Monday, November 3, 2014

Auberge du Pommier: A Modern French Culinary Gem

The original jewel in the Oliver & Bonacini culinary crown, Auberge du Pommier has been serving sophisticated modern French cuisine to a dedicated Toronto clientele for over 25 years. Built around a pair of 1860's woodcutters' cottages, originally harvested from Toronto's historic Hogg's Hollow neighbourhood and latterly relocated to the site, Auberge du Pommier, which literally means “inn of the apple tree,” exudes the exquisite Provençal-style charm and intimacy of a French country-style cottage. Bathed in rich creamy hues, barn beam ceilings and exposed cut-stone walls, the space is warm and inviting with crisp white linen napkins, elegant table and glassware, enhanced with wood burning fireplaces in the winter and lush floral terraces in the summer. Considered by many to be one of the city's most romantic and highly regarded restaurants, the atmosphere is refined, the service excellent and the cuisine superb.

Executive Chef Marc St. Jacques

With Executive Chef Marc St. Jacques at the culinary heart of the kitchen and recently appointed Chef de Cuisine Motonobu Nishimura at his side, Auberge du Pommier's chef-driven seasonally changing gourmand, vegetarian and à la carte menu is creative, modern and remains true to the restaurant's classic French roots. The sommelier’s wine list selection, which focuses on French vintages and a few Niagara labels, offers over 20 superb wines by the glass and a corkage fee of $35 for those who chose to bring their own treasured bottle. Old favourites stay on the menu for years, a fact for which many are eternally grateful, with dishes such as the Steak Tartare among the best in the city arriving topped with the requisite raw quail egg — a treat impossible to pass up. Dining at Auberge is a celebration — a celebration of life, food, wine and family, which makes it the ideal spot to celebrate life's special occasions, such as my parents 55th anniversary, which brought us all together for a magnificent and memorable evening.

A seasonal display of putti and pumpkins greet guests upon arrival at Auberge du Pommier

One of the restaurants wine cabinets built into the natural hand cut stone wall

The dining room is warm, sophisticated and inviting with crisp white linens, elegant table and bathed in soft lighting and rich creamy hues

Auberge du Pommier menu

A classic Hendricks Gin Martini garnished with slices of cucumber

A selection of house baked bread

Ricotta, olive oil and sea salts are presented to enjoy with the bread

The sommelier recommended a delicious medium-bodied northern Italian Tiefenbrunner 
Pinot Grigio to match with our fish entrées

Pomme de Terre appetizer from the 'Menu Gourmand': A confit of Andy's potatoes with domestic caviar, chilled lobster and smoked potato cream

Hand Cut Beef Tartare with white anchovy, cornichon gelée, traditionally spiced and garnished 
with a raw quails egg — heaven!

Poached oyster Stew with toasted brioche and fennel frond on a bed of Pernod and leek velouté 

Cru & Cuit: Hamachi Sashimi with persimmon, celery leaf, quince vinegar gelée and beurre noir

Escargot: Roasted Snails with spinach ravioli, Epoisse de Bourgogne soft cow's milk cheese and picked ginger butter garnished with flash fried spinach leaves

Champignon appetizer from the Menu Potager: Forest Mushrooms with soft poached egg and porcini purée topped with caramelized puff pastry

Faisant: Ontario pheasant breast with confit leg & wild rice cabbage roll with pear purée 
and sauce Périgourdine

Omble Chevalier: Crispy Skinned Arctic Char with pumpkin seeds, brown butter roasted spaghetti squash and cranberry ginger coulis

Porcelet de Lait: Roasted St-Canut Suckling Pig, braised shoulder, rutabaga fourchette, mustard greens, pickled apple and jus de porc au moutarde

The Auberge du Pommier dessert menu

One of Auberge du Pommier's extraordinary collection of ceramic and cast iron pooches that can be brought to the table upon request, as our neighbouring table had done and we joined in!

A glorious platter of fresh seasonal fruits: kiwi, figs, strawberries, pomegranate, blueberries and pear

Peron 5-year old cheddar with figs, marcona almonds and honey

Le Cappuccino Royale specialty coffee with Frangelico and Amaretto 
— a decadent end to a wonderful evening 

In honour of my parents 55th anniversary, the chef sent out a dessert plate with "Joyeux Anniversaire de Marriage' in chocolate sauce and little Cannelés de Bordeaux cakes

A blurry but Bonne Anniversaire! xoxo

Melon Gazpacho with honeydew melon, cucumber, poached shrimp, 
Thai basil and sourdough croûton 

Melon & Cucumber Gazpacho
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy Executive Chef Marc St. Jacques

1 medium sized melon, honeydew or Galia
2 cucumbers, preferably seedless
Champagne vinegar to taste
Lime juice to taste
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
3 large leaves of basil
1 large sprig of mint
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 cups day old bread, cut into large cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Gazpacho Garnishes:
Melon, small dice
Mint leaves
Thai basil leaves, small
Poached shrimp or lobster
Extra virgin olive oil
Toasted, grilled or baked croutons

Peel the melon and cucumbers. Split them in half and remove all the seeds with a spoon, then chop into large squares. Season the cucumber and melon with salt and pepper, then dress with the champagne vinegar, lime juice and olive oil so that it tastes like a heavily dressed salad. Add the basil leaves and mint sprig.

Slice the red onion thinly and add to the crushed garlic and the cubed bread in a non-reactive plastic or glass bowl. Pour the marinated cucumber and melon mixture over top, cover with plastic wrap and place a weight, such as a small plate, over top to keep pressure on the fruit. This will allow the marinade to drain to the bottom of the dish and the bread to absorb the liquid. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, remove from the refrigerator and strain, reserving the liquid. Remove the basil and mint leaves and place half of the mixture in the blender. Blend at medium speed and slowly add the reserved marinade until the soup starts to blend smoothly. Be careful not to add the marinade too quickly as your mixture will become too watery. Slowly drizzle in more olive oil until the soup begins to thicken and take on a sheen. Re-season to taste with salt and lime juice. There are many different garnishes that would work well with gazpacho, and included are some Auberge du Pommier favourites, but make this recipe your own by serving your own particular choices. Enjoy!

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