Friday night Nellie and I joined T-Bone and The Sof for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience, two hours north of Toronto at Eigensinn Farm. Dinners there are a bit of a mystery — there’s no website to speak of apart from an out-of-date blog, and there’s no published menu. They do infrequent dinners for only twelve people at a time, featuring a prix fixe menu customized by chef Michael Stadtländer, but they’ve long since become a foodie pilgrimage. T-Bone and I tried to organize a trip years ago, but between the long waiting list, my experiment with vegetarianism, T-Bone’s experiment with children, and so on we’d just never managed it. But then The Sof pulled off a last-minute (read: three weeks in advance) reservation for the four of us to celebrate T-Bone’s birthday, and the long-standing plan became a reality. Clearly, we just needed an engineer to make it happen. And frankly, given the kind of week Nellie and I had, it was a welcome distraction to hypothesize about the menu and feverishly prepare wine pairings. So yesterday we piled into the limo The Sof had arranged and took off to Singhampton.
To be clear: Eigensinn Farm’s not an easy place to find. There’s no sign on the highway, just a rural address. But once we found it and drove past the enormous pile of wine bottles, parking in the midst of chickens and partridges and turkeys and a friendly dog, we could tell it would be a fairly magical experience. We were greeted by Stadtländer’s wife Nobuyo, our host for the evening. She showed us into their home, where we met the chef, marvelled at the kitchen, and took our seats inside a room so full of paintings and sculptures and homespun furnishings that it felt at once other-worldly and yet entirely familiar. There was even a big orange cat sprawled under our table.
Right, then: down to business. This was the menu, and each course pretty much deserves its own paragraph.
Amuse Geule: actually a collection of half a dozen things, not a lone amuse. There was an oyster from New Brunswick, a small salad with pig’s ear(!), cured beef heart, a piece of blackened cod, cured goose breast and pork coppa and some other kind of salumi, and some extremely tender ham on a piece of bread. We paired this with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut 2004.
Herbed soup with oxtail ravioli and sweetbreads: this, for both Nellie and I, was the course of the night. First, the bowls (which looked hand-crafted) came with sprigs of fresh fennel and savory embedded and hovering over the soup, adding to the spectacular aroma. The soup itself was sublime, while the oxtail ravioli and sweetbreads added bursts of deep, earthy flavour through the middle. It was spectacular. And the New Zealand Gewurztraminer, an off-dry 2010 Kaimira from Nelson, paired well enough.
Lobster terrine: I’m not a lobster fan (though I’ve come to appreciate it a little in recent years), and am definitely not a terrine fan, but when it’s prepared this well it wasn’t an issue. It was also a chance for us to pull something special from our own wine collection, our only contribution to the lineup: a 2003 Tawse Bench Reserve Chardonnay. Nobuyo, who prepped and served the wines all evening, was impressed that we had one — or, rather, that we’d managed to keep it so long without drinking it. It had, in my opinion, the perfect mix of aged richness and Ontario earthiness. It might have actually been good enough to convince T-Bone that some Ontario wine is worthwhile. We even gave Nobuyo a little sip.
Yellow perch fried in butter with hazelnuts: subtle middle course before the main event, surrounded by fresh dill. We paired it with a Henri Bourgeois 2011 Les Baronnes Sancerre, which didn’t blow any of us away.
Blackcurrant sorbet: this palate cleanser showed up in the overturned bottoms of broken wine bottles. With this, we took a short break for a stroll outside around a bit of the farm, playing with the cat and dog, watching the rabbits, and enjoying the scenery.
Suckling pig composition: once we returned to the dining table we were presented with a plate full of pork several ways, the best of which was a “cheeseburger” croquette of pork and stilton. We paired all this with a 2007 Altesino Brunello, which was pretty good. Not stellar though.
Then came a series of three cheeses (which escape my memory), three desserts (an ice cream, a blueberry compote, and a raspberry compote), and petit fours, during all of which we drank a Château La Fleur Boüard 2008 Lalande De Pomerol. By that point we were done in. We thanked the Stadtländers, piled back into the car, and began the journey home. It’s unlikely we’ll ever be lucky enough to return, but I don’t feel like we left anything on the table.