Some time ago, my main inspiration read a piece in the Globe and Mail about an event then upcoming at the Ancaster Old Mill Inn in, you guessed it, Ancaster (in Ontario). Never heard of it at the time. Now I have and I am terrifically glad. (And no, there is not an inn involved.) On a whim, on our way from the Toronto Airport to Niagara on the Lake for a bit of the Shaw Festival, we dropped by the Inn for the launch of a cookbook written by their chef, Jeff Crump, and their Pastry Chef, Bettina Schormann. The best whim in years -- the food was great, the music swell and the cookbook (signed by both) has lovely possibilities. (And end paper send ups from the likes of Michael Pollan and Deborah Madison seem sincere rather than the usual industry folderol. [if forced to choose who I would be in an elevator with between these two, it is definitely Madison. Less polemic and equally if not more influential].) The event was a blast -- mainly people who lived right there in Ancaster, friends and family and loyal diners at the Ancaster Old Mill Inn, all eager to tell us how long they had known Jeff and Bettina not to mention the wonders of the food. And the two co-authors were endearing in the ways they revealed themselves to be moved by the event. Nice to see foodie kindness and fun not pretention.
Let's see, what did we have? First, of course, I had a watermelon martini, which involved pouring vodka through a watermelon. Pretty darn tasty ad a tad dangerous. And there was Inniskillin white wine. But, more importantly, there were several places to get food: (a) a vegetable display with "edible dirt" (and yes it looked like dirt) with absolutely beautiful vegetables (small beets, turnips, vari-colored carrots); (b) a from the sea sort of table ranging from oysters to a ceviche and salt baked artic char; (c) a meat table which had lovely ham (though my piece was a tad fatty), braised brisket, duck, sausage and more. (Oh, the smell of that meat cooking.) At each table there were some delightful sauces too -- including a very nice horse radish one that simply sang. All this does not even get us to the desserts -- which included profiteroles and homemade ice cream (surrounded by clouds of -- well, not smoke, the fog of dry ice melting). I think there was a cherry and a peach (with bourbon if I recall correctly). MMM. Not to mention one of the best brownie-like things I have had in years.
The coffee was ok. The food was wonderful. And, the event itself was a blast, as I said. The ambience too was appealing. The Inn is built (okay, this seems obvious as I start to write it, but trust me, it was lovely) over the running water that used to work the mill (and perhaps still does?). The appearance - and sound -- were just right, as was the somewhat rustic sense to the place. (And this despite the more suburban feeling crowded sense that has grown up around the mill.) Very nice.
The cookbook launched that night is entitled Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm. Given this, of course, the event involved some hurrahing for the farmers involved too, the folks of ManoRun Farm. Though Crump and Schormann tried, they could not be persuaded to say anything though they were definitely present (and appear in the book in fine form). The book itself is beautiful and has a recipe for duck confit that does not involve duck fat. I have been threatening to make duck confit for nigh on a decade. Hmmm. Might this be the moment? Crump is a founder (I think) of Slow Food Canada.
Here's the Earth to Table site. And for some reviews of the cookbook, check here or here or. . . here. (The first one is one of my new favorites in the contest for most fun food blog name, a context that wil never end since every time I get on line there are ore food sites with more entertaining names.) Wanna Youtube 'em? Try here. And hey, Ruth Reichl likes the cookbook -- in fact, she was instrumental in ensuring it got published. So, hey, check it out.
I can't review the restaurant - but if the food at this event was even half as good -- well, it will be a great place to have dinner when we return. Meanwhile, here's what urbanspoon thinks: