Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Windsor Eats and Eat Your City

Windsor Eats and Eat Your City

On a recent trip to Windsor with the new Ontario’s Southwest Culinary Tourism Guide (http://www.ontariossouthwestculinary.com/) in hand, I was not surprised by the vibrancy of the culinary culture in Windsor. Here is a bit of an update.

It’s time to celebrate Windsor’s and Essex’s culinary community. From August 1 to August 7, 2011, you can visit any Eat Your City participating restaurant and indulge in a prix-fixe 3-course meal at lunch or dinner. Each participating restaurant will offer a unique Eat Your City menu. http://windsoreats.com/eatyourcity/ The menus will showcase the diversity of dining choices in Windsor and around Essex County. The prix-fixe menus are priced per person and do not include beverages, taxes or gratuities. Here are three participating restaurants that offer local, seasonal fare and are committed supporting local farmers and culinary tourism :

Rino’s Kitchen
Located within The House (formerly the Nesbitt Inn), Chef Rino Bortolin offers a full neighbourhood café menu that changes daily. The focus is on high quality, seasonal and local ingredients and supporting area growers. Specialty items prepared by Bortolin are also offered for sale. There is a beautiful outdoor patio.
131 Elliot Street, Windsor

Jack’s Gastropub & Inn 31
Jack’s Gastropub is the evolution of a 20-year career in hospitality. Family owned and operated by Trevor and Kim Loop since 1989, the restaurant features signature burgers and other pub-inspired house specialities, with an “only local” wine list. The owners take pride in sourcing local produce, fish and meats for the menus, which change to provide patrons with the best seasonal offerings from both Essex County and other regional producers.
31 Division Street South, Kingsville

Caldwell's Grant
Chef Laura Clarke-Giberson, largely self- taught and cooking for over 15 years, sharpened her culinary skills in many area restaurants. Her culinary philosophy is "less is more," and simple seasonings and careful preparation let flavours shine through. Caldwell's Grant, steak and seafood specialists, sources food products as close to home as possible, partnering with farmers who have a commitment to ethical practices and supporting responsible and sustainable fishing practices
269 Dalhousie Street, Amherstburg

WindsorEats.com is the official culinary guide to Windsor and Essex County. Get information on wineries, farms, restaurants and culinary attractions. Browse through listings to view hours of operations, location, make on-line reservations.

Multicultural Windsor-Essex enjoys a temperate climate, a vibrant economy, and plenty for the culinary tourist. As the southernmost point in all of Canada, Essex County and Pelee Island are at the same latitude as northern California. People flock from around the world to view the stunning bird migrations at Point Pelee, Carolinian Canada’s only National Park -- and the perfect place for a picnic. Lush farmlands and vineyards make this one of the most agriculturally productive counties in the country, and Essex County farmers are proud of their heritage and their 200-year-plus ties to the land. Windsor offers culturally diverse communities, richly ethnic neighbourhoods, and an extensive riverfront parks system, with over 215 parks and 3,000 acres of naturalized and formal gardens, and dining opportunities abound.

Over 400 restaurants in Windsor and Essex County reflect virtually every major culinary tradition, including a diversity of Italian, Chinese, Greek, Japanese, and Halal options. An unusually large number of eateries in Windsor include the enclave of fine restaurants on Erie Street’s restaurant row -- Little Italy or the “Via Italia” -- also home to some of the city’s best shopping. Browse kitchenware shops and grocery stores, savour regionally-inspired Italian cuisine at one of many ristorantes or trattorias, or just sit and relax while sipping an espresso at an outdoor cafe.

WindsorEats Wine Trail Ride
Join WindsorEats on a leisurely guided cycle tour and experience the tastes, sights and sounds of Essex County. You’ll be able to sip the local wine and learn about the regions award winning wineries. Participants on our Wine Trail Ride visit 2-3 wineries on each ride and are then treated to a local meal made with products from Essex County. www.winetrailride.ca.

Saturday August 20, 2011
Saturday September 17, 2011
Saturday October 15, 2011

Also, scroll down to see my posts about Motor City Burger and Taste Bud Bistro.

Janine Bratt’s Taste Bud Bistro at the Art Gallery of Windsor

Janine Bratt’s Taste Bud Bistro at the Art Gallery of Windsor

Located inside the Art Gallery of Windsor, entry to this delightful riverfront bistro is accessible from the front without entering the gallery. There is an outdoor patio with comfortable wrought iron chairs for al fresco dining, and 14 foot windows inside the restaurant that also highlight a stellar view of the Detroit skyline. The dining room is minimalist with comfortable black chairs with white-clad tables that create an attractive domino effect against a dramatic raspberry coloured wall. The wall is enhanced by a blackboard featuring the menu. On the tables are small pitchers of perfect pink hydrangea blooms.

Chef/owner Janine Bratt, a 2006 graduate of the Stratford Chef School and a former chef at Caldwell's Grant in her hometown of Amherstburg. Bratt spent three seasons refining her skills at Rundles in Stratford. Bratt also spent time at Oliveto in Oakland, California; The Sooke Harbour House in Sooke; Fresco Restaurant in Kelowna; Café Boulud in New York City and Capo Restaurant in Calgary.

