Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wilk's Bar at Langdon Hall: Simply Sensational

Originally built as a Federal Revival mansion by the famous New York Astor family at the turn of the 20th-century, Langdon Hall is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season. Owned and operated by architect William Bennett and his wife, Mary Beaton, this Relais & Châteaux property is considered to be one of the top hotels in Canada. Just an hours drive from Toronto, I've been escaping to Langdon Hall since the early 90's and have spent many memorable weekends there with both friends and family, blissfully enjoying their spectacular spa, playing croquet on the crisp manicured lawns, relaxing in the tranquil secluded outdoor pool, exploring the impressive chef's kitchen garden, and of course indulging in Langdon Hall's exceptional award-wining cuisine. With the recent departure of Chef Jonathon Gushue last autumn, they're now blessed to have an extraordinary new executive chef, the superbly talented Jason Bangerter — one of my absolute favourite chefs.

The cozy club-like interior of Wilk's Bar at Langdon Hall

Since catapulting the kitchens of Auberge du Pommier and more recently, Luma at TIFF Lightbox into the culinary stratosphere, Chef Bangerter has now also transformed the cuisine at Langdon Hall to another level of glory within a very short period of time. With great hopes of being able to spend a full weekend revelling in Chef Bangerter's new menu, we made due with a quick lunch at Wilk's before heading on to Stratford for one the seasons Shakespearean productions. In addition to an inspired new menu, Wilk's Bar has also recently undergone an impressive makeover with comfortable new upholstered leather seating, plush celadon green carpeting and a creative selection of unique serving bowls, which set the stage for fabulous dishes such as Chilled Watermelon Gazpacho, Steak Tartare, Chickpea Fritter and Quinoa Salad with roasted, pickled and raw vegetables and Mac and Ontario Cheese with bacon. Bangerter sees coming to Langdon as part of his natural progression towards showcasing more local foods and working more closely with local farmers. Add with Langdon Hall's on-site kitchen garden, apple orchard, maple trees and honey production, Chef Bangerter is like an excited child in an edible playground. "With so much at my fingertips, the sky's the limit as to what can be done here. It’s a chef’s dream." 

Chef Jason Bangerter in Langdon Hall's kitchen garden 
photo © Langdon Hall

Wilk's Bar new menu

A miniature rose bush in a silver mint julep cup graces each small table at Wilk's

A basket of fresh baked bread from Chef Bangerter's Langdon Hall kitchen

A chilled glass of Côtes de Provence

Chickpea Fritter and Quinoa Salad with roasted, pickled and raw vegetables

Mac and Ontario Cheese with bacon

Acorn Squash Soup

Serves 12
Recipe courtesy of Chef Jason Bangerter, Langdon Hall

"On chilly nights, I like to serve this soup with a garnish of braised meats — duck, rabbit or pork confit — with seared nuggets of foie gras, stewed chestnuts and brioche seasoned with winter spice. At home, I simply add a dollop of vanilla yogurt, pomegranate seeds and rustic baked black pepper croutons". JB

2 acorn squash
1/4 cup maple syrup
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion
1 carrot
6 cloves of garlic
1 half rib of celery
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 cup dry white wine
12 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 half stick of cinnamon
6 sprigs each fresh thyme and parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Vanilla yogurt
pomegranate seeds
rustic baked croutons

Split the squash and remove the seeds. Drizzle with half of the maple syrup, a splash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down in a roasting pan in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes, or until lightly caramelized and fork tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the cooked flesh and reserve.

Slice the onion, carrot, garlic and celery. In a medium stockpot, sweat the vegetables in butter and ginger until soft. Add the cooked squash and wine, and cook until the wine is reduced by two-thirds. Add the stock to an inch above the vegetables and add half a cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Tie the herbs in a tight bundle with string, add to the pot and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove the herb bundle and cinnamon, then purée the soup in batches in food processor until smooth and velvety, adding the remaining syrup and more stock if necessary. Strain and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
To serve, ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls and garnish with a dollop of vanilla yogurt, pomegranate seeds and some rustic baked black pepper croutons.