Friday, December 3, 2010

Garlic's, From Scratch - Upscale Rustic Cuisine with Local, Sustainable Ingredients

A Taste of Honey at Garlic's

Garlic's, From Scratch - Upscale Rustic Cuisine with Local, Sustainable Ingredients

In the sense that the smart money today is on chef's and restaurants that wear their values on the menu, Garlic's leads by example and with plenty of style and a cutting edge culinary vision. The menu exemplifies a culinary philosophy that promotes the economic, environmental and social benefits of our local food community. This is some of the most superb farm-to-table cuisine in the city. The cooking has a contemporary edge, made from scratch with inspiration from local and signature ingredients and seasonal products. And, Chef Wade Fitzgerald's cooking repertoire just keeps getting better, the presentation more sophisticated and artful. Garlic's commitment to supporting local and sustainable food and agriculture has been instrumental in helping to raise the bar for intelligent dining in London.

Five years ago, Garlic's owner, Edo Pehilj, recognized that Fitzgerald's culinary philosophy would inject a much needed dose of adrenalin into his recently purchased restaurant. However, Pehilji's leadership and collaboration with Fitzgerald and Guest Relations Manager, Emma Pratt, has been a key factor in Garlic's revitalization and current standing as one of the city's top kitchens and best restaurants.

Pehlij also understands the need for professional, hospitable and gracious service. Leading the team of professional servers is Emma Pratt. Pratt is intelligent, detail oriented, vivacious and gracious. Pehlij credits Pratt for Garlic's sophistication, which he then attributes to the female perspective. Pratt has been employed at Garlic's off and on for the better part of 15 years.

In fact, it was Pratt that originally hired Pehilj thirteen years ago. Pehilji's is the quintessential immigration story. Arriving in Canada 18 years ago from, Mostar, the biggest and the most important city of the Bosnia and Herzegovina region in the former Yugoslavia by way of Bavaria, Germany. Pehilji did not speak a word of English but within 7 days he was working at Michael's on the Thames. The rest as they say is history.

When Fitzgerald arrived on the London scene after a brief tenure at the renowned Domus restaurant in Ottawa, and via the Hunt Club in London. Fitzgerald brings his signature ideology to the table: a patriotic sensibility and an unpretentious earthiness and rusticity. Fitzgerald has become a local culinary powerhouse, known for his simple, seasonal, ethically-sourced rustic food.

Garlic's menu evolves and changes monthly to reflect high-quality seasonal availability. Pehlji, Fitzgerald and Pratt understand that provenance and direct farmer relationships have become key to the restaurant's success. Menus are a collaborative exercise. Rose White, of London's important City Farming project, cites Garlic's and Fitzgerald in particular as leaders in this area.

As an ingredient, garlic is a less dominant theme than previously in the cuisine, in Fitzgeralds hands it is purposeful. Honey has become yet another way for Garlic's customers to appreciate terroir. As a result, honey has become of Garlic's signature ingredients. You will find their roof-top harvested honey drizzled, crystallized, sprinkled and incorporated in many ways and forms throughout their menus. Naturally, honey is used to sweeten and flavour house-made desserts – like their delicious, subtly sweet bee pollen ice cream.

Garlic's roof-top apiary was the first installation of honey bees in the city. In the spring of 2009, noted local beekeeper, Chris Hiemstra, of Clovermead Apiaries just outside Aylmer, established the prolific colony of 30-40,000 honey bees. The family apiary was first established in 1975 by Hiemstra's father.

In the wider community, one of Garlic's mandate is to help educate elementary students. Garlic's has hosted dinners for high school students to introduce them to the seasonal and sustainable food philosophy. Fitzgerald has also been an early adopter and adviser of the Local Foods Farmer Food Buyer Networking event, which has successfully provided a platform for farmers, producers and food buyers to meet one-on-one and to explore opportunities to do business together. Fitzgerald is also a member of Growing Chefs!, a program that teaches kids about local, sustainable food and, through a series of workshops, helps them grow, harvest, cook and eat local produce. In combination with his responsibilities as Executive Chef, Fitzgerald is a part-time Chef Instructor at Fanshawe College's Saffron's Restaurant. Saffron's is of course, the on-campus restaurant run be the school of Tourism and Hospitality.

Garlic's also features a roof-top apiary, the first installation of a honey bee colony in the city. In the spring of 2009, noted local beekeeper, Chris Hiemstra, of Clovermead Apiaries just outside Aylmer, established the prolific colony of 30-40,000 honey bees. The family apiary was first established in 1975 by Hiemstra's father. This year Hiemstra spun honey from the comb supplying the restaurant with over fifty kilograms of honey.

A salad of local organic greens, sunflower seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, almonds, over-night grapes, is accompanied with Clovermead's bee pollen and honey vinaigrette. Other main dishes have included: pan roasted, sustainable B.C. Albacore Tuna, Brown Butter Roasted Renecker Farm's Elk Loin with a succotash of spaetzle, old cheddar, apple and squash with red onion pan jus, Metzger's free-range, dry-aged Angus Top Sirloin, braised Ontario Lamb Shank with truffled northern white bean and house-smoked bacon stew, veal stock roasted mushrooms and tomato relish. Everspring Farm's Muscovy Duck Breast. As of this writing there is a delicious appetizer of Braised Pork Belly with molasses baked beans and crisp buttermilk onion rings.

Finding steady and dependable sources for procuring local ingredients has been a strategic plan that has resulted in numerous collaborations and friendships with farmers and producers.

For a bit of nectar, Pehlji only has to look as far as the rooftop where he has a colony devoted to sweetness.

Open Sunday through Thursday 11:00 am to 9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:00 am to 11:00pm. Serving an a la carte Sunday Brunch 11:00 am to 3:00pm.

481 RICHMOND ST, LONDON, ON N6A 3E4
519-432-4092
dine@garlicsoflondon.com
www.garlicsoflondon.com