Wednesday, August 30, 2017

MOTHER BLOGGER: Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Chestnut Crust


               At one time Mother felt certain that owning and managing a restaurant, even with an experienced partner, (me) was probably the toughest job in the world. Her thoughts of sipping champagne with Stepfather in the front window of our restaurant, La Cucina, while everything ran smoothly, were dashed within the first few days of our opening. When I suggested that she didn’t actually have to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the kitchen floor after each shift, she replied, “Really,” acting as if I were questioning her work ethic and her belief in the moral benefit of hard work. This continued night after night until we sold the restaurant a couple of years later. It was the truth, she did not need to wash the floor but for whatever reason, if she was on the premises at closing time she chose to wash the floor herself.  It allowed her a certain moral authority.

If you were to ask about the difficulties inherent in running a restaurant my mother can and will illustrate her point with the example of unreliable and thoughtless dishwashers who don’t show up for a scheduled shift. “Have you ever scrubbed pots and pans for 10 hours while trying to keep up with the dishwashing and all the time staff are demanding clean dishes and polished cutlery?” Mother gesticulates, exercising her flair for the dramatic arts, “All the while you’re attempting to do prep and a million other things that need to be done .” Now twenty five years later, Mother seems to be reconsidering her position about the toughest job in the world. On her blog she has posted a story which I encouraged her to write entitled, My Day with a Cheesecake. It is about an event nearly a decade ago which she describes as a trauma. When I think of trauma, my mind goes to emotional or psychological injuries or life threatening situations. We are “food” people and serious about our vocation. This is why I understand and am sympathetic to her hyperbole. It all started when the regular recipe columnist suddenly became unavailable. In the spirit of helpfulness, I suggested I could pick up the slack by producing several autumnal recipes that needed to be cooked and photographed last minute for an upcoming issue.

 Finding myself too busy with other pressing projects and a looming deadline, Mother (who could add professional baker to her resume if she wasn’t long retired) volunteered to bake my recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Chestnut Crust for the photoshoot. She and Stepfather know all the tips and tricks for making baking a cheesecake a breeze. Their velvety mincemeat cheesecake with the perfect calibration of flavours is legendary.

 The first obstacle was to locate chestnuts weeks before they are in season. They are needed both for the crust and to be candied for the top of the rosettes that will decorate the cheesecake. After some initial panic, the roasted, peeled and ready to eat, vacuum-pack variety became the logical answer. Even though Stepfather (also a professional cook and baker) has tried to candy them, the sugar solution would not adhere. Undaunted we forged ahead. On her blog, Mother later posted what she referred to as the difficulties involved in baking, decorating, styling and photographing what she calls an “uncooperative cheesecake.” She does not tell the reader that it is an unseasonably hot and humid late September day, which in retrospect was instrumental in explaining several of our mishaps. The trouble, the way she views it, begins with getting an unfamiliar recipe that she has never attempted. She claims that it is a challenge.  Mother is a perfectionist who has a passion for baking. She is excellent at attending to every little detail, and likes things done in a specific way, her own. We are a family who have collaborated on many different food themed projects throughout the years and our individual culinary beliefs are deeply ingrained. When we are working together we believe that constant intervention and attention to detail is beneficial and absolutely necessary. We derive a genuine sense of accomplishment and camaraderie, however fleeting, from the labours of our painstaking efforts and the solicited and often unsolicited advice we so helpfully offer each other.

To hear  Mother tell it, the chaos began with a trip to the supermarket. "Why do they keep these stores so cold, she later asks her readers,"  When questioned she admits that it is to her detriment that she doesn’t shop aisle by aisle, instead she shops as she remembers the ingredients that she requires. She moves quickly from place to place all the time providing a running commentary. (Read complaining softly or muttering under her breath). The items she needs have either been moved from where they should be located or are out of stock. Finally, she has everything she requires, however, not in the most convenient sizes. Nonetheless she purchases the quantities required for the recipe. With groceries in hand, heading for her car, she remembers that she has forgotten to buy the whipping cream. (Read edible oil products in an aerosol can.) Back into the store, now where in the name of mankind do they keep it? At last, she finds and purchases what she believes to be convenience in a can. Back home and to the kitchen with recipe in hand, she begins to assemble the ingredients. She begins with the crust and immediately realizes that she has forgotten to purchase the graham cracker crumbs. After a quick check through her pantry, drawer by drawer, all the time complaining loudly about an unnamed interloper, the inference being my step father must have moved them from their proper home. The graham crackers are eventually located and that is when she comes to the realization that they may be to stale to be palatable. “Oh well, we don't have to eat that part of the cheesecake if it turns out they are "funny tasting,” she later confides in her blog, much to my horror.

