Thursday, December 6, 2012

Woolfy's Restaurant and Little Red Café

Little Red Riding Hood, You Sure are looking good. You're Everything a Big Bad Wolf Could Want.

Woolfy's Restaurant and Little Red Café

Woolfy’s at Wildwood is situated on Highway 7, and Perth Road 118, just outside St. Mary’s in an inconspicuous bungalow surrounded by a farmer’s field. Chris and Mary Woolf, make a sojourn to Woolfy’s well worth the drive. They know how to provide a warm and welcoming ambience. Over many years of dining at Woolfy’s I have never had a disappointing experience.

Chef Chris Woolf is the back of the house and Mary Fuller Woolf a consummate host is the front. The Woolf’s are Perth County restaurant royalty. Their commitment to the hospitality industry is nothing short of formidable.

I first encountered the Woolf’s while working in Stratford in the mid-eighties.

Chris worked with Chef Jean Marie Lacroix at the Church and Chef Neil Baxter at Rundle’s and went on to teach at the Stratford Chefs School, in those early years when it was the only way to find some financial stability in the culinary life in a largely seasonal theatre town. Mary worked through the then burgeoning Stratford culinary scene (Rundles, The Old Prune, 20 King Street) so inevitably they were destined to become icons of the local culinary scene.

The restaurant was originally established in the spring of 1994, formerly known as 'The Wildwood Inn' which catered to nearly a dozen motel rooms and a dining room that served breakfast and lunch.

The motel disappeared and Chris and Mary renovated and refurbished the interior and exterior of the restaurant in early 1999 and changed the name to 'Woolfy's at Wildwood'.

Earlier this year, Chris and Mary decided to reinvent “Woolfy’s” in an effort to both rejuvenate and keep their dream and passion alive. They added the “Little Red Café”, a casual alternative to the white-linen main dining room. Woolfy's now has two distinct areas: elegant fine dining with comfortable leather chairs in the main room and menus that are more often than not cultural journeys into the local terroir and the more moderately priced café with a sophisticated twist on classic diner food and minimalist tables. Unless your mind is made up it makes for a difficult choice when Mary greets you at the front door.

Both areas feature concise well-thought menus that reinterpret traditional classics, with modern techniques and seasonal ingredients. Chef’s food is always consistent: innovative and executed with finesse and a polished presentation. This is a scratch kitchen. Chef makes his own condiments, bakes his own delicious bread and hamburger buns. The produce is often organic.

The Woolf’s have been true pioneers when it comes to supporting culinary regionalism: dedicated and loyal supporters of the area’s farmers, artisans, sustainable and organic producers for almost two decades. Chris was re-interpreting culture-specific culinary specialties with homegrown ingredients long before the term “local” became part of our culinary lexicon.

Lunch at the Little Red Café is genuinely delicious. Velvety and naturally sweet Carrot and Orange Soup with Fresh Ginger is thick and delicious. Both the Poutine with Salsa and Local Cheese Curds and Poutine with Bison Chili and Local Curds are to die for. Grilled Goat Cheese, Olive and Tomato Salad is a simple sandwich on house-baked bread elevated to great heights. A hand made patty of farm-raised Blanbrook Farm Bison is one-third the fat of beef and fewer calories than even chicken. When combined with cheese and bacon it makes for one of the best burgers around.

Dining at Woolfy’s is a well-rounded experience. The service is professional, knowledgeable and affable. The wine list is substantive with upwards of 50 varieties includes Ontario selections and many bottles in the mid- range.

Closed January to March (Open Valentine’s Day); closed Sunday and Monday

St. Marys, ON  N4X 1C5
(519) 349-2467

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let’s Send Visitors Home Praising London, Ontario

Let’s Send Visitors Home Praising London, Ontario

Figure skating fans from around the world will be coming to London in March for the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships. The best figure skaters in the world, from over 50 different countries, will participate in the event from March 10 to 17, 2013, at the Budweiser Gardens (formerly John Labatt Centre), as they compete for the title of World Champion.

And the event’s festivities don’t end on the ice. Through the “Light up London” initiative and on-site Fan Fair, the entire London community will be engaged in a full week of celebrations. The Fan Fair will take place at the Covent Garden Market and Budweiser Gardens, and will feature family-oriented activities, including games, activity stations and an outdoor vendor marketplace. “Light up London” will cover the downtown core in purple, white and silver – the color themes of this year’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships – with participating restaurants featuring special WFSC themed menu items, in-house activities, contests and decorations.

