Culinary Bucket List
Do you have a “culinary bucket list?” I kind of do. Things that I either haven’t made, but want to, or haven’t tasted, but either want to or have been told that I should. I had an experience this weekend that falls into the latter, and has given me a new chapter in my edible journey.
My husband is, among other things, an audio/visual technician. He does everything from small/mid-size venue concert sound and lighting (think outdoor events, bars or college pubs), recording, engineering and installing sound systems, to troubleshooting audio problems in a variety of facilities. He was working in a restaurant last week, sorting out some acoustical and technical issues, and emailed me that we had to come back and try this place. In fact, he was so enthusiastic about it, he made a reservation for the next night before even securing a sitter (which thankfully wasn’t a problem).
This restaurant, called Twisted Lemon, is an hour or so away, in Cayuga, Ontario. It hasn’t been on my radar because it’s not even in our region. And for as many foodies as I follow, most are either right here, or far flung. Clearly I need to seek out some Haldimand food lovers on Twitter.
I checked out the menu online, and more or less decided what I wanted to try before even setting foot inside. Except… Except I hadn’t eaten since morning. I meant to, but we were longer than expected at a local pumpkin farm, and didn’t get home until an hour before we were to leave again and I still had supper to make for the kids, a shirt to iron and myself to get ready. Eating wasn’t on my radar. By the time we were seated, I was not only hungry, but highly suggestible. In that state, I’ve been known to almost consider contemplating perhaps trying oysters. Maybe.
Our server was the chef/owner’s lovely wife (whose name regrettably I did not get). After we’d nibbled on some delicious salted lemon wonton crisps and sipped our drinks, she pointed out the specials board. There it was, right at the top. Fois gras. A culinary bucket lister if ever there was one. (For the record, I am not going to debate the ethics of it. I know how it’s produced.) It was the accompaniments that got me. Pickled blackberry relish, smoked peaches, a biscuit made with duck fat and cheddar… I took a deep breath, tossed aside my plan to have the salad, and ordered it (you must understand that I do not ever eat offal of any kind).
My husband ordered the duck confit tacos, in wonton shells with charred tomato salsa and chipotle aioli (oh.my.gosh!). Both of our dishes were beautiful. My fois gras had a hard sear on it, and the texture of the first (tiny) bite was crunchy, with a melting interior. It wasn’t bad. In fact, I kind of thought I might like it. I gave some to my skeptical husband and, ever the sport, he tried it. And didn’t like it. I tried another bite and understood. While my first bite was a crusty edge bit, my second was an interior piece. It had the same hard crust, but there was more squishy, almost gelatinous fatty liver. The realization of what I was eating hit me, and I was done. I’d tried it. And I decided that if I want to eat crispy, squishy, fatty goodness, I’ll stick to bacon. LOL
The evening was a delight, though. Fois gras may not be for me, but Twisted Lemon did not disappoint. From the relaxed but attentive service, delightful decor, energetic open kitchen, brilliant beverage list and delicious food, we had a wonderful time. My husband’s steak was cooked to perfection, my chicken was incredibly tender, the vegetables were in season and delicious and the desserts…. Oh my.
I was grateful for the relaxed pace of the evening. It gave us the time to allow dinner to settle so that we had room for dessert. My husband said that the creme brule was the smoothest and creamiest he’s ever had. And my chocolate pate was, as the menu says, the love child of mousse and fudge.
If you’re interested in checking out this gem (and it is so worth the drive), make reservations. And plan to spend a leisurely evening. There are vegetarian options, and enough variety to satisfy everyone. The staff is genuinely friendly and the atmosphere is relaxing and fun.
*Full disclosure – While my husband is doing work at Twisted Lemon, we happily paid for our meal and in fact, did not even go with the intent to write a review. I am doing this because we were that impressed. We did receive a complimentary “refill” of our beverages.