Mother pulls out her Cuisinart to make crumbs from the crackers. It doesn't take long, but a mess is now starting to accumulate on the counter and she doesn’t like a messy kitchen. She puts the Cuisinart aside to be washed later. Then she hauls out the consolation prize for her years as a restaurateur, a Kenwood Industrial Restaurant Chef Mixer. It is extremely heavy so it is kept on its own shelf in a purposely built cupboard. “It is the same type of shelf that the old manual typewriters used to sit on”, blogs Mother, referring to the days when she did office work. When it's in use the space between the counter top and the free-standing kitchen island becomes almost impassable. My parents have an enviable and large open-kitchen, custom designed so that two people can cook together. Nevertheless Mother is beginning to feel mild anxiety, the kitchen intervening and closing in around her. She presses on with the batter. By the time she finishes mixing, adding and stirring, she has batter on herself, the mixer and the counter top. It should be easier to add ingredients without coming into contact with a messy beater every time. She cuts and presses parchment paper to bottom and sides of the springform pan. She follows the recipe directions to a tee and pours the ingredients into the prepared pan, baking for 1 hour. With the oven door ajar and the heat turned off, the cheesecake is left in the oven for additional hour. The recipe clearly states leaving the door ajar will allow the cheesecake to cool slowly and prevent cracking of the surface. Anticipating a perfection but to my mother’s dread, and later mine, the cheesecake is cracked. “A small fracture not exactly crater size. Just enough to lend the cheesecake an air of rusticity," offers Stepfather.

Mother blogs, “Waiting now for my son the chef to come over and decorate the cheesecake and oversee the taking of photographs for the magazine. Almost the first thing Chef tells me when he arrives, is how busy he has been for the past several days and so he is quite tired.” I was trying to source quince a few weeks before they were ripe and in season. Painstakingly preparing a complicated Moroccan-inspired chicken and quince tagine at my friend Kathy’s apartment we stayed up late making certain everything was perfection. I was unable to see the cheesecake until early the next morning. In the refrigerator for a second day, mother alleges that the properly covered cheesecake began to shrink away from its sides, and as she put it, “To top that off, it looked like a large bread bowl with the contents starting to spill over the sides. Oh dear...”

It is now time to decorate the cheesecake, this proverbial dog and pony show takes "three cooks." Mother blogs that the experience is chaotic, “For starters I purchased whipped cream in an aerosol can. A definite no-no, as my son, never uses anything that sprays out of a can – never ever. So then I have to do the decorating – not really my forte. If that wasn't bad enough, instead of regular whipped cream I had purchased the light variety.” Shaking the aerosol can with all her might, the synthetic edible oil, whipped cream product emerges half-heartedly from the nozzle. It immediately began to weep on the plate. It would not stand up on the plate, never mind it being used as piping for a decorative rosette border. Stepfather and I hop into car to go to the supermarket to buy real 35% cream for whipping. Mother stayed back and started the process of clean-up, at which she says, Ì am very adept. 

