I've been meaning to tell you all along. There’s a restaurant right here in Toronto that will knock your socks off. For real.
At Ruby Watchco, almost all the ingredients are sourced from Ontario. Every night, there’s one set menu, and each table is given large platters for sharing. There's an unanimous sense of satisfaction among the patrons who try to fit every morsel of dinner into their mouths.
The restaurant is led by the talented Lynn Crawford, if you haven’t seen her on the Food Network, you're missing out on how creative, how amiable and how much zest for life this woman has. On her show, Pitchin’ In, she travels to various towns to rekindle her passion, discovering one ingredient, say turkey, wild boar, crawfish, avocados...you name it, she’s on it.
She befriends farmers, pitches in, learning how they harvest the freshest food. In the second half of the show, she uses that ingredient and prepares a special dinner for her new friends. Audible sighs of pleasure span the table.
Chef Lynn’s ability to transform an ingredient into something extraordinary illuminates into her restaurant, I brought my mom to Ruby Watchco so we could experience something magical too.
Our waiter seated us at a table just metres from the kitchen. Already, I was anxious to be in such close proximity to her (Aren’t chefs intimidating? Not to mention TV chefs!). My mom, on the other hand was mad excited for dinner, she couldn’t sit still. Like me, she admires Chef Lynn’s gusto and originality. My mom had the biggest smile on her face, like a little girl in a candy shop.
To start, I ordered the Apple Sour cocktail; a fusion of apple cider, bourbon and maple syrup (you can never go wrong with maple syrup). One sip made my lips pucker, but then the golden sap mellowed out the tartness and a shot of warmth ran down my spine.
The first dish was truffled white bean and 5 minute hen egg salad, with Sleger’s Living Greens, garden radishes, and A.F.G.’s Seedless cucumbers (I couldn’t figure out who A.F.G. was). The balance of red and green colors, each leaf slicked with vinaigrette, made the salad look like a painting. The egg was perfectly cooked, none of that murky gray tinge when I hard boil eggs. The yolk was a gorgeous yellow, so bright, so round, like someone sliced the sun in half and dropped it on our plate. There were also cheese scones flecked with chives: elegant, flaky pastries served with whipped butter.
The main course was a feast. I rarely go to restaurants that serve too much good food. There was chicken soaked in a beautiful puttanesca sauce, a sauce so rich, so succulent, it bolstered the tenderness of the meat.
There was a flurry of side dishes: delicate Boston lettuce with cucumber mint dressing. Strips of grilled eggplant that was so moist, I had to twirl it around the tines of my fork like spaghetti just to keep it together. And if that wasn’t enough, there was orecchiette with whipped goat cheese.
I was so full, I felt pregnant, or as the Quebecois say, “Je suis plein.” It's a good thing I could take my leftovers home, because why wouldn't you want to carry these adorable boxes?
Before long, the cheese course arrived. Today was Guiness 10 year old Ottawa Valley cheddar by Forfar Dairy served with date and jalapeno relish and biscotti. I usually stay clear from musty, moldy cheeses, but this fromage was nutty and not too strong.
Finally, for dessert was the lemon and elderberry trifle with vanilla sponge, Hewitt’s sweet vanilla cream and a meringue kiss. A spoonful of luscious berries doused in cream was pure bliss. The crunch from the meringue added extra texture to the smooth dessert.
We were just about done with our meal, but my mom really wanted to say hi to Chef Lynn. It took us a while to work up the nerve, but eventually, our waiter Jon introduced us. I was blown away by how gracious and approachable she was. I rambled several compliments to her (I’m not even sure I made sense), she politely said thank you. As Jon snapped a photo of us, Chef Lynn gave a big grin and said, “Smile guys!”
In front of the kitchen, there's a large wooden table where Chef Lynn adds the finishing touches to her dishes before service, you can't help but admire her attention to detail and love for her craft.
I'm curious to see how the menu will change in the summer, in fact, if I do return for dinner, I should prepare a few coherent compliments, so I don't seem like a total idiot when I greet Chef Lynn.