to me that he should just tell the kitchen to keep bringing more of those out to our table.  I heartily agreed.


Eigensinn Farm… Ooh La La!

The Everyman is really a wonderful guy sometimes.

Where The Magic Happens

For Christmas 2007 he got me the gift of a dinner at Eigensinn Farm.  It came with this really cool autographed book from the farm about their Heaven on Earth project.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I think the chef is completely out to lunch, but I don’t think there’s any denying that he knows food.  Besides, most chefs are a little crazy, and they have to be to work in that sort of environment every day.

Anyhow, we had dinner reservations for February 1st, and let me tell you, I was looking forward to that day for a month and a half.  Of course, the heavens had other plans that day, which mostly involved thwarting my efforts to get there.  February 1st turned out to be one of the really brutal winter storm days we had, and it took us a good 4 hours to drive to Blue Mountain in Collingwood where we were staying.  Once we got there, we figured we were home free, but it turned out that the weather was so bad that the taxi company would not drive us out to the farm, because they were worried they would not be able to retrieve us after dinner.  And thus, my attempt to have my dream dinner disintegrated before my eyes.  I was crushed, heart-broken, etc, but luckily Nobuyo completely understood and rescheduled our dinner for the following weekend.  The wait was on again.  To appease ourselves, we ended up dining at the Oliver Bonacini Cafe in the Westin building, but more on that in another post.

So, on to round two.  Of course, being winter in Ontario, when we drove up on February 9th, it was snowing pretty badly again.  I was terrified that we were just going to repeat our experience last weekend, but still, we plowed on.  This time we decided to stay in the Westin building, and we called and confirmed our taxi service before we even left our house.  And we made it.  Yes we did.  What follows is as detailed an account as I can remember of our 9 course meal.  I took pictures of each dish, but Nobuyo asked us not to post them on the internet, so they’ll just have to be my own personal memories.  I’ll do the best I can to describe everything we ate instead.

First off, let me say, this place is beautiful.  You walk through what looks like this tiny entrance to a farm house, into this beautiful, dimly lit room with a roaring fireplace.  There are large, colourful circles painted on the ceiling that are outlined in gold leaf, and a sculpture in the corner of driftwood and a pair of naked plastic baby dolls.  It’s strange and eclectic, but it works.  Each dinner party had their own table, and when we sat down at ours, we noticed that there was a small leg bone of meat on the fire.  One wonders whether this is to be served to us later.  Mmm, the possibilities.  Everyone here is incredibly friendly, and adept at service.  They are unimposing, but completely take care of all of your needs.  There were only 12 people dining, and they had Nobuyo (his wife) and another woman taking care of us all.  I felt royally pampered the whole time.

But on to the food, you say!  So to start, we were brought out an elegant, handmade plate in the shape of an artist’s palette.  Our first course was a 5 bite appetizer arranged around the palette, which included a bite of wild venison glazed with raspberry on a twig, a chicken liver on toast round, a vegetarian dumpling in a won ton type wrapper, smoked meat on a tiny piece of rosti and a bit of ham they cure in house.  Words cannot properly convey the deliciousness of this food.  Honestly.  I’m reading my description and thinking to myself, that totally doesn’t even begin to describe how good it was.