Now we're all set, we have a new litre of whipping cream. Out comes the Cuisinart again, my choice as I thought the other option would be a metal bowl and a wire balloon whisk. A great deal of spinning and beating occurs but, the cream is not light and fluffy, there are no soft peaks forming. The whipping cream is doing its own "thing" and is quickly turning into buttermilk. Immediately we realize that we need to stabilize the whipping cream. Cook number three ( Stepfather) has suggested using some gelatin to stiffen the mixture. But he forgets that the gelatin should be dissolved first in water for five minutes. Immediately we find out that if the gelatin is just slightly too hot it will deflate the whipped cream when it is added. If it is allowed to cool too much it will not incorporate into the cream. It still doesn't want to whip. Try, try again. I suggest adding icing sugar, then more icing sugar, when that doesn't work I suggests a bit of cream of tartar. Later I realize that it wasn’t cream of tartar but corn starch that we should have been using. Nothing is working to bring the whipping cream back to the desired consistency. Stepfather washes piping bag and dries it with his hair dryer as this is his favourite piping bag and no other will do. Stepfather gets ice from freezer, a clean bowl and freshly dried piping bag and it’s his turn. Hurray, rosettes in place, chestnuts on top of each rosette and now time for a photo.  Disaster, no one would want to try something that looks like that. Take off chestnuts, remove rosettes and I start carefully cutting off the ridge of the cheesecake. With each new challenge, I remind the other two just how tired I am. Meanwhile Stepfather cooks additional pumpkin pie filling in the microwave. He begins to even out the surface as if sculpting, filling in the offending crack in the cheesecake and smoothing out any irregularities on the surface. It is near perfection, flawless an absolute work of art, the crack has miraculously disappeared. Now I am in charge of the whipped cream in the piping bag. The cheesecake sits regally on a fancy elevated cake plate, and after several attempts by all three cooks, toothpicks are carefully placed at proper intervals so that flawless rosettes can be piped around the newly levelled top. Twenty rosettes, twinned with twenty chestnuts. Picture perfect, it is time for the photographs. The counter is draped decorously with a white linen tablecloth. The cheesecake is placed in position and various seasonal props are added to the background for additional flair. Gourds of various sizes, a large decorative wicker chicken my brother Gary purchased in China, plus an assortment of flowers, leaves and stems that Stepfather has gathered from his garden. The only thing missing is Grandpa’s farm tractor pulling a flatbed of hay.

We spend a lot of time placing gourds "just so." Where is the camera? Accusations fly, “Someone must have moved it!” But it is sitting on the counter right in front of Mother, exactly where she left it. She leaps up on a step stool and takes photographs from several different angles. She removes the gourds, the chicken is relegated to the background, and flowers are arranged and rearranged. Mother takes more pictures from different angles. This goes on ad nauseam. Mother thinks she is Annie Leibovitz. Stepfather returns to the garden looking for more flowers and leaves. Finally the photographs are downloaded to the computer for inspection. We all have an opinion but the consensus is that most of the photographs won't do. The chicken’s head is far too large, there are too many gourds, too many chestnuts, and on top of that there is a dark spot in the far corner of the shot. Another white table cloth is procured and I am instructed to hang it as a backdrop. Mother searches for the camera, again. "In the future, please don't touch it!" (It is right under her nose.) More pictures with alternative decorations. Looking for the money shot. Lights, Camera, Action! Hooray, some of the photographs look good.

 Now it’s time for a close-up of the cake with a slice removed. The cake is cut, a slice placed on dessert plate with a fork. Again, look for the camera; it is hidden under the newly arranged tablecloths. Set up the shot again. Take a zillion more pictures, download to computer. "Well, those won't do, the cake slice is messy looking. Egad, will this ever end? Another dozen or so more shots and at last we have the pictures we need. "With freshly brewed coffee we now try our cheesecake for taste, it is delicious, the texture perfect. Thank heavens for that. Mother and Stepfather both think it needs more ginger less lemon. "For me, every aspect of the food business I have been involved with can be time consuming and stressful. It is no wonder we celebrate the finished product.  “Great food, now I look forward to the next adventure in the kitchen. That's how I see it, anyway", blogs Mother.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Chestnut Crust
A Great Seasonal Cheesecake with Warm Fall Spices and a Hint of Chestnut.

