Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Edulis Restaurant: A Culinary Labour of Love

Considered by many to be one of the top restaurants in Canada, Chef Michael Caballo describes the food served at Toronto’s Edulis as 'a cuisine of inspiration.' Michael and his wife Tobey Nemeth established the acclaimed restaurant with a desire to combine their love of European-style bistros with the bounty of southern Ontario, and have done so superlatively. "Pleasure bordering on delirium" was restaurant critic Chris Nuttall-Smith's eloquent praise of Edulis. Their passion for good food is contagious. Their warmth and hospitality is like being wrapped in a warm blanket. Edulis means 'edible' in Latin, as well as the name of their favourite wild mushroom – the Boletus edulis – the porcini. Caballo and Nemeth opened the restaurant in 2012 and the restaurant "crafted with love" has gained a devoted following and critical acclaim ever since. The two had always dreamed of opening their own restaurant and after four years of travelling and cooking in Spain, Italy, B.C. and Panama, in what Nemeth describes as, "a combination of professional sabbatical and adventure-seeking," they learned that Anton Potvin was selling the Niagara Street Café and jumped at the chance. Glowing reviews followed very quickly and rightly so — it's a culinary gem.

Edulis is about many things – the pleasure of enjoying a gathering around the table to share authentic dishes and to be greeted like a friend; conviviality, feasting, celebrating the craft and tradition of cooking, honesty, and spectacular ingredients. Built around French and Spanish country cuisine, dishes change as the chefs are inspired by the daily offerings of local farmers and suppliers. As the season unfolds, so does their inspiration with menus that change to showcase the ingredients of the moment, with a strong focus on seafood, vegetables, and wild mushrooms with a choice of either five or seven course menus, and in truffle season Edulis offers special truffle dishes, and a European set lunch menu on Sundays with all wines half price. Last weekend we placed ourselves in Michael and Tobey's culinary hands and it was love at first bite. The meal started with crusty house-baked sourdough served with artisanal fermented butter from Quebec, followed by an an absolutely outstanding five-course menu which was gilded with both dishes on the special truffle menu: creamy, soft-scrambled eggs topped with caramelized onions and a flurry of shaved black truffles, as well as a decadent serving of Brilliant Savarin cheese layered with black truffles and drizzled with honey. The sweet finale of our hedonistic three-hour lunch was a generous slice of Persian Love Cake with pistachios, cherries and rose-scented whipped cream which the menu said was originally created as a romantic gesture by a maiden trying to win the heart of a Persian prince and now serves as a symbol of undying love — rather like Michael and Tobey's warmth, commitment and culinary passion — they had us spellbound and soporific.

Husband and wife co-owners and chefs Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth 

The front window of Edulis which means 'edible' in Latin, as well as the name of their favourite wild mushroom – the Boletus edulis – the plump and popular porcini

The intimate and inviting dining room of Edulis on Niagara Street 

From the customized dinner plates, coordinated blue-and-white napkins and Carrara marble tables evocative of classic European Bistros, the attention to detail at Edulis is endless 

The extraordinary six-course Sunday lunch menu at Edulis at just $40 per person

 Warm squishy and crusty house-baked sourdough bread nestled in linen bags is utterly addictive

Sweet artisanal fermented butter from Quebec

Collected for years with hopes of opening their own restaurant, antique botanical artwork including the namesake boletus edulis mushroom, lines the walls in addition to framed menus of Tobey and Michael's favourite restaurants around the world decorate the ladies room!

Our fabulous server recommended the Marcel Dreiss Pinot d'Alsace 2013 to accompany Sunday's luncheon menu and it was a perfect choice — absolutely delicious — and half price on Sundays!

