August 8, 2016 Missive from J.K. Farm
I take a black walnut from one of the many trees that grow wild on my property. I rub its pale green exterior with my thumb. It releases a pungent scent reminiscent of limes and roses. I slice the whole thing in half and remove the meat from the shell. Still young, the shell is easy to penetrate. The meat has a mild flavour vaguely familiar, like prosciutto and a texture like a cross between heart of palm and a macadamia nut. I have a book on the wild things that grow around here. Inside there is a recipe for pickling these nascent black walnuts. One is meant to eat them, at this stage, shell and all.
As I read through this book, my mind wanders to the past, to this farm and how things must have been over a century ago, living in this hamlet. My farm was at that time, the hub of the village. There is still the ruin of a mill on the creek. Beside the mill a blacksmith shop, still housing the crumbling ruin of a long disused forge. My dad loved this spot, forever encouraging me to open a little “estaminet” there. “A place travellers would come upon,” he imagined. We would have several county libations available by the glass and perhaps un “plat” or two. He really wanted to hang out there, greeting people and telling them stories, sharing a laugh and listening to the noise of the creek in the background. Perhaps one day.
I muse about how traditional dishes from a place, any place, come to be. 100 years ago the food culture would have been strictly dictated by and in response to the radical changes of the seasons. The deep dark and cold of the winter was contrasted by the endless days and extreme heat of the summer. The culture of preserving summer’s bounty, to create bottled sunshine to last through the winter was imperative for survival but also contributed to a repertoire of dishes that defined the place and made it distinct.
As each week passes this summer, I try to stay in tune with the subtle changes in the landscape that will perhaps yield something unique for the menu I will offer on Saturday evening. The green, black walnuts for example could be just right this week. If so, maybe they will be a component of the filled zucchini dish I am working through in my head at the moment.
Last week we worked in tandem with Pearl Morissette Winery from Jordan, Ontario on the Niagara peninsula, just across the lake from us. I liked what Brent Rowland, their winemaker said about their core philosophy. “We let the vintage decide how the wine will be in the bottle in any given year.” In other words, yielding to nature in playing with the cards that are dealt and of course bringing their “best game” to the winemaking process from coaxing the best possible fruit on the vine to meticulous handling of the grapes through fermentation and elevation of the wine. This philosophy somehow mirrors my own in approach with respect to the creative process leading up to the genesis of a dish. It was no surprise to me then that the foods and wines served last Saturday resonated in harmony. What a great house as well! Many old friends and familiar faces I recognized from my restaurants over the years all coming to my table in the country. It was wonderful to cook for these people again and to share the rural atmosphere and rustic elegance of this place.
Menu for Saturday August 6, 2016
Hors d’Œuvres on the Ridge
JK Fries with Two Sauces
Smoked Whitefish Éclair
Chilled Vegetable Shooter
Bison Brochette. Parsley Sweet and Sour
Chick Pea and Eggplant Croquettes
2013 Riesling "Cuvée Black Ball", Pearl Morissette, 20 Mile Bench VQA
Cool Vegetable Salad, Summer Savoury
Great Lakes Chowder
2013 Chardonnay "Cuvée Dix-Neuvième", Pearl Morissette, 20 Mile Bench VQA
Corn and Sweet Potato Pancake with Griddled Okra
2013 Pinot Noir, Pearl Morissette, 20 Mile Bench VQA
Juicy Pork Burger with Lightly Pickled Vegetables and Marjoram Jus
2012 Cabernet Franc "Cuvée Madeline", Pearl Morissette, 20 Mile Bench VQA
Dave Smythe’s Ontario Artisan Cheese Selection with Green Salad
2014 Viognier "Cuvée Nadia", Pearl Morissette, non-VQA
Maple Caramelized Peach with Wild Blueberry and Lemon Syllabub
2014 Cuvée Blu, Pearl Morissette, non-VQA
Photos from @Chefjamiekennedy @studioblackwell and @pearlmorissette featuring paintings by Conrad Beaubin @gofishvintage, design by @vicvvvic and flowers from @floraloraflowers