GOOD TASTE | Love Bites
"My assignment was a difficult one – interview three handsome chefs about food, romance and love. How delicious is that?"
By Barbara Ramsay Orr Photography By Harry Gils & Dana Cowie Gils
- La Piazza's lobster Sambuca tagliatelle
- La Piazza's Lisa Bellini, a blend of lychee liqueur, cranberry juice and Prosecco
- Edgewater Manor's pan-seared diver scallops, seared pork belly, pomegranate apple essence and cauliflower veloute
- Edgewater Manor's Lobster Scallop Cioppino
- La Piazza's Bruschetta Duo : tomato- black truffle bruschetta and pesto, red pepper and fiorella bocconcini bruschetta.
- Two thirds of Edgewater Manor's Trio of crème brûlée.
Any woman knows that a boyfriend who's knowledgeable about those special out-of-the-way restaurants and has an in with the staff is one you want to keep. Even better if he can cook.
So I was interested to discover the inside love story from these three culinary masters. Where is the most romantic table in their restaurants? What menus would they suggest for romance?
Matteo Paonessa at Blacktree in Burlington is very busy, but he is too much of a gentleman to say no to my request for an interview. His restaurant is tucked away in an unremarkable plaza, yet it is the coolest and perhaps best restaurant in the area.
Matteo parks me on a chair in the corner of his tiny kitchen and proceeds to shell lobsters for the lobster ravioli on that evening's menu, and I lob questions at him.
"Oh Barbara," he sighs. "You know I am not a fancy talker. I can't talk 'poetic'."
He is, perhaps, not obviously a romantic. But this is the man who took his wife-to-be out to a sumptuous dinner at La Medusa in Montreal and then walked her over to Notre Dame Cathedral and proposed in front of the altar. There's lots of poetry in this chef, and it shows up on the plates in his dining room.
The best table for a romantic dinner at Blacktree is #9, by the fireplace. Chef Matteo suggests a menu that would begin with a classic martini and seared scallops with sunchoke purée and fresh oysters. A first course of pan-seared almond crusted foie gras with cinnamon ice cream, paired with a glass of French Sauterne would be followed by a shared pasta course of parmesan white truffle gnocchi.
"I would select arctic char with lobster ravioli for her, for the main course, and for him, wild boar, with smoked wild boar bacon and crispy boar belly. A California Pinot Noir would go well with both of these dishes."
He suggests his unique dessert dish, Maxso, a soufflé style pancake, served with a white chocolate parfait and accompanied by a glass of Banyuls 2009, a rich fortified granache.
"That," he tells me, "is a recipe for romance, sure fire."
I grab Chef Mark Farrugia, owner of La Piazza Allegra, in the early morning for a chat about love and cuisine, before his crazy day begins.
"One of the most romantic dinners that I was part of was a wedding proposal." He remembers, smiling. "The gentleman hired me to come in to cook and serve a meal. He had prepared everything – designed the menu with her favourite foods, arranged fresh flowers, found an excuse to get her out of the house for the day. The ring was delivered with dessert, and then I quietly disappeared."
"What was important was that he had taken care of the details. He was thoughtful, and invested time in the planning."
The most romantic table in La Piazza, he thinks, is table #24, an intimate and private table in an alcove. His suggested 'menu romantica' is sensual and seductive.
"I would begin with a Lisa Bellini, a delicious blend of lychee liqueur, cranberry juice and Prosecco, served with a duo of bruschetta, pesto and goat cheese and truffle butter with tomato. "The main should be seafood – something rich and creamy." He suggests lobster pasta with Sambuca cream sauce, matched with a buttery Gracebridge California Chardonnay.
"Dessert is decadent chocolate, of course, perhaps a chocolate carrot cake with butter cream icing. Pair that with a glass of select late harvest or a glass of port."
Afterwards, there should be a warm cup of Allegra specialty coffee – with kahlua, white crème de cacao and Baileys, enjoyed at the white onyx-topped bar, while vintage movies flicker on the wall. How could you not fall in love?
Peter Trajkovski, the owner and sommelier at Edgewater Restaurant meets me after lunch. He is a dyed-in-the-wool unapologetic romantic. "Food and love go hand in hand," he says. "It locks in memory. There's always food involved when love is concerned." This is the man who has an arrangement with his significant other to have a secret dinner date once a month. They take turns choosing the place. He has fond memories of dinner on the beach in Jamaica, with the sun setting, and candles flickering. For a lovers' dinner, he suggests table #6, or a private table in the Capone Room, with fireplace and a lake view. His ideal menu for passionate dining would start with a Flirtini, a house specialty of sparkling wine, pineapple juice and vodka.
"Then there should be oysters with a mignonette, served with prosecco or a sparkling rosé. He should dress her oysters for her." The next course Trajkovski recommends is forbidden rice, a black rice risotto with scallops or duck breast, with Vineland St. Urban's Hof 2011 Riesling.
The main course is chateaubriand for two, elegant and decadent, served with a big, bold Cab, like the California Darioush. "It's deep, velvety, full of flavour, ruby-esque – a passionate wine."
He would end with a trio of chocolate desserts to share – chocolate pot au crème, mini vanilla crème brûlée and whitechocolate- covered pomegranate seeds – "to feed to each other."
A local Icewine, like Peller Estates Cab Franc Icewine, can be enjoyed with that, then follow with Castle coffee, – frangelico, crème de cacao and Baileys topped with fresh whipped cream. "And don't forget music," he reminds me. "Something jazzy and sexy. I like the theme music from 'Eat. Pray. Love'."
So there's a playbook for love, from three passionate food lovers, virtually guaranteed to end in romance.