Chestnut Crust

1/2 cup (125 mL) melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) finely ground gingersnap or graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp (25 mL) light or dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) roasted chestnuts, finely chopped

2 tbsp (25 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (175 mL) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) puréed cooked pumpkin, fresh or canned
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream
3 tbsp (45 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
2 tsp (10 mL) ground cinnamon
2 tsp (10 mL) ground nutmeg
2 tsp (10 mL) ground ginger
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
2 tbsp (25 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whipped Cream Topping
1/2 cup (125 mL) 35% whipping cream
1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
Candied chestnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. Line sides of a 9-inch (2.5-L) springform pan with parchment paper and then brush sides of parchment with 2 tbsp (25 mL) melted butter.
3. Stir together ginger snap crumbs, sugar, chestnuts and remaining melted butter. Mix together and pat into bottom and sides of prepared pan. Chill crust in refrigerator while preparing filling.
4. Make sure your eggs are cold and have all the other ingredients at room temperature.
5. In a large bowl or a food processor, cream butter and cream cheese together. Scrape down sides, add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape sides again and beat in pumpkin.
6. Add eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon zest, and juice.
7. Pour filling into chilled base. Bake cake in centre of oven for 1 hour. Leave oven door ajar, turn off heat, and let cake sit in oven for an additional hour to cool. (Cooling in the oven will prevent the cake from cracking.) Let cake cool slowly and completely before unmoulding. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, but ideally you should let a cheesecake settle for 24 hours in the pan before unmoulding.
7. Whip cream until soft peaks form then beat in sugar. Pipe or dollop 20 rosettes of whipped cream around the top edge of the cheesecake. Top each rosette with a candied chestnut.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Writer’s Block and Tackle


Martha’s back against the wall
Dispensing common sense
Consuming critics like side dish
Bulwarks of self-defence

It’s another literary device
Angling tackle and advice
We all pay the price
Fishing for compliments

In the unchartered seas
Of wordsmiths and fishermen
Baiting idleness and tempo
Is the lure and hook of verse

Casting lines, we curse
An Armada of self-doubt
When nets are full of syntax
We’re still tethered to a pout

Gone fishing for inspiration
Rigging the line with bait
Just the folly of a writer’s
Block and tackle fate

Hooked tongue-in-cheek
Small mouthed complaints
The bragging and laments
Of the one that got away

Big fish with small pond goals
One more drag anchor symptom
Like treading water in fishbowls
Waiting for hardships to come in

copyright 2002 Bryan Parker Lavery

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wolfe of Wortley Makes the Longlist for Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2017

Air Canada just announced the longlist for Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2017 and Wolfe of Wortley makes the list.

Front: Jennifer Wolfe (Service Manager), Justin Wolfe (Owner/Executive Chef), Gregg Wolfe (Owner/Mixologist/Bartender)
Back: Josh Ward (Sous Chef), Kyle Rose (Chef de Cuisine)

The Big, Bad Wolfes: The Wolfe of Wortley in London

Justin and Gregg Wolfe upped the ante when they opened Wolfe of Wortley in Wortley Village last this summer. The brothers, who initially found sustenance in music careers, are also the proprietors of downtown London’s red-hot retro diner The Early Bird, and the former the piñata-themed Rock Au Taco. The Wolfe brothers plan to open their new Modern Mexican-inspired Los Lobos in the former Talbot St. Whisky House space in the next few weeks. The menu will show their love for tacos and other Mexican classics, with the focus at the bar being on tequila, mezcal and bourbon.

“The Bird,” as it is warmly referred to, has an idiosyncratic charisma. It features a menu of updated diner classics and new generation comfort foods. These are soulful dishes that include a king-sized “turducken club” made with smoked turkey breast, panko-fried chicken and duck bacon. Try the melt-in-your-mouth potato and cheddar perogies, or the Montreal smoked brisket which is brined on site and which helped cement the entrepreneurial brothers’ savvy culinary reputation.

The Wolfes brought authentic, affordable street-food-style tacos and tequila to downtown London. Rock Au Taco’s menu features cachette (beef cheek), lengua (beef tongue), carnita (pork shoulder), pescado (fish), and papas (potato) and frijoles (re-fried beans) fillings. They’re topped with freshly made salsas, pickled onions and other garnishes. There is a tequila list and a selection of ice-cold cervezas.

Many progressive chefs use research and staging as an inherent part of their culinary development. (Staging is an unremunerated internship; a cook or a chef works temporarily in another chef’s kitchen to be exposed to new methods, techniques and cuisines.) Chef Justin Wolfe staged in Chicago at Graham Elliot, where he spent nearly seven months apprenticing and studying at the Michelin-starred restaurant. Then he was off to master butchery at Chicago’s Publican Quality Meats.

