Monday, August 31, 2009

Ontario Pickerel, Raspberry Jellies Enrobed in Dark Chocolate & Colm Fiore - Uh huh

So, each year we go to Stratford to see a show. By we, I mean mom and dad (when he was still with us) and we are usually joined by CP2.5 (aka Cousin Paul, moms "other" son). The usual M.O. is to drive out, park, and eat lunch in the car. On this occasion however (moms birthday), I decided we needed to head out a bit early and dine at one of the restaurants I had heard good things about. I elicited the assistance of Twitter for recommendations, and while I received a few good ones, I relied on @SavourStratford as they would obviously be the experts. The suggestion was Ristorante Pazzo which turned out to be quite charming and wonderful. More on that in a bit.

I really enjoy the yearly ritual of going to Stratford, and I am a big theatre fan in general. Especially Shakespeare. I have been blessed to see some great performances of masterful productions, including on more than one occasion to see the brilliance of William Hutt, the great master. Sadly, Mr. Hutt has left us and the festival will never be the same. Fear not theatre goers, there is still a wealth of great talent to be engaged by, and on this trip we were lucky enough to see Colm Fiore in one of the great roles in the theatre (IMO) as Cyrano de Bergerac.

Comedic, dramatic, and emotional, Cyrano is a wonderful work of fiction based on the life of a real man with a classic lesson to be learned, never judge a book by its cover, amongst other great themes prevalent in all great works. Colm was excellent, and I was moved by his performance (if you have not seen Steve Martin in his version of Cyrano you should). It is a great role that really works the emotional scale from funny to painful.

Before the show started we popped into Rheo Thompson Candies, a Stratford tradition since 1969. Not my tradition, but I assume someones? Really I had never been but 2.5 said we must check it out, so on a bit of a tight schedule before curtain we did just that. This place is just, well, amazing. They have a great selection of candies and chocolates by weight or packaged for gifts, and everyone will find something sweet to snack on for before, during, or after a show. My choices: a dark chocolate enrobed raspberry jelly (OMG yum), a milk chocolate covered marshmallow, and a mint smoothie in milk chocolate. Hello nurse!

Oh, wait a second, my bad...I forgot about lunch. How could I? The horror!! You know me and sweets, I got distracted by the order-form I have sitting on my desk, drooled on it a bit, oops. Pazzo, right. Onwards and upwards. We sat upstairs in the Ristorante, the pizzeria is downstairs, here is what we ordered:
Rabbit terrine with local greens and plum chutney (me)
Steamed PEI mussels with white wine, tomato and spicy aioli (2.5)
Sweet pea soup with truffle oil and goat cheese (mom)
Grilled flatiron steak with vegetable slaw and tomato chutney (2.5)
Eggplant cannelloni filled with basil ricotta
with a tomato paresan broth and fresh herb salad (mom)
Pan seared Ontario pickerel
with a warm potato salad, double smoked bacon and pea shoots (me)

The ambiance was lovely, servers were courteous and well informed, and the food was marvelous. Local food at its most fresh, seasonal, and prepared with skill. My terrine was nice, and the chutney was a great pairing with the gamey bunny with a nice green salad to help it go down. I dont find rabbit that gamey, actually, and this was a nice use of rabbit meat. I tried a couple of muscles and they were tasty, but the real hit however was the soup. It tasted of summer glory, and was really enjoyable. I would have ordered a bowl if I felt I would have room for 2 appetizers. Alas, I did not but mom really enjoyed it.

The steak was unimpressive but the frites were good. I did not try moms cannelloni, as it was quite small, as were all of the portions for the mains. A bit too small considering the price for lunch and it would have been nice to see a third one on her plate. A minor disappointment. My meal was truly terrific, delicious and very satisfying. I dont order fish often, unless I am near the body of water that it has come from (have I mentioned this before, I feel I have?) but I do enjoy fish so I thought I would try the pickerel and I was not at all disappointed with my choice. I was delighted. Ontario Pickerel, what could be better? Pan fried with nothing except a loving sprinkle of fleur de sel as a finish, stacked on a rich warm potato salad with white and purple potatoes and a lovely smattering of smokey goodness in the form of the double smoked bacon. Mm mm mm. Oh, and pea shoots, have you had them? You have not? Well you absolutely must. This was my first time having them, and I was actually in the washroom when our server mentioned the specials but I was sold enough to order it not knowing about this nice surprise. I had little doubt as to what they were once on my tongue as they taste like peas. Find them and give them a try, a nice alternative to other more common greens, and they dont need a thing, maybe just a little (very good quality) olive oil and a touch of salt, but not even as you can just enjoy them as is.

Did I sell you on Pazzo? I hope so, because I would recommend it highly. Next time I go to Stratford, however, I would like to try Rundles, I have heard good things. Stay tuned for that review later in the fall if all goes well. Overall another successful visit to the festival.

Support your local theatre whenever you can, we are blessed in Toronto to have some great theatre companies, big and small, and to be a short drive from both Stratford and Shaw. Next stop, Mac'ers in the fall again with Colm Fiore, directed by his wife. I heard it was "an interesting interpretation". Cant wait!

Oh and P.S. Christopher Plummer will be at Stratford next year playing Prospero (thanks to Bonita for the heads up!) in the Tempest. If you dont think you can make it to that for whatever reason, it is not too late to check out the Canstage production in High Park. Pack a picnic and some wine and head on over, it is a nice quaint evening and a great and inexpensive way to enjoy theatre in a unique setting, it is a requested $20 donation but hurry as it is only on until September 6th.

Peace, Love, and Ice Cream.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to see you and the fam had fun @ Stratford, and totally agree about the sadness of William Hutt's death. I saw him in (I believe his final) performance as Prospero in Tempest and it was phenomenal! The meal looked fabulous and I cannot believe I forgot to reccommend SavourStratford to you - but you were ahead of me!

    Take care!