Bratt initially opened Taste Bud Food which features catering for small to large parties, as well as ready-to-heat lunches and dinners in the heart of Walkerville in 2009, and the Taste Bud Bistro was conceptualized the following year.

Taste Bud Bistro crafts innovative dishes using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients from Essex County farms and producers. “Customers love when I can come out and talk to them about their meal and about the farmers, and artisans that contributed,” says Bratt. The restaurant’s casual fine dining menu consists of a minimum of 25% locally sourced ingredients. Bratt’s chooses local products because of their superior freshness, quality and flavour. Bratt also places importance in supporting the local economy.

On a recent visit to the Bistro our charismatic server, Lauren, suggested a seasonal salad of raspberries, baby spinach, goat cheese and pecans. Also on offer was a delicious salad of white beans, crisp green beans, arugula and sweet cherry tomatoes.

Pickerel Nicoise is served with a julienne of potatoes, green beans and diced tomatoes. The pickerel was perfectly cooked in a lemon scented tempura batter that did not mask the delicate flavour of the fish. Vegan summer rolls were fresh and served with a gelatinous and fiery sweet chili sauce and accompanied with fresh mint picked from Bratt’s father’s herb garden.

There is a page dedicated to local vintages on the wine list, and we chose a crisp and elegant, CREW (Colchester Ridge Estates Winery) Sauvignon Blanc 2009 VQA, from Lake Erie’s North Shore on Lauren’s recommendation.

For dessert the chocolate mousse was stellar, served with Chantilly cream and toasted walnuts. House-made lavender ice cream was fragrant, subtly floral and refreshing. A frozen mint-lime cheesecake served with warm rum sauce was perfect for a hot summer afternoon.

The coffee is superior. The service was attentive, gracious and warm.

401 Riverside Drive West, Windsor, in the Art Gallery of Windsor
519 560 3665

The lunch menu is served from 11am till 3pm Wednesday through Sunday. The dinner menu is served from 5pm-9pm Thursday and Friday evenings. The Bistro is closed Monday and Tuesday.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Modernist Gourmet Burger at Motor Burger in Windsor

The Modernist Gourmet Burger at Motor Burger

This high-energy, gourmet hamburger hot-spot is a departure for Little Italy or “Via Italia”, (Erie Street East’s restaurant row), and perhaps even more poignant because it replaced the ultra-sleek, sophisticated and highly touted Noi, that closed in late 2009. “There was a time you had to fight for a table at Noi – but the recession sent a chill through Windsor’s Little Italy.”

Never ones to rest on their culinary laurels, savvy restaurateurs and business partners Jay Souillere and Gino Geusale responded to the change in Windsor’s lingering economic climate. They re-imagined the Noi premises and conceptualized the chic and funky, cow and car décor- themed Motor Burger. The fresh and original take on a contemporary burger joint was fashioned as a survival plan to the recession, and an intentional way to pay homage to Windsor’s automobile industry. The result was a stream-lined operation with a recession-friendly, gourmet menu that appeals to a broader demographic. Since its inception Motor Burger has garnered rave reviews and developed a dedicated following. On a recent hot summer Saturday night the restaurant was packed with devotees. The restaurant is family-friendly.

There is an open-kitchen at the back of the dining room that adds additional excitement to the ambience. Our engaging servers, Summer and Kelly were both down-to-earth, intelligent and hospitable. Another friendly server informs us, “last December, in an effort to go green, Motor Burger stopped serving imported bottled waters. Instead they installed a reverse osmosis system, which dispenses both regular and sparkling waters. Immediately we knew we were in good hands.

To start, a delicious salad of local watermelon, blueberries, peppery arugula, minced pear and zucchini, Kalamata olives and pickled red onion was both refreshing and seasonal. Spring rolls in phyllo pastry with a spicy chorizo-chili and smoked cheese were another hit.

The SMART Veg-Engine burger was designed to be a vegetarian’s nirvana, made with a patty of mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, corn, butter beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, garlic, curry and cilantro.

Other less common ingredients, such as Kobe beef brisket, or a minced shrimp burger with chilies, garlic, coconut milk and avocado and mango salsa are on offer. There is also a ground Ahi-tuna burger with sesame oil. Souillere who is the executive chef tells me that the hot ticket this summer is the Firebird: Ground fresh chicken with Serrano chilies, topped with a four pepper medley, Muenster cheese and red-hot crispy onions.

If you prefer something less modernist, they also list a signature Motor Burger. French fries are thin, home-cut and ordered al a carte. Sides include: sweet potato fries, poutine, onion rings and coleslaw. Dessert was a rich dark chocolate cake infused with heat and reminiscent of a molten soufflé.

The bar prepares a perfect martini with proper olives and offers a selection of themed milkshakes (spiked and non-alcoholic) and signature cocktails. A modest wine list features only one local red and one local white wine and a number of international selections.

Motor Burger is innovative has lots of finesse and both substance and style.

888 Erie St E
Windsor, ON ,
519 252 8004