Justin has worked as an event chef alongside Executive Chef Liaison Jamie Simpson at The Culinary Vegetable Institute/Chef’s Garden in Milan, Ohio. He has participated in events with chef de cuisine Eli Kaimeth of Thomas Keller’s renowned Per Se in New York, and worked with Cortney Burns of the celebrated Bar Tartine (featuring some of San Francisco’s most experimental cuisine), and with Gunnar Gislason, the chef/restaurateur behind New Nordic cuisine at DILL in Reykjavík. And then there was a stint with chef and culinary scientist Kyle Connaughton formerly of the Fat Duck and now the groundbreaking Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg, California.

Every year Justin pitches in with other chefs, including Michael Smith, for Village Feast, a non-profit children’s charity based in Souris, Prince Edward Island, that supports initiatives to improve the lives of children.

The brothers have been the talk of the city with their compact 24-seat restaurant in Wortley Village, which is complemented by a 14-seat patio. This is casual but sophisticated noshing focusing on curing, pickling, fermenting and preserving, and featuring craft cocktails.

The menu includes oysters: raw, cold-smoked, and grilled with Creole butter and parmesan. We ordered a half dozen shucked, cold-smoked, plump, meaty Malpeques bathed in 12-year old scotch and served under a dome with juicy orange segments and house-marinated cherries. When the lid was lifted the oysters appeared under a cloud of billowing smoke for dramatic effect.

Chef du cuisine Kyle Rose excels at the craft of salting, smoking and curing primarily pork products to make salumi, which we know as charcuterie. The downstairs kitchen has a small temperature- and humidity-controlled meat chamber for the house-made salumi. There it develops the rounded savoury taste that comes from slow curing and ripening. The chamber features a “meat window” to showcase a diversity of hanging salumi. Justin gives Rose and sous chef Jason Ward lots of credit for embracing and delivering the restaurant concept that the Wolfes developed.

We ordered ordered the charcuterie board which was underpinned by technique and skill and the salumi had lots of deep flavours and good fat content. There is also culotello (the king of salumi — dry-cured ham) and very tasty coppa (salt-cured from the pig’s neck) on offer.
Snacks might include a creamy chicken liver brûlée, “pickled things”, bone marrow, clams and chicken fried oysters. We loved the “tongue in cheek” which was comprised of beef tongue wrapped in guanciale (cured pork jowl) served with “Nappakraut,” pumpernickel and shmaltznaise. (The origin of shmaltznaise is unclear. The term “schmaltz” is derived is from Yiddish, meaning «rendered animal fat», and the “naise” must stem from mayonnaise.) Nevertheless it was the perfect aioli-like accompaniment.

House-made pastas have included bucatini, served with smoked oyster, bacon, egg yolk and parmesan, and cheese gnocchi with beer mushrooms and mustard. The chicken fried oysters are served with dill, cucumber and hot sauce. Proteins have included steelhead trout, bison ribs and octopus. A colleague of mine talks up the octopus like it is the second coming. There is also whole chicken for two and sometimes a 17oz. rib eye. Menus change weekly.

“Cocktail-wise Gregg likes to riff on the classics, taking something familiar, tried and tested and elevating it,” says, Justin. The cocktail menu was masterminded by Gregg, who started making his homemade infusions of bitters and syrups months in advance of the restaurant’s opening. The cocktail list features craft cocktails that are prepared with fresh ingredients, homemade mixers and premium liquors. Gregg is a bourbon devotee. His signature drink is a potent smoked Manhattan made with Bulleit Bourbon, Antica Formula (red vermouth), Angostura bitters and cherry vanilla bitters served in a cinnamon smoke-filled glass. Besides six signature cocktails there are interesting seasonal features, quality spirits, and flights of bourbon.

