Eigensinn Farm, again

Nearly three years ago we ate at Eigensinn Farm, Michael and Nobuyo Stadtlander’s place in Singhampton, and reckoned we’d never probably never go back. Then, a few months ago, a plan formed with our friends Brian & Mandy to book a dinner (their first time) along with their friends who live nearby. After a lot of follow-up emailing we got the date we wanted, and after some wine planning last week and some road-tripping yesterday we arrived in beautiful Grey County at the friends’ place. It was great having a home base nearby; doing the trip up and back in the same night last time was a little much. Plus, their place is beautiful and they have a dog and a cat, so I was happy. The cat hated me though.

As for dinner, I didn’t think it could possibly live up to my memory of our first visit. I was so wrong. Here’s what we had:

Amuse geule. This was a collection of six or seven things on a horseshoe-shaped plate: a Malpeque oyster, a bit of perch in butter and hazelnut, a bit of pig head cheese, a white fish in a dill sauce so good we licked it off the shell it was served on, something that looked like prosciutto, some kind of cured meat wrapped around a chunk of pear, another cured (and smoked) meat on a triangle of toast, I think one other thing that I’m forgetting. We were handling the wine pairings for the first half of the meal, so we paired this with a 2005 Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve — a hit, it seemed, with all those who hadn’t tried BB before.

Lobster soup with asparagus. Until we got there we didn’t know what kind of soup this would be, so we brought wine options. Once we found out it was bisque-y we opted for the 2009 Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay, and it didn’t disappoint. Neither did the soup — great buttery chunks of lobster and asparagus, and the broth was so good we (nearly) all tipped the bowl up and drank every last drop.

Composition of Eigensinn Farm piglet. I mean…seriously. It was so succulent and delicious I almost cried. The wine we paired it with — a 2009 Maison Roche de Bellène Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot — was something I’d been holding onto for a special occasion, and this dish certainly qualified. It was goddamned amazing. All of it.

Pickerel with sugar snap peas. Delicate, flaky but still meaty…just perfect. The wine was another game-time decision since we didn’t know how the pickerel was prepared, so we went with a 2015 Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc.

Black currant sorbet. I was glad to see the palate cleanser is still served in the upside-down bottoms of broken wine bottles.

We went for a short walk around the garden before the main course, during which Brian took over and opened his sparkling: a dry & delicious 2009 Trius 5 Blanc de Noirs. Palates: cleansed.

Eigensinn Farm lamb with garden vegetables. Madre de dios. It was so delicious we (who had been pretty boisterous all night, probably to the annoyance of some of the other guests) went quiet and just made moaning noises. Enough. Mercy. No mas. For this Brian broke out a 2007 Southbrook Poetica Cab Merlot, which I think I would have loved a little more had it been a little less Merlot-heavy. But that’s my thing. We quickly finished that bottle, though, and opened another special one: a 2012 Ravine “Stadtlander” Reserve red blend, which had been signed by chef himself. It put a nice little personal signature on the evening, and how amazing of Brian & Mandy to share that with us.

Cheese with walnut raisin bread. There were three cheeses: a Grey Owl (my perennial favourite), a mild blue (Benedictine from Quebec, I think?), and a third which I can’t remember but which was delicious. They all were. We finished off the rest of the Stadtlander reserve.

Dessert with strawberries. Uh, yeah. We expected a small dessert. Out came three desserts on the plate which, to be totally honest, I don’t quite remember. Nellie says there was a crumble of some kind and some sage ice cream. I just remember being really full. I also remember that we had it with the friends’ Colaneri late harvest Riesling. Oh, they told us while we were eating that one of the desserts had hand-written fortunes inside. That explained the over-chewy bite I had just pulled out of my mouth and had attributed to their first miss of the evening. Needless to say I could not read my fortune.

Petit fours. Sure, okay.

All in all, this meal was significantly better than our first visit, and probably ranks in my top ten of all time. We left feeling very fat, and very happy.

.:.

This morning the friends fed us a grand feast (bacon, eggs, french toast done in a waffle-maker, and enough coffee to waterboard my hangover) and we were on our way back to the GTA. Brian & Mandy were headed elsewhere so they dropped us at the GO Train to Union Station, which afforded us an excuse to check out the food vendor market on Front Street. I had an excellent brisket sammie from Carbon Bar, and Nellie had a lobster roll. We’ll be headed back there in some upcoming weekends.

Eigensinn Farm

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.