The competition schedule will begin with a full practice day for the competitors on March 10 and end with an exhibition gala featuring all of the medalists on March 17. All-event tickets include access to all practices and competitions and the exhibition gala.

For the local community and the culinary community in particular, who will be an important part of the festivities, it will be the first sporting event held in downtown London to be televised around the world to millions.

An event the size of the world championships is not only going to raise London’s profile around the globe, but it will also have a tremendous economic and cultural impact as well. Skate Canada is projecting this event will generate 28 million dollars in revenue in London. Audiences for this type of event are generally well-educated and have a high level of disposable income.

Tourism London wants us all to be proud Londoners, proud to show off our city. “You can’t pay for that kind of advertising.” If we understand the motivation of a culinary tourist and what they are looking for, we can leverage our culinary businesses and send visitors home from London to tell their friends about the amazing experience they had. What better, more cost-effective marketing can you get than word of mouth?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Che Resto Bar – Infused with Latin Flavour

Che Resto Bar – Infused with Latin Flavour

Marvin Rivas’s Che Resto Bar on Dundas is a big-ticket entry into downtown London’s dining scene. This is Latin-American cooking that personifies its origins but also highlights its potential. The menu has a distinct Peruvian flavour, influenced by Chef German Nunez’s heritage.

Nuevo Latino cuisine is the rage right now, and Che is the ideal place to experience it. More than a restaurant, the bar/lounge area is a dominant feature and a prime focal point. The resto bar concept is about social interaction and Che has a great vibe. Rivas delivers the resto bar experience with panache: luxe surroundings, welcoming ambience, great cuisine, interesting wines and exotic cocktails.

Try a signature capirinha (Brazil s national drink) or Cuba’s ubiquitous highball, a thirst-quenching mojito, or a pisco sour with lime juice, sugar, egg white and sparkling wine.

A well-designed resto bar demands an in-depth understanding of how restaurants flow. Che does this with aplomb, featuring exposed brick walls, a long bar with a granite countertop, and a perfect coign of vantage, as well as immense Maskros light fixtures that project decorative patterns on the walls and ceilings. Step up into the dining room, which, like the bar, has high ceilings and large picture windows that allow lots of natural light.

Peruvians claim ceviche as their own and, at Che, Chef Nunez presents his signature repertoire of ceviche creations in a contemporary manner. Ceviche, is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chilli peppers, and is known as the epitome of fusion.

At Che, leche de tigre is the star ingredient in the Peruvian way of ceviche. Elevated by creativity and brilliant flavour combinations such as: fresh tuna in tamarind leche de tigre (citrus, chili and salt based emulsion that is purported to be both an aphrodisiac and a hangover cure), avocado, jicama, Peruvian corn and yam; or try their delectable wild salmon in a passion fruit leche de tigre, jicama, Peruvian corn and yam mixture. Nunez and his culinary team add a fiery splash of Incan peppers (aji) to the kitchen’s signature citrus marinated salmon, octopus and tuna ceviche. These dishes are the hands-down winners. There is a lot to be interested in after the ceviche.

Similar to ceviche but subtler in taste and presentation (think shashimi), taridito is a cold appetizer made with thin slices of citrus-marinated fish. The tender octopus tiraditos with an earthy black olive sauce is a knockout, as are the fresh tuna tiraditos with mango and leche de tigre cream sauce. When these dishes are served with a side of confetti of hot peppers (optional) the taste is deliciously volcanic.

Che’s signature Huancaina Salad is perfection: a medley of sliced Yukon gold potatoes, ripe avocado, red onion, olives, eggs served cold, are almost hidden under a blanket of cheese sauce that is scented with lime, and turned bright yellow by aji amarillo, a spicy chili pepper that gives the sauces a delicious surprise.

Rustic made from scratch empañadas are beef, pork or chicken with onions, olives, raisins, eggs and peppers, and served with salsa casceria. Chimichurri is a traditional Latin American sauce with minced parsley, bursting with aromatics. Here chef’s version is a garlicky revelation on cooked-to-perfection (Angus) rib eye steak with crisp yucca fries in mojo with pico de gallo. On another occasion we were impressed by a shared dish of paella, fragrant saffron rice with onions, peppers, chorizo sausage, tender chicken, and redolent with calamari, mussels and prawns.

Che is an authentic resto bar experience in an upscale but casual setting where people can revel in camaraderie, great food and drink, and not break the bank.

225 Dundas Street (at Clarence)


Lunch: Monday to Friday 1130 -3
Dinner: Monday to Wednesday 5-10
Thursday to Saturday 5 -11