There is a respectable bubbly on offer from winemaker Moray Tawse`s Redstone Winery in Beamsville, Ontario, and a great off-dry riesling from Redstone with lots of citrus notes. There is also a cabernet franc and pinot noir blend from Tawse. These are the Ontario offerings on a compact list.
We were so enamoured by the food we finished the evening with pork belly for dessert.
The takeaway? You won’t find more up-to-the-minute culinary savviness than at the upscale Wolfe of Wortley.

Wolfe of Wortley
147 Wortley Road, London
Tuesday–Sunday from 5:00 pm

Bryan Lavery is eatdrink’s Food Editor and Writer at Large.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Rise of Plant-based Cuisine in London, Ontario: Glassroots & Plant Matter Kitchen


Pre-conceived perceptions of vegetarianism, veganism and plant-based dining are changing very quickly. Again this year we will be celebrating the popular VegFest London in November. The ground-breaking festival presents plant-based and vegan food and products, health and wellness vendors, special guest speakers, cooking demos, and a children’s activity at the Progress Building at the Western Fair. 

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, or cosmetics and soaps derived from animal products.

In the quest for a more healthful lifestyle more people are adopting vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, organic and other plant-based products. Good examples of the rise in plant-based food culture are specialty food artisans and vendors like Margaret Coon’s Nuts for Cheese on the second floor of the Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market Western Fair. Coon produces a line of of artisanal, handcrafted, and vegan cheeses made from cultured organic cashews. These healthy and delicious cheeses are billed as being “shreddable, spreadable and meltable” plant-based products that are both dairy- and gluten-free.

Another interesting vegan business is The Boombox Bakeshop at the corner of Adelaide and Princess Avenue. Alexandra Connon creates delicious (and beautiful) pies, cupcakes, popovers, mini pies and other mouth-watering seasonal treats. The bakeshop is a popular veg-friendly bakery and café specializing in vegan and gluten-free vegan goods.

Speaking of plant-based bakeries, be sure to stop in at the new Boho Bake Shop next door to Nuts for Cheese at the Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market. The bakery is entirely gluten-, dairy- and egg-free. The baking is naturally sweetened with pure local honey or maple syrup. Each product is prepared from scratch in small batches using high quality, whole organic ingredients. On offer are brownies, squares, cookies, doughnuts and granola bars.
Two new restaurants in London, Glassroots and Plant Matter Kitchen, are featuring upscale vegetable-centred cuisine and breaking new ground for innovative, healthful and quality offerings.

Plant Matter Kitchen

Home to artisans and artists, unique independently owned shops, services and restaurants, Wortley Village in London’s Old South has evolved organically to its present charming revitalized streetscape. The Village boasts a diverse group of interesting buildings with unique boutiques, restaurants, cafés and small-scale from-scratch bakeries, and two of London’s newest and most innovative restaurants, Wolfe of Wortley and Plant Matter Kitchen.

Located in the heart of Wortley Village Plant Matter Kitchen (PMK) is owned by Glenn Whitehead and partner Melanie Wendt. (Wendt is the daughter of restaurateur extraordinaire, Dagmar Wendt who operated the landmark Mexican-inspired Under the Volcano since 1988, until last year.) This wholly vegan, plant-based, organic restaurant has a distinctly back-to-the-earth vibe with an open kitchen and a modern urban sensibility. PMK has adopted a whole food, plant-based focus, crafting vegan fusion meals by mixing global flavours with an ethical ethos.

The restaurant kitchen serves organic plant-based meals, smoothies and a delicious proprietary coffee roast from Patrick’s Beans. There are also beverage pairings that include craft beers by the new Old East Village artisanal brewer, Anderson Ales, and handcrafted effervescent kombucha from Booch Organic Kombucha. The farm-to-table approach is expanded to all menu offerings. Try a power smoothie made with banana, cacao, cashews, chia and hemp seeds and coconut milk. The kitchen incorporates many whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, tofu and seed for a healthy plant-based diet. The kitchen also uses gluten-free vegan cheeses made from cultured organic cashews and other natural ingredients crafted by the artisans at Nuts for Cheese. Try the delectable baked mac and cheese prepared with gluten-free noodles. Both the signature Caesar and Cobb salads are enjoyable and innovative iterations of classics.

