Thursday, August 2, 2012

Artisanale ....worth the drive to Guelph

Artisanale [ahr-tuh-zuhn-al]
Adjective  -  pertaining to or noting high-quality, distinctive products made in small quantities

Woolwich Street is my most favorite street in Guelph.  It is the street where one will find the best eating and quaffing that Guelph has to offer.  It's reputation for being the street to hit up was solidified by the recent relocation of the local French restaurant called Artisanale. Moving from their previous downtown storefront location to a beautifully restored historical house on Woolwich Street was absolutely the right direction to allow for the restaurant to honour its true commitment in providing dining patrons to experience true rustic French cuisine.                                                                                               Owner/Chef Yasser Qahawish,  whose personal culinary commitment and philosophy has been anchored in the locavore and ethical food productivity, gets to take that commitment up a few more notches in this new location.  Guelph is a perfect place for this Chef because Guelph has been a forerunner in the bio-dynamic, ecologically responsible and ethically driven food production from ground to market.  

In fact, Chef Yasser is so rooted in his commitment to sourcing locally, that he took his all of his staff out to Whole Circle Farms for a day so that they could learn not only about responsible food production but to allow them to see and embrace for themselves what the bringing the food from the farm to the table really means for Artisanale.  The buy in from the staff is visibly evident as they share with the diners what serving this food means to them personally. 

I am very familiar with Artisanale, having dined at it many times, at its previous locale and it was our "go to" place when we visited our daughter who was attending the University of Guelph.  The food has always been so consistently good. Sourcing locally was always Artisanale's mantra, even in their old location.  So when I heard through MaryLuz Mejia of Sizzling Communications that the Chef was moving over to Woolwich St. I was excited to see what would be in store for our dining pleasure. 

I learned that the restaurant would be offering a daily "Harvest Table", which is based on congregate dining experience (for 6), geared to "family style" service and that the menu for that day would literally be posted about half an hour prior to the restaurant opening (it opens at 5:00 p.m.).  Imagine that, a dining experience that is geared to families.  Bravo to the Chef and his lovely life partner for their family values and bringing them in to a real time dining setting. 

For diners who aren't in groups, there is a separate a la carte menu, that is served in the main dining room.  

 I have been very fortunate to have, over the past couple of weeks, been able to experience both the congregate dining and the a la Carte menu.

My family dined at the restaurant only days after the restaurant's relaunch in celebration of our daughter's convocation.  We started with some small shared plates that included beautifully crusted deep fried Artichokes as well as some Mussels wrapped in fresh Basil.

For mains, I'm doing my usual predictable self and going with the Steak Frites.  While the presentation seemed just a bit plain, the steak was bang on bullseye perfect.  I asked for medium rare and the outside was seared, slightly carmelized, holding in all those juices and the inside was perfection.  Topped with a Normandy styled herbed butter puck, this meat was melt in your mouth deliciousness.  The frites were not quite as like them because I like crunchy, crispy and very thin frites.

In all fairness to the kitchen, they'd only be open a few days and there were some electrical issues so I'm giving them a pass card on this because in their previous location the frites have been spectacularly and consistently good.

 My husband ordered the Pickerel.  We love white fish.  The simplicity of this dish worked wonders.  Sweet peas are in season so they became the base of the dish, then layered with some rice, finally the fish sitting atop.  Sometimes less is more and this is one of those times.  The fish was flaky and moist and by the time dinner was over there wasn't a morsel left on my husbands plate. 

We finished our meal off with a light, sweet Almond Plum Torte sided with a dollop of cream.  Again it is all simple and sometimes, and this is definitely one of those times, when simple is simply best.  The cookie styled crust snaps against my fork and is a perfect base to the light contents of ground almonds and sweet plums.  I can taste the butter in the crust and that too me is nothing but an homage to true French cooking.

The Harvest Table is altogether a different style.  Have a look through the pictures and see for yourself that this is like dining at home except that you have the luxury of having an incredibly down to earth (pardon the pun) and talented Chef making the food.  The highlight of this dining experience for me was getting to sit next to one of the farmhands from Whole Circle Farms.  Everything we ate was seasonal, locally sourced, ethically produced and just downright comfort food. 


If you find yourself yearning for a country drive one summer's eve or to enjoy some countryside food then I would encourage you to make a stop in at Guelph and eat at Artisanale's.  Reservations are recommended because the locals just love this place.  There is a good reason for that. 
Artisanale is located at 214 Woolwich Street, Guelph. 519.821.3359

No comments:

Post a Comment