On my recent trip to Ontario’s Lake Country, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the fine cuisine we had. I definitely fit the definition of a foodie and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect on this trip. Certainly, I knew we’d be fed well but this went far beyond “well”. Despite being in Orillia, Ontario, population just under 31000, the food was world-class quality.
Our culinary adventure began at St. Germain’s Steakhouse in CasinoRama. St. Germain’s offers fine dining in a lovely, comfortable atmosphere. What’s more, the service is exceptional. The menu includes a variety of surf and turf options, including Rib-Eye, Tenderloin, Striploin, and Porterhouse cuts from only AAA Alberta beef. Seafood options include lobster, sea bass, and salmon. And to accompany it all, an award winning wine list and scrumptious desserts from their award winning pastry chef.
Our tasting menu began with a delicious appetizer course. My dinner companions had Diver Scallop Crudo but since I am allergic, they substituted some yummy fresh colourful beets for the scallops in mine. It was accompanied with Kumquat, Winter Radish, Thai Chili, Mint, Shiso, Pink Peppercorn Citrus Vodka Shooter, and a Parmesan Asiago Crisp.
Next up was a tasty vegetable course of Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Smoked Ricotta, Cipollini Onion, Dukkah, Pancetta, Pomegranate Chervil, and a local Maple Syrup Gastrique.
You know, with each course, I was convinced they couldn’t possibly bring out a course that could possibly rival the previous one. I was wrong. It’s not easy to pick a favourite because they were all amazing, but if I had to, it would be this meat course. Oh man. Have you ever had beef that was so tender it just melted in your mouth? First, there was the Sous Vide Alberta Beef Tenderloin – yum! But then, there was heaven on a fork in the form of Maple Braised Short Ribs. If I wasn’t trying to use my big girl table manners, I would have grabbed this from everyone else’s plates and eaten theirs as well!!! This plate was rounded out with heirloom carrots, baby turnips, and charred leek powder.
Remember that award winning pastry chef I mentioned earlier? It’s easy to see why those awards were given! I have to confess – I couldn’t finish all of my dessert. In fact, before it came out, I had told myself I was just much too full and had no room left for even just one bite. Then I saw the plates of food. I wasn’t passing this up! Another confession? I got a take out box and took some of this back to my room to enjoy later!! Dessert consisted of: Triple Chocolate Pyramid, Maple Creme Brulee, Grand Marnier Infused Citrus Tiramisu, a Sugar Crisp, and a plate of handmade bonbons.
My rating of St. Germain’s Steakhouse – 5 out of 5 stars
Next stop on our culinary tour was Rustica Pizza and Vino in downtown Orillia, Ontario. Now here’s something you need to know about me. I’m incredibly picky about Italian food. You see, I used to think that it was “just okay”. I’d eat it if it was served to me but I would never have ordered Italian food at a restaurant or chosen an Italian restaurant in the first place. Then, I went to a restaurant in London (UK) that served authentic Italian food. It was then that I turned into an Italian food snob. I don’t like the North Americanized stuff. But real authentic Italian food? I could eat that all day long. I already have another trip planned to Orillia and Rustica is definitely on my list of must-eat places.
One of the things I love about Rustica is their open concept kitchen. You can see the pizza oven and watch the chef as he prepares your dinner. We got a special demonstration while we were there – watching them make pizza Margherita and learning about not only their authentic Italian recipes and procedures but also about Rustica’s use of the finest ingredients. Everything is either locally sourced from the best food artisans or imported directly from Italy to ensure a genuine Italian experience.
Here’s another confession – I have never before liked Pizza Margherita. It’s just SO tomatoey (it’s a new word – I just invented it). But with an open mind, I sampled some at Rustica. And when I got home from Orillia, I immediately went to some local gourmet shops to find the ingredients needed so I can try to duplicate it at home. It was that good.
We started off with a delicious fresh salad and Arancini (one of my favourites – it’s basically risotto in a ball form).
What followed was an amazing selection of pizzas. This one was my favourite – Romano Balsamic with caramelized onions, roasted garlic, fior de latte, arugula, Romano cheese, and a sweet balsamic glaze. Others included Cacciatore with San Marzano tomatoes, Italian sausage, pancetta, Soppressata salami, and fior di latte; Carbonara with eggs, fior di latte, pancetta, green onions, and pecorino cheese; and Funghi with fior di latte, gorgonzola, pecorino, roasted garlic, and mushrooms.
This delicious dinner was capped off by a scrumptious dessert of pizza donuts – pieces of pizza dough that were deep fried, rolled in sugar and laid on a bed of Nutella with vanilla gelato and fresh strawberries. If you’re not drooling right now, you should be!
My rating – another 5 out of 5 stars!
Our final delectable destination was the Grape and Olive Wine & Martini Bistro in the Best Western Plus Mariposa Inn & Conference Centre, Orillia, Ontario. Chef Derek Mayes and his years of experience offer a varied and delightful menu that’s sure to please everyone. We were offered a tasting menu and given the chance to sample some of the house specialties.
I started out with the chopped green salad.
For the main, I had the melt in your mouth tender beef sirloin served in a Yorkshire pudding bowl with mashed potatoes, root vegetables, and pan gravy. I’ve never seen roast served quite this way before and it was oh so tasty and filling!
Finally for dessert, I had the rich, dense flourless chocolate cake with berry coulis and whipped cream. It was the perfect way to end an incredibly yummy dinner.
The evening was capped off with a mini cooking class with pastry Chef Peter. I was thrilled to find out that not only is the Grape and Olive a restaurant but they offer cooking classes and demonstrations as well. What fun!
Chef Peter showed us his secrets for making the perfect chocolate ganache and then yummy decadent truffles. I can’t wait to replicate these at home. They’ll make a great treat for any festive occasion.
My rating for the Grape and Olive – 5 out of 5 stars.
I have very high discerning foodie standards when it comes to dining out. I actually get teased about it by some of my family members but my thought is that life is too short for mediocre food. So, you can be sure that if I was this pleased by the dining options in the Orillia, Ontario area, you will be too. And Orillia, you can be sure I’ll be back. I’m already dreaming of this scrumptious food!!