What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient?
I’m the most excited for Ramp season. Pickled ramps are super tasty and are the perfect accompaniment to a Charcuterie board – something I eat a lot of. Pickled ramp mayonnaise is delicious on literally anything and particularly awesome with fried seafood (clams especially).
What’s your drink of choice?
Bourbon is glorious in any form. My favourite bourbon-based concoction would have to be a Boulevardier – a Negroni, but sub out the Gin for Bourbon. I also love making and drinking Cherry bounce with bourbon – combine a bunch of cherries, bourbon, and sugar in a mason jar and let sit for a month or so. It turns into a syrupy delicious cherry liqueur that beefs up any cocktail.
Most underrated ingredient?
Sweetbreads. I cannot for the life of me understand the general public’s disgust of the ingredient. Yes it’s a thymus gland, but it’s a DELICIOUS thymus gland!
In Ontario? Hands down my favourite restaurant is Backhouse, in Niagara-on-the-Lake. My girlfriend and I have been there many times and every visit is a completely new and awesome experience. My favourite restaurant on earth would have to be Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville. A “meat & three” cafeteria style restaurant, Arnold’s is completely no-fuss – just lineup, choose your meat, choose your three sides, and dig in.
What’s the best part of working with Ontario food and drink?
As important as quality and locality are to us, the honest answer is the relationships you establish with your suppliers. There is no connection made when you buy a lemon from a food distributor who bought that lemon at a food terminal that was shipped in from Mexico. On the other hand, when you are able to have a conversation and establish a rapport with the person who seeds, harvests, and delivers your turnips, that makes the extra effort completely worth while. Our farmer, Farmer Rob of 100 Mile Produce, from Belgrave, Ontario, has become a good friend of mine.
Why is Feast On important to you and your restaurant?
Our Feast On certification is important to us because it forces us to ‘brag’ about our support of local – and bragging is something we at the Smokehouse are not inherently good at. Essentially, Feast On allows us to say to our customers “we are audited and certified, proving that the majority of our purchases are made locally.”
Fill in the blank:”If I entered a competitive eating contest, I’d definitely win if the item was _______”.
Caramel Banana Cream Pie from our in-house bakery, Crumb Bakehouse. Lead by my sister Martha, Crumb supplies The Smokehouse with all things bread and desserts. She also sells other products out of her retail spot in our lobby. Her Caramel Banana Cream Pie is the best I’ve ever had and I can eat more than a couple slices . . ..
What does your ‘Perfect Weekend’ in Kitchener look like?
Kitchener has a lot of great food to offer. My perfect weekend in the area would be hopping from restaurant to restaurant. I’d start with Breakfast at Pupuseria Latinos, for the best Salvadorian food in town. The pupusas, tacos, and rancheros are delicious and the owners are probably the nicest people you’ll ever meet. They never forget a face and really appreciate their customers.
Afterward, I’d head over to Ambrosia Corner Bakery for kouign amann, then drive downtown to my favourite coffee shop, Show and Tell.
For lunch, I’d go uptown to Harmony Lunch for one of their locally famous pork burgers with “forever onions” and a milkshake. If I’m still capable of walking at that point, I’d head across the street to Orange Monkey, a great little record shop with good selection and super friendly owners.
In the evening, I’d drive to my new favourite eatery, Willibald Farm Distillery and Restaurant, located in Ayr. In my opinion, chef Byron is the most exciting chef in the area. His food is incredibly delicious and stunning to look at and he has a style this is completely his own. Their gin is also quite tasty!
Finally, I’d end the day with drinks at The Grand Surf, a tiny tiki bar in downtown Kitchener serving lethal cocktails in a super fun and funky atmosphere.