I just read two diametrically opposed viewpoints about fine dining today. The first was from a fairly famous guy, very well-traveled. He proclaimed that he’s “just not a fancy restaurant guy”. I don’t know what to do with that. Doesn’t like dressing up? Doesn’t like unfamiliar foods? Trying to appear as “salt of the earth”?
I also have been reading the autobiography of Chef Henri Charpentier, who was born in France about 140 years ago. His was a Dickensian childhood; he began working in the food and hospitality industry at the age of 10. He rose to cook for millionaires, presidents, kings and empresses. He recounts his meticulous attention to garnishes and presentation — why that makes such a tremendous difference to a meal. He decries the English-invented sandwich, because bread covering your food does not allow the eyes to trigger salivary and gastric juices. You simply don’t enjoy a meal in the same way. That was kind of revelatory to me!
And so, like a Russian nesting doll, tucked into the tony seaside town of St. Andrews by the Bay, New Brunswick, Canada is the visually stimulating and impressive botanical Kingsbrae Garden and tucked into that, is Savour in the Garden.
The tradition-loving town was deep in the thralls of celebrating the Queen of England’s Jubilee Week and Savour in the Garden was no exception. There were little Union Jacks here and there, with even a Jubilee menu of specials.
I urge you, wherever you are, to take the time to notice how and what you are eating. I spotted chic, Scandinavian-style tableware, as well as nods to the garden setting.
Savour in the Garden is not some museum ladies-who-lunch boite; rather, they incorporate the acres of fresh garden things into the cuisine. That opens up fragrances, flavors and yes, presentations, that you don’t see in a typical restaurant. If you’re just used to meals flipped onto your plate like summer camp or a detention center, you will quickly realize that the culinary arts are most certainly part of the fine arts. That’s important to me. I’d much rather have a beautifully conceived meal than go shopping, see a local sports team play anything, hike around, go to the beach, binge watch shows, stuff like that.
The offerings are a mix of exotic ingredients and hyper-local. To that end, I laser-focused on an entree that would utilize as much as possible from their own garden. Cured trout in beetroot & moonshine was everything I could hope for: butter toasted brioche bagel, pea shoots, dill, “micros”, radish, pickled mustard seed, horseradish creme, 63C egg yolk, green salad. Part of what I have been learning from Charpentier is how preparing each aspect of a dish in separate pots, pans and bowls results in crisper flavors and colors. That’s how they do it and that’s how it should be done! Sorry about your one-pot dinner or Nana’s bread pudding out of a huge pan. I don’t have a kitchen maid — you probably don’t, either — but if you want to live la belle vie, you’re just going to have to start treating yourself better! This dish had perfectly smoked fish — not “smoky” or bacon-like. The vinaigrette was at once creamy and tangy. The egg was cooked to approximately 145 degrees Fahrenheit, just enough to leave it rich and velvety.
You can’t eat everything in life and so, I generally limit my restaurant dessert consumption to where it looks like there is an actual pastry chef on board. Going to as many restaurants as I have in my life, I have a good feel for when a place is ordering their sweets from some sort of “Mrs. So-and-So’s Catering Company”. I could see straight away that Savour in the Garden wasn’t doing that. They have too much pride in their creations and better ingredients than they could purchase on the market.
So, I picked a dessert that I would enjoy and also, that would show the ingenuity of the kitchen: Prince Williams Chocolate Biscuit Tart with caramel sauce, crunchy pearls, garden mint, chocolate mousse, chocolate pencil and candied peanuts. It had tangy, fudgy ganache, tender and rich butter shortbread biscuit and an edible pansy. The pearls were a cookie texture, in case you are wondering. I was relieved at that: I once had edible pearls on a cake that almost cracked my front tooth. That occasion may or may not have been a wedding of mine eons ago.
They have an elegant liqueur selection and Pelee Island wines (my tale of participating in a chili cookoff there, losing to exotic dancers, my dog running away in a Hawaiian shirt and me asking little Amish children to help by looking at his picture on my iPhone is best for long car rides). Everybody is different in that regard. I know about the olden ways, finishing a fine meal with brandy and I guess, cigars. Everyone is different. I have always felt that a good, strong cup of coffee concludes everything best, so that is what I had!