Monday, May 24, 2010

Local Food & Wine Bar....another food haven in Parkdale

Local Kitchen and Winebar is based on the philosophy driven by the slow food movement and inspired by the foods of Italy. For those of you not familiar with the SFM, this isn't about chewing your food 100 times before you swallow or making sure you keep to the 10 km. speed limit when going through the drive-thru. This is about hard core, right from the roots to our table reverence for the bounty we live on.
Basically put the SFM is"a fundamental respect for our food, where it comes from, and the people who help cultivate it." In other words, don't fuck with the food, use it in its purest form, don't waste it, don't add nitrates to it, don't mess with the earth it's grown in or raised on and least of all don't diss those who show it all the TLC it needs before it hits our tables.

LKW opened just this past September and is a matchbox sized spot on Queen St. in Parkdale. It seats a modest 29 bodies and for sure one can say they didn't sink their setup deniros in the decor because this is Parkdale shtick in its purest form. The menu is tiny, very tiny. Ruled by what is available by season and at the market.

The wine lists are Ontario based which is ok, if you like Ontario wines. I've gotten a lot better about drinking Ontario wines because the wine makers have gotten so much better at making them. While I understand the philosophy of supporting the locals, including the wine makers, I'm broken hearted knowing that I can't have a glass of Barolo or Barbaresco to enhance the lovingly prepared Salumi (this is the Italian equivalent of Charcuterie) board. The bite of a peppery Barbaresco would have been the perfect compliment to those little bowls of Caponata and mouthfuls of Soprosetta. We settle on wines from Daniel Lenko, one chardonnay, the other a white Cabernet Sauvignon.

My food winger, Lauren Wilson and I order a Salumi board as well as butter & lemon soaked crostini topped with a fresh anchovy. The crostini is sublime and the anchovy has barely any fish taste which catches us off guard. When you expect that big salty whack from an anchovy and you don't feel like you've been smacked in the face by Luca Brasi (who sleeps with the fishes) it's a surprise. The thyme in this dish only serves to enhance the lemon.

The salumi board, served atop a piece of petrified wood with butcher paper is put together by Mike Sangregorio, one of the owners. His partner, is Chef Fabio Bondi and he is at the helm of the kitchen. Together these guys produce the bulk of their own salumi for their charcuterie boards and he proudly fawns over the board as he does his GPS of the layout of meat. Of the five meats on the board, strangely enough our least favorite is their own cured Prosciutto. Lauren nails it perfectly when she sniffs the meat and says "I smell ammonia". Something in the taste of the prosciutto is off but the rest of the cured meats are excellent. Black walnuts on the side offer up almost a moss like taste to offset the meat.

The menu is minuscule and even more limited this evening than usual, probably due to the holidays and fresh supplies being limited. I opt for Smoked Potato Gnocchi with Tallegio & Rapini. I asked Mike about the smoked potatoes because this dish has an unbelievable flavour. He tells me that they have a coal smoker out in the back of the building and that they smoke the spuds before turning them into the mixture for gnocchi. The gnocchi are large. The tallegio is like melted butter and the slight bitterness of the rapini make for a good combination. This is an odd trilogy but it works. The smoke flavour isn't forced but rather gently infused into the dish and the more you eat it the more it grows on you. My only criticism of this dish is they would be better off to make the gnocchi just a tad smaller. Their size makes them feel heavier than they actually are.

Lauren chooses the Parpardelle with Pheasant Ragu and Swiss Chard. I can't seem to see the swiss chard in the dish and since the pasta is verde I'm wondering if they use the chard to make the pasta. The pheasant ragu is delicious, delicately balanced with tomato sauce. The wide ribbons of pasta are perfectly cooked, silky in their consistency, folded on to the plate, embracing the chard and the ragu.

I like LKW. I like what they stand for and I like what their food philosophies are based upon. I pitstop at Mike's prep station to talk about Northern Italian cuisine and for a moment I gloat over the fact that I've ventured into the heart of the Slow Food Movement in Bra, Italy. We talk about wild foods and Forbes and then that bastard tells me he is drinking a Barolo as he is prepping food!

LKW is also the home of Foodie Meets (for all you twitter fans). The hard core foodies often meet and partake of tastings here. Rumour has it that LKW is the place where the chefs such as Michael Stadtlander, like to dine on their days off. That is a true testament to LKW. Another Parkdale food haven is born.

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