With a nose of apples and pear, the Pinot d'Alsace was nicely balanced with a hint of sweetness

Fluke with cucumber aquachile, toasted rice, micro greens and nori dust

Last Summers Baby Eggplants with Sheeps Milk Feta, White Romesco Sauce and Mâche

Roasted Heirloom Carrots with Mizuna in Anchovy Dressing

Omelet with Roasted Onions and Black Truffle

House Bacon with Apple, Kale, Hazelnuts and Wild Leeks

Chantecler Chicken Thai-Style Grilled over Charcoal

Brilliant Savarin, a Soft Triple Cream Cheese from Burgundy, Layered with Black Truffle and Garnished with Honey — "A Special Dish in Honour of Black Truffle Season"

Selection of Cheeses: (L to R) - Idiazabel Raw Sheep's Milk from Pais Vasco Spain; Roaring Forties Blue Cheese from Tasmania; Grey Owl Goat Cheese from Quebec; Aged Lankaster Cow's Milk Cheese with Lancaster, Ontario

Crisp Toasts for the cheese

Ontario Nuts

10-Year Old Justino’s Madeira from Malvasia, Portugal

Persian Love Cake with Pistachio and Cherries

Macchiato with a mushroom-shaped biscuit!

Chicken Baked in Hay
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Michael Caballo - Edulis

3 1/2 lb whole chicken
2 large handfuls alfalfa hay, thoroughly washed
5 garlic cloves
1 bunch leeks, trimmed and cut in half
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
Small handful herbs, such as thyme, parsley and sage, chopped
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 300º F. Rub butter all over chicken. Season chicken inside and out with salt. Truss chicken, if you like. Spread out a handful of washed hay in a large ovenproof dish or deep roasting pan. Moisten hay with chicken broth; this will become a jus. Scatter garlic, leeks and bay leaves over hay. Place chicken overtop. Cover chicken with remaining handful of hay. Tightly seal with a lid or foil. Let stand for 30 minutes. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour 30 minutes until cooked. Carefully lift lid or open foil, allowing steam to escape. The bird will be done when it is still “medium” or rosy at the thigh joint. Let rest for 15 minutes, then carve the chicken. Strain any juices accumulated in bottom of pan into a measuring cup. Add herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Serve chicken immediately with seasoned juices drizzled overtop.

Baba au Rhum
Serves 10-12
Recipe courtesy of Chef Michael Caballo - Edulis

Rum Syrup:
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Peel of 1/2 orange, pith removed
1 star anise
4 cups raw cane sugar or turbinado sugar
3 1/2 tbsp fine sea salt
5 cups water
1 cup dark rum

Chantilly Cream:
1 cup whipping (35%) cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

4 cups bread flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water, room temperature, divided
5 eggs, room temperature
3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp fine sea salt
2/3 cup butter, softened

For the syrup, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and pod to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add orange peel, star anise, sugar, salt and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, stirring often, and simmer gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off heat and set aside for 30 minutes to infuse. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside at room temperature if using immediately or refrigerate until needed.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together cream, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until soft peaks form (do not over-whip — the silken texture of good cream is at its best at the soft peak stage). Refrigerate until needed.

For the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour and yeast. Make a well in the middle and add 2/3 cup water and eggs. Mix until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof until roughly double in size, 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. (Do not attempt to accelerate by placing in a too-warm place! Patience and slow rise are key to the perfect texture.) Add remaining 1/3 cup water, sugar and salt. Mix with dough hook on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium and mix until very smooth, about 5 minutes.

While mixing, begin adding butter, one tablespoon at a time. Continue mixing after all butter is added until dough is very elastic, shiny and smooth, scraping down sides of work bowl with a spatula as needed, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, butter a bundt pan very well. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared pan. Gently spread dough evenly. Shake pan gently to help dough settle. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise again, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen, until dough has risen to 1/2 inch from top of pan.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove plastic wrap so it doesn’t stick to your soft dough. Leave to rise another 10 minutes, until dough fills pan completely. Bake in preheated oven until cake is deep golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and invert cake into a deep-sided casserole dish. Immediately soak liberally with some of the rum syrup - at least 3 inches deep. Leave to soak for 5 minutes. Carefully rotate cake upside down and pour over more rum syrup. Leave to soak for 5 minutes more. Rotate cake right side up and leave to soak for 15 more minutes. Pour off any excess syrup and place cake on your showiest cake stand or platter.

To serve, cut lavish wedges and arrange on serving plates. Pour rum syrup on the cut side of the cake. At Edulis, they like to do this tableside for dramatic effect and garnish with reckless quantities of Chantilly Cream! 

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