Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Murray Street redux

(Still catching up on February and early March!)

Meat. Fat. Alcohol. Yum. That about sums up our evening out at Murray Street last month. Loyal readers may recall that Chris and I paid our first visit to this newish restaurant in the Byward Market last September, for our anniversary. We were both impressed by the food and underwhelmed by the service. I also found the space a bit cold and masculine for my tastes. But the fact that I hadn't tried any of the charcuterie from their extensive house-made selection was haunting me, so when our friends L and B asked if we were free for dinner one wintry weekend, Murray Street came to mind immediately. L, like me, is an avowed carnivore, and I thought she might appreciate MS's spectacular treatment of animal flesh. So off we went for a late supper on a Saturday where the wind howled at us and it felt as though spring would never come. We needed comfort food, and fast.

Chris and I both decided to order strictly from the charcuterie bar menu - they offer three meats/two cheeses or vice versa for $25 (Canadian dollars, as the menu oddly reminds readers) with a selection of accompanying mustards, preserves, and flavour accents as well as a few cornichons and a slice of the best pickled beet I have ever eaten. Oh, and a small burlap sack filled with thinly sliced Art-is-in breads toasted to crisp. Chris selected all different things than I did and we were both quite pleased with our choices.

From the slicer, I chose smoked ostrich and it was amazing - deep red in colour, with a pleasant smokiness and a lean but not too chewy mouth feel, a lot like dry-cured smoked brisket, but gamier. I also chose the country terrine with smoked pork tenderloin, which was ever so gently garlicky and pleasantly chunky, excellent with a smudge of grainy maple mustard; and the duck liver mousse pate, which arrived in a small crock, topped with duck fat, and was so rich I couldn't even begin to contemplate finishing it. It was best smoothed onto a crisp and topped with a few golden raisins that had been cooked down with caramelized onions, sweet and tart to cut the rich unctuousness of the mousse. That one's for sharing, definitely.

My two cheeses were both from Canada: a semi-soft La Station Comtomme from Estrie, Quebec, and a hard Toscano Secco, from Monforte Dairy in Millbank, Ontario. I certainly enjoyed them both, but the Toscano Secco was the more memorable, with a flavour reminiscent of dry jack, though less crumbly. B ordered the Pine River 7-year cheddar as part of his platter, and we were all jealous of it - that's on my list for next time.

Here's what my board looked like before I demolished most of it:

Meanwhile, Chris's platter held paper-thin slices of smoked duck breast (rich and lovely, not overly smoky), a smooth goat cheese and mushroom terrine that he liked very much, and a small Mason jar of house-made cretons that I was lucky enough to try. Totally yummy.

L went out on a limb and ordered a main dish, Ontario-raised beef short ribs with mushrooms in a Cabernet braising jus over spaetzle noodles. She was kind enough to offer me a bit, and it made me wish I had ordered that, as good as the charcuterie was.

Chris had two Manhattans with his meal, while I started with a 3 oz. pour of Fielding Estates riesling (a fave of mine, it was great to see it on the menu) and progressed to a 5 oz. glass of Zinfandel from Pedroncelli in Sonoma County. Both were excellent.

To finish, each couple shared a dessert - L and B tried the apple crisp with vanilla gelato and more of that Pine River cheddar, which seemed to be incorporated into the crust. I don't think it made the angels sing for them, but it seemed fine. Chris and I shared a square of dense, moist carrot cake topped with citrusy cream cheese frosting (light and frothy), local honeyed walnuts and sugared carrot crisps. It was a creative and elegant take on a classic dessert.

The space didn't bother me this time, perhaps because the restaurant was full - it feels more cozy and inviting that way. We had a lovely round four-top which was unfortunately near the door, but the restaurant smartly has a vestibule, so we weren't blasted with cold air too often. I love round tables at restaurants - they're rare for just four people and it's a nice way to sit and chat. We weren't rushed through our meal at all (the benefit of going in at 8) and our waiter was pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu, but not overly solicitous, which I liked. He was far more enjoyable than the fellow who served us in September, for sure.

All in all, a delightful dinner, and with four drinks and a dessert, very good value for money, considering the local provenance and high quality of the ingredients. I'm impressed, and I'll be back again for sure.


larussegastronomique said...

I enjoyed your article and happy that you enjoyed the Monforte Toscano Secco. I work at Monforte Dairy and in case you hadn't heard, wanted to let you know about our exciting Renaissance year. We are building a new dairy in Stratford, microfinancing it by Community Shared Agriculture subscriptions. This way we are ensuring better product, will add a line of butters and complementary products and give people the opportunity to be part of what we hope will be a new business model, not to mention a voice in the changing politics of food production. For more information please visit our website at www.monfortedairy.com. You can also contact me, Maureen Argon at maureen@monfortedairy.com. Thanks again.

Alison said...

Thanks for commmenting, Maureen! Your cheese was indeed delightful and I look forward to sampling more of your products in the future.