Meet Frank Ihrig of Hessenland Inn and Vineyard | Ontario Culinary
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Meet Frank Ihrig of Hessenland Inn and Schatz Winery

Everyone knows that the best parties always end in the kitchen. With our series, Kitchen Party, we’re sitting down with Feast On Chefs to get to know them, and the local foods that inspire them, a little better.

Frank Ihrig

Hessenland Inn & Vineyard

Zurich, ON

What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient?

I suppose, I would say that there are many. There’s coriander, rosemary, lemon, thyme, and others.  It is hard to match the beautiful “fresh” flavours of herbs picked just in time for service.  These herbs also allow us to process them for the colder months by drying, dehydration & freezing them.  Using your own dried herbs versus store bought is night and day. The flavours and aromas are much more amplified when they are coming straight from the garden.  It goes without saying the more control or input you have with a food item, the more it will work in your favour.  These herbs also work as additional ingredients or condiments to your dishes.

Most underrated aspect of Ontario wines?

This may not answer this question directly, but here it goes . . . What I’m most excited about is the potential Ontario has with its feasible soils, various growing regions & micro climates. Huron Shores is helping to make hybrid grape varietals more accessible to the general public.  This is to say, it is allowing us to educate the consumer on the non traditional varietals and showcase the fact that this province can produce excellent wines.  I think in the next 5 to 10 years these “underrated” varietals will help to shape an evolving regionallybased wine industry.

Most underrated ingredient?

Verjus! Not many Ontario wineries produce it (or at least to my knowledge…Westcott Vineyards produces a very nice verjus, which is great for straight up consumption, or an excellent culinary ingredient.  We look forward to producing verjus in the future, and to helping increase accessibility by putting it back on the culinary map.

Favourite experience created in a vineyard-dining setting?

For us hosting these “experiences” is relatively new.  The fact that we are now able to facilitate and provide this setting on Hessenland grounds, just outside our kitchen, is truly humbling.  At its very core, growing grapes is simply another discipline of agriculture, but having the ability to turn a vineyard row into an earthly dining venue, is awesome.  I know this may be seen like a rather simple answer, but having the opportunity to chat with our guests about Hessenland’s culinary creations, and to have them explain with great excitement and gratitude what they experienced, is always our greatest reward.  I learned many years ago to never, ever take this for granted. I know our guests certainly do not.

What’s the best part of working with Ontario food and drink?

I am pretty sure I am not adding anything new to this conversation, but the best part is knowing where our food comes and building relationships with producers . I am constantly working on becoming a better food ambassador for Ontario Grown/Sourced ingredients. It not too difficult knowing that this province truly produces world class food. My hope is that in the future, more of our Ontario Food ingredients will be visible on the international stage; that there will be a spotlight on our regional cuisine like what we see coming out of different parts of the world.   To add onto this . . . choosing local keeps our dollars in our area.

Why is Feast On important to you and your restaurant?

For those that follow the local food scene, it is a valued, recognized and respected symbol of regional, responsible and sustainable sourcing of food and beverage products.  I do not believe that anyone has the “perfect” sourcing list but being a part of FEAST ON makes this top of mind.  We are honoured to have been accepted to be part of this organization.

Fill in the blank: ”If I entered a competitive eating contest, I’d definitely win if the item was _______”.

This beautiful sandwich:   A warm and fresh Portuguese bun with Masses’ field tomatoes, firmly rooted greensonions and our famous pork schnitzel (pork from Metzgers Meats). Top it off with an aioli spread made with golden Ontario Garlic… This is truly the schnitz!!!  Guten Appetit!

What does your ‘Perfect Weekend’ in Zurich, ON look like?

Simple!!  Enjoying time with my family and friends, BBQing in our backyard and sipping on a nice Hessenland helles – all while looking over Lake Huron and our world class sunset!!!