As you might know, Matt Kantor is doing something a bit different this fall, and preparing a series of dinners for about a dozen people. Last night was the first of three for his Meat and Beer week — there will be two more events at Olliffe Butchers this week. And they’re all sold out!
I got there a bit early last evening. Well, a half-hour early, actually. Everyone was busy elsewhere, so I just looked in the window and shot off a few pictures. I like the front window of Olliffe, and the butcher-stamp look of their logo. Nice job, guys.
Great idea to have a display case of charcuterie right by the front window. Everything looks so delicious. I’m going when I’m back up town next Tuesday. I want to see what their Soppresatta and locally-cured Lardo are like. Hmm, maybe some pancetta, too.
Good artwork for a butcher store. Font geek likes the typeface on the butchery diagram.
Aaah! Here comes Matt!
Oops. Yah, we’re seriously early. Please walk around the block a few times and come back at 8, like it said on the email Sunday (Actually, Matt just said “come back at 8.” I’m the one pointing out that it said “Dinner at 8” on the email).
So I wandered around for a while, took pictures of store windows, and I’ll get them up online, maybe later today. Some shops have their Christmas decorations up already! And sad to say, I was looking at them. Maybe I’ll actually decorate this year. I should get my winter Icicle lights up today while it’s still above 10C and the plastic wiring is pliant.
The old Summerhill train station still looks lovely as an LCBO. The fountain outside almost made me jump out of my skin on the way home, however. It has one of those deer-scare type setups, where a container fills with water, tips, noise happens, water spills out. Caught me unaware.
Came back just before 8, just had enough time to snap a shot of people outside and cross the road, and Matt opened the door and invited us all in.
Fundamentally rustic table centrepieces: beef rib bones in triads going the length of the table.
Time to peruse the menu. As usual for Matt, lots of variety, interesting combinations, delicious pairings. I can hardly wait to start.
Matt’s introduction to the dinner — alas, he’s on the edge of losing his voice!
First dish up in the sausage ceviche — now, it’s not raw sausage cooked by the acid of a citrus fruit. It’s actually been cooked. It’s served with a lot of the ingredients you’d find in a ceviche. It makes for a tasty appetizer. Matt, feel free to tell me what type of sausage it was!
It was accompanied by the first beer of the night (full flight of beers, different one for each course). This was a pleasant ale, good place to start, accompanied the food without competing with it.
They went well together! Our next beer had a flashy label, a good joke, and nice flavour.
It was mild, a bit of spice, and went really well with the sous-vide pork tenderloin, served with some crunchy chickpeas, dice of quince, schmear of rooibos lemon chiffon pudding, and some tarragon leaves. OK, that caught me by surprise a little. Wasn’t expecting pudding with pork, but it worked really nicely, the same way that a sweet applesauce or jelly goes with pork. The vanilla/lemony notes brought out the subtle flavours of a meat that serves to underpin other tastes. The licorice of the tarragon really came out with the beer. The pork tenderloin was, like all the meats, incredibly tender. Cooking it sous vide, it had lost none of its juicy nature.
Next up was an Amsterdam Bone Shaker IPA. Like all IPAs, hopsy bitterness remained after sipping.
That bitterness worked well to accompany the richness of the Chantecler Chicken Risotto with butternut squash and pine nuts. This was a really great dish. The chicken is a variety I’ve only had once before, at Brad Long’s Veritas Local Fare on King Street East. It’s got a wonderful rich chicken taste that you hardly ever find any more. The risotto was creamy, slightly sweet and rich from the squash, and each grain was still al dente at its core. The lightly toasted pine nuts completed the dish beautifully. One person commented “it’s like rice pudding.” Yup, But better. And for dinner.
The next two dishes on the menu were switched, so the chicken risotto was followed by Muscovy duck, then lamb biryani.
The Muscovy duck was accompanied by a strawberry beer, Amsterdam Framboise. A slightly medicinal nose, the flavour of the beer is great, and works really well with duck.
The duck was served two ways: we had a slice of juicy, tender, rare breast, and a crepe (Matt, was there cocoa in that crepe?) with leg meat and mushrooms. Hazelnut streusel was strewn about to add a sweet note to the lamb, and there were a few eye-interesting ingredients, in terms of some Romanesco (fractal food!), some delicious mushrooms, and a dollop of Romanesco purée. There was a round ball — just behind the breast meat — that looks like a truffle. Well, it wasn’t a mushroom truffle, and it wasn’t a chocolate, either. It was a tartuffo! Surprise! And the ice cream was carmelized onion. Absolutely delicious.
This was followed by a Great Lakes Winter Ale (I missed its picture!), which had a lovely light taste of cloves, and accompanied the deconstructed lamb biryani that came next. A couple of pieces of saffron cake, a white mousse, some plump sweet raisins, and some very tasty braised lamb, all done up with Indian spices and herbs. Another case where Matt surprised us by putting sweet and savory together in a delicious plate.
On to the dark beers. To accompany the beef, we had Black Oak Nutcracker Porter. Chocolate, molasses, creamy, coffee notes, this could be dessert.
It was a perfect counterpart to what came next. We’re in a butcher shop that prides itself on its dry aged beef. It’s on display in a cooler, directly behind the table. Big glorious slabs of meat, hanging, tenderizing, drying. We were fortunate to have some 60 day aged beef, prepared two ways: braised shortribs, glazed in honey, almost tasted like candy. Meaty candy. The shortribs were topped with some blue cheese, which I ate with both of the dishes, because blue cheese and well aged beef just belong together. The ribeye was succulent, and the cheese went with it the way it should, bringing out the stronger tastes in the beef, contributing umami. Sunchoke foam was a light palate cleanser, and worked with the potato to prepare the mouth for another round of beefy goodness.
That brought us to our final dish of the evening — and I forgot another beer picture! This one was really a dessert beer: Cannery Brewing Maple Stout. Oh yes, yes, yes. The maple note is strong — not as strong as it is in the maple liqueur one can buy in Quebec, but almost. And the maple works with the pecans, and the foie gras ice cream, caramel sauce, poached apple, and streusel topping.
I’m very glad there were no more courses! It was delicious, each course was different, and I’m still quite full from last night.
Hope you make it out to Matt’s next set of dinners — whatever it happens to be, it will be a pleasure.