On the Road with the Grape Guy

Report from - Brunch at EastDell's Restaurant "The View" - Dec. 24, 2006

03 Jan 2007
Christmas Eve Day, a beautiful bright sunshiny day, Holly Cole must be singing directly to us as we pulled into the driveway at EastDell – and she definitely had her description right; 7 degrees, not a cloud in the sky; who could believe Christmas was quite literally a day away. Where’s the snow, the wind, the cold temps? (A million miles away in Denver, so I hear) What a nice day to check out EastDell’s restaurant “The View” for their Christmas brunch – a special holiday version of their usual Sunday affair. And I could not think of two more deserving people then the two that have put up with me during those formative years: mom and dad. But my reasons for bringing them were twofold. 1) a nice holiday gift … and 2) there are no tougher critics in the world. Dad is the cook and gourmand of the family and incredibly valuable at helping to identify those dishes that I can not figure out. Mom loves a day out in wine country … so off we went for a 12:30 seating.

“The View” restaurant is aptly named ... it gets it's name from the floor to ceiling windows that encase the restaurant overlooking the vineyards of EastDell – of course in winter the view isn’t as lush and green as say the spring or summer, or as colourful as fall – but on this beautiful “winter” day as the vines lay dormant, the grass was still green and we could see clean across the vineyards to Toronto across the lake.

We were greeted by Robert (manager and sommelier) who showed us to our table, made sure we were comfortable and helped us pick out a nice wine that would pair well with a majority of the foods on the buffet tables. The 2004 Birchwood Estate (sister winery of EastDell) Gewurztraminer/Riesling was a unanimous choice by Robert and two other servers I overheard making wine recommendations at nearby tables. A delicious apple and mineral concoction with hints of lime on the nose; and apple, lychee and mango in the mouth – all wrapped up with a touch of sweetness. It paired wonderfully with everything we put in our mouths.

The buffet tables are laid out in an L-shape and are broken down into hot and cold sections, there’s something for everybody. If you have not had anything to eat in a while you might want to stop reading here and grab yourself a little bite, or else at the very least, I’m about to whet your appetite. On the cold side of the L there was a mayonnaise penne pasta salad, which was hugely overshadowed in tasteby the balsamic and sun-dried tomato tri-coloured fusilli version. A summer mixed green salad (what I lovingly call “weed salad”); teriyaki-glazed salmon, crudités, samosas with cheese and spinach; potato salad, tomato salad, croissant and a cream of potato and leek soup (which was the only dish on the buffet that my father did not identify). All wonderful starters for the hot mains that occupied the other half of the L.

The “hot L” had your typical breakfast time fare like sausages, bacon and pancakes along with Alistair (the self-described “omelette slave”, who’s British accent gave the act of ordering an omelette a more refined and dignified feel) whipping up delicious egg combinations to your specifications, which included a wonderful 5 cheese blend, veggies and other egg-includable-stuffings. But it was the non-typical fare that proved to be the bigger hit. Beef stroganoff; chicken cacciatore; mussels in white wine; blitzes filled with ricotta and spinach topped with a puree of tomatoes and cream sauce. Seafood and veggie Creole and a potato pancake (for the Hanukkah crowd) mixed with parsnips and cabbage. There was also your first taste of Christmas bird at the end of the buffet, cut to order – usually it’s prime rib that ends off the hot side, but due to the festive season turkey took the honours.

But nothing could compete with the holiday dessert table that was on display across from the main buffet table. I got to meet the pastry chef while I was there, a short skinny guy named Shane, who swears he samples everything he makes. Now I make it a hard and fast rule never to trust a skinny pastry-chef, but I am told Shane rides his bike to work everyday (even in bad weather) to keep his “girlish” figure, so I’ll break my rule this one time because of the spread he had arranged. There were the prerequisite cheese and fruit trays but beside those we found gingerbread men made with fresh ginger, black forest trifle with vanilla custard topping, round shortbread cookies half dipped in coloured chocolate and decorated with Smarties. Dark chocolate mousse in mini volovante (puff pastry) cups, also Smartie topped; persimmon tartlettes, banana bread drizzled with yellow chocolate and maple bread pudding with chocolate chips and walnuts. And how could I forget the spiced Bavarian laced with nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. Robert (with a big smile) asked Shane how many of these items he had picked up from the grocery store on his way in – Shane looked appalled as he shot back “I most certainly did not.” All of the desserts are made by hand from the Bavarian to the banana bread – Shane also slaves over the melting of the chocolate, which he also uses to create the icewine truffles.

If all of this sounds good, trust me it tastes even better. And most of it is available every Sunday of the year … the restaurant is also open for lunch and dinner and Robert is hoping to host some special events in the new year – so keep a watchful eye open for those. The View is not a placed to be missed – the food is extraordinary, homemade, and uses local ingredients. No matter what time of day you walk in the door you’ll be treated to an absolutely astonishing meal, served by wonderful professionals in a stunning environment; and of course a selection of local Diamond Estates wines (Birchwood; Thomas & Vaughan, Lakeview and EastDell). And now, as I run out of adjectives to describe this incredible spread, I trust you’ll take my advice and get out there to take in the scenery and a meal. Bon appetite.

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