Dinner Debriefing: Pimiento

The Pimiento Bistro & Bar is a simple fifteen minute drive from our hotel in Federal Way and it gets good write-ups on Trip Advisor. Once a month, they do a tapas night with a fixed series of apps and a matched wine flight. Tonight was that night, but we ordered from the menu.

We shared an excellent calamari. Tender, and accompanied by some breaded jalapeno rings. Caroline thought it was one of the best ever, I rate it neck and neck with Broken Plate from Calgary.

I loved my house salad, but Caroline thought her salad with burrata cheese would have the really runny kind, and it was more like a fresh mozzarella.

Both my lamb and Caroline’s duck were tender, but we didn’t think they were exciting. We figure they were cooked medium, and we’d prefer a little less than that. Perhaps the kitchen was unusually busy with the tapas thing.

It was a nice touch that the waiter spoke about each wine he brought as part of the tapas sequence, but we did get tired of hearing the same spiel delivered to three neighboring tables with each course. We stuck with the Sonoma Merlot.

One thing was fun: Blanca Rodriguez, the executive chef, spends time out front with the diners. I liked that, because some chefs never see past the end of their noses. Blanca’s interacting, thinking about your tastes and helping you find the best choice from her menu.

I might go again, but the seating is not in Pimienta’s favour: you must choose between a hard wooden chair or a flat wooden bench.

Dinner Debriefing: Agrarian

We found a parking spot on the street just steps away from Agrarian. It was a wet and windy night, so that was fortunate.

The wine list isn’t long, but does feature some local wines as well as a few international ones. After ruling out wines that we already tried on this trip, we chose a bottle of Cabernet Franc from Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery. There was also a Gamay from the same winery, but our server seemed to think the Franc would go better with the duck.

Our dinner started well. Caroline was still in the mood for greens, and began with the house salad. I was feeling the cold, and ordered the soup, which was a corn chowder today. It was very nice, and I was offered bread and butter with it, slices from a nice fresh baguette.

I was tempted by the tuna dish, but it sounded like something more suited to a summer day, so we both chose the duck confit with plums. Both of us found it uncomfortably salty. I ate most of mine before deciding to stop, which put our server in an awkward position. She offered to get me something else, but I didn’t want to eat another whole meal. Dessert would have meant violating my sugar guidelines as well as my salt ones. There was a cheese tray, but it was a mild cheddar, a water buffalo cheese and a blue. I’ve never acquired a taste for blue cheese, and my first exposure to water buffalo cheese this afternoon didn’t leave me craving more. At this point, I realized I was probably coming across as the customer from hell, and we decided to retreat before we made life any more miserable for the folks there.

They were kind enough to reduce the bill on my dinner, and we were able to take the leftover wine home with us. (In Ontario, a restaurant must have a special clause on their liquor licence to allow this.)

All in all, Agrarian didn’t really work out all that well for us tonight. Your mileage may vary- I’ve grown accustomed to a low-sodium diet, and if you don’t mind the occasional dish that has some salt, you might like the duck just fine, or you could order something else.

Dinner Debriefing: Merrill Inn

The Merrill Inn is in Picton, just a one-minute walk from our B&B. As the name suggests, the place is an inn, and the restaurant is in the lower level. The outdoor terrace is a little below grade, (and not open at this time of year) so there are only windows on the one wall. It’s a cozy room, with room for about two dozen diners.

The menu has some things in common with other local restaurants, at least as far as offering duck, rabbit and pickerel dishes. I think this is because good chefs everywhere look for locally sourced food. Tonight’s special was a bison striploin with a sauce of carmelized onion and sage.

Once again I am unable to find the wine list on the website. Maybe that’s an Ontario thing. The Inn works hard to promote County wines, with a good selection available by the six ounce glass, and an option to have two glasses for $22, which is in line with the bottle price but allows you more freedom to mix and match with your courses. We slipped slightly, and ordered a wine that is bottled in the county from grapes sourced in the Niagara Peninsula VQA; the Keint-He Voyageur Pinot Noir. This was a fairly light Pinot, but went well with our entree choices without overpowering the salad. There were imported wines on the list, too, and judging from the Californians offered, someone there knows their grapes. Edward, actually, one of the owners.

The bread basket featured a sourdough bread that is baked in-house, and a multi-grain sourced locally. Oh, and there were some little cheese biscuit thingies  with a fresh pear chutney. We both started with the house salad, and the inn got points for applying the dressing with a light hand. Caroline wanted the duck and fig dish, I chose the rabbit with pasta. Both were very nice, and we had enough room to share a dessert.