“PMK is as committed to the foundation of local organic and plant-based as possible,” Whitehead says. “We are working with a number of local, smaller and independent farmers to secure that sort of farm-to-table, as close to fresh and as close to its natural state food experience as we can for the restaurant goer.” There is an appealing street side patio for relaxing and people watching. Look for a new expanded patio this year. A second iteration of PMK is expected to open in the former Braywick Bistro premises in the summer of 2017.

Plant Matter Kitchen
162 Wortley Road, London
Monday to Wednesday 8:00 AM–8:00 PM
Thursday to Saturday 8:00 AM–10:00 PM
Sunday 10:30 AM–2PM

Glassroots – A Food and Wine Revolution

Update: Glassroots Restaurant led by chef Yoda Olinyk and Sommelier Mike Fish recently decided to close. In a statement posted on Facebook they said, “The last 16 months have been the best months of our lives but we have decided to choose our mental and physical health over 90 hour work weeks and everything that goes into running such a successful restaurant. We have new opportunities on the horizon and the timing is right to move on.” Chef curated a weekly list of what’s available from local farmers and then creates a seasonal made-from-scratch menu based on those ingredients. Fish curated an all-Canadian wine list and an innovative cocktail offering. Fish and chef Olinyk are expected to continue to be tireless and dedicated proponents of London’s vegan scene. Expect to see them at events and pop-ups this fall. BL

After seven years in London, Veg Out chef/owner Florine Morrison announced that she would be closing Veg Out in April. Culinary stalwarts Yoda Olinyk and Mike Fish — associates of Morrison — announced in January they would be opening their new restaurant, Glassroots, in the premises at 646 Richmond Street after Veg Out closed.

Olinyk and Fish  opened Glassroots and have quickly taken the concept of “local” to a new level, sourcing everything from as close to home as possible. They are savvy and know how to build an expanded clientele by casting veganism as healthful lifestyle rather than a moral crusade. Olinyk and Fish also know how to build community and have done so very effectively, partially through their crowdfunding initiative and social media channels.

With a newly renovated and intimate dining room (tables are close), Glassroots has become a high-energy hub for a dedicated healthful food culture. The dining room has lots of natural light with stained glass and heritage accents. Olinyk and her culinary team mix local and seasonal made-from-scratch food, with a warm and inviting ambiance and a friendly and authentic dining experience. Olinyk redefines the diverse repertoire of modern plant-based cuisine with a wholly inventive and idiosyncratic approach. Innovation and seasonality are paramount and some menu items change weekly.

Rotating dishes that have been on offer include falafels, hearts of palm calamari, tofu scallops with spicy soba noodle salad, mac and cheese, corn dogs, wild mushroom risotto, Buffalo cauliflower (not the city, the sauce) and waffles. The vegetable charcuterie board features red pepper pepperoni, “Field Roast” sausage, eggplant and tomato pâté, mustard, pickled vegetables and toasts. Another excellent choice is the “Nuts for Cheese” plate, featuring cashew cheese, homemade jams and pickles.

Olinyk is a certified Red Seal chef and is also skilled in plant-based nutrition. She was the brains behind the very successful vegetarian catering company called Yoda’s Kitchen of St. Thomas. She brings to Glassroots her reputation, expertise and repertoire as “the healthy chef” and creates innovative, sometimes surprising, flavoursome creations.

Fish, her partner in life and work, is a certified sommelier, Canadian wine scholar and cocktail guru who bring years of professional experience and training in the wine industry to the table, with a goal of offering one of London’s best wine, craft beer and cocktail lists. The cocktails are fresh, seasonal and a spin on the classics. Try the refreshing Horse’s Neck. This is the only restaurant in town where you can get Muscedere Vineyards pinot grigio from Lake Erie’s North Shore.

Glassroots is open for full service dinners Wednesday to Sunday, and features a Sunday brunch and a healthy, vegan, and take-away lunch throughout the week. The restaurant is available for wine workshops, tasting events, fundraisers and more. There is a charming 14-seat elevated patio facing Richmond Street.

Glassroots Restaurant
646 Richmond St, London
Mon and Tuesday Closed
Wednesday–Sunday 4:30 PM–CLOSE
Kitchen closes nightly at 10 PM