The pie of the day was an apple, served with ice cream made on the premises. We’re not really pie people, so we shared a nice little Opera Cake with raspberries and creme Anglais. Tea for her, coffee for him.

Another nice dinner. Considering that the population of Picton is under 4000 (the population of the entire Prince Edward County is around 25,000) this place is rocking the restaurant biz.

Dinner Debriefing: Blumen Bistro

The full name of this restaurant is the Blumen Garden Bistro. Located just a mile up the road from our B&B, this smallish place offers large helpings of imaginative fare.

Our table wasn’t quite ready when we got there, but we barely had time to sit at the bar and look over the menu before we were seated. The walls were decorated with pictures by local artists, and that community commitment carried over to the wine list, too, with many wines from Prince Edward County on offer. Sorry, the winelist isn’t on the Bistro’s website.

There were a number of things that sounded good on the menu. I narrowed it down to the pork tenderloin or the scallops. The waiter didn’t offer much in the way of guidance, so I went with the scallops. In case it was a lighter meal, I looked for a hearty starter, and chose the duck crepe. Caroline did the reverse, starting with the house salad and picking the rabbit and gnocchi dish for her entree.

We both chose to drink local wines which were available by the glass. I had a Chardonnay from Closson Chase, Caroline a Pinot Noir from Rosehall Run. I can’t find tasting notes at either winery’s website. The Chardonnay struck me as brassy, rather than fruity on the nose. Caroline said she liked the finish on it. The Pinot was robust, with some earthier notes. I hope to get to both of those wineries for a tasting soon.

And now, back to the food. We were hungry, so the bread with herbed oil was very welcome. The seed bread was especially good.

Caroline’s salad was big. I got to help her eat it. Kind of Waldorfy in concept, it had pecans, apples and local Black River Cheddar on mixed greens. Very nice. My duck crepe was huge. A broad cylinder nearly the size of my fist, it would have easily made a meal for Caroline. It was like a shepherd’s pie of duck: filled with corn, peas and dark duck meat, wrapped in the crepe and finished with a rich brown gravy. Delicious.

My scallop dish was interesting, with lots of distinct flavours, including lime, snap peas and mushrooms. It was okay, but it would have been nicer on a hot summer day on the terrace. I would order something else next time. Caroline’s duck dish was amazing. The kitchen make their own gnocchi, and the rabbit was rich and tender in a kind of a hunter sauce. It was a wonderful dish for a chill autumn night. Even with my help, she couldn’t finish it. It didn’t seem practical, but we would have loved to take the leftovers home.

There is a dessert cart, but it was out of the question, we were both too full. Caroline had noticed a pineapple upside-down cake on the October feature menu, but knew she couldn’t eat more than a forkful.

Great dinner. I recommend this restaurant.

Dinner Debriefing: Luenig’s Bistro

We asked about the name. It’s from a favourite Australian cartoon of the owner. Downtown Burlington was busy, we parked a good six blocks away. Nobody told Dingbat that Church Street is a pedestrian mall now. No cars. Not even ones with GPSes that need their maps updated. If you just dropped in looking for the humorous post, that’s the previous one. I’m serious about food.

The food was worth the walk. It’s a mile and a half from our hotel in South Burlington, and the food would be worth that walk. Luenig’s Bistro specializes in French cuisine, but they are not afraid of originality. I started with a pumpkin chowder so thick you could mound it up on your spoon. Wonderful taste enrichments from the bacon and corn. Caroline cheated and started with a cheese course. The waitress told us lots of people do that. It is Vermont, after all, and the Camembrie was lovely. This restaurant has a comprehensive winelist, including a good selection of wines by the glass or the half bottle. These days I’m more about quality than quantity, so I appreciate that. Caroline had a glass of Hook and Ladder Chardonnay with her cheese, and then we switched to reds for dinner. She picked a Trinity Oaks Merlot for her duck, while I chose to pair up the Louis Martini Napa Cabernet with my beef bourguignon. My dish was great, but Caroline’s cherry and cardamom duck took it to a whole new level for us. Crispy, with no fattiness, it was fruity and beautifully complemented by the baby spinach and spaetzle.

Some interesting desserts were available, but we were pretty full, and it had been a rich meal, so we called it quits and hiked back up the hill to the car.