Monday, June 23, 2014

Chef's Tasting Menu at Langdon Hall

I spent a weekend at Langdon Hall (Twitter: @langdon_hall, Facebook: Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa) for my birthday earlier this month and had a phenomenal time. As a matter of fact the word "phenomenal" doesn't begin to describe the weekend escape; to put it into perspective I questioned whether or not I really had to check-out Sunday morning (and when the inevitable came I was really sad). This two-days-one-night mini vacay away from the city was, hands down, the best weekend getaway I've ever had. I don't know about you but my days of getting hammered at a club for my birthday has long gone (just the thought of that makes me nauseous). Now that I'm older all I want is to spend quality time somewhere quiet and serene, at a place where I can relax and get away from all the traffic, construction, noise pollution and all that wonderful stuff associated with the city. Only an hour and a half drive from Toronto, this renowned estate in Cambridge was just what I wanted my birthday. 

Langdon Hall is gorgeous, inside and out, with incredibly stunning gardens. I think the hotel alone deserves a post of its own. Yup, I need to get on that.

So more on the gorgeous mansion later, for this post I'll share with you my dining experience at Langdon Hall, specifically their Tasting Menu by chef Jason Bangerter (formerly Auberge du Pommier, Luma). Bangerter replaced Jonathan Gushue, who ran the restaurant for eight years, as executive chef in September of last year. 

Proudly hung in the dining room, these two very prestigious plaques confirms why Langdon Hall is one of the best in Canada. Langdon Hall has held the CAA/AAA Five Diamond Restaurant Award for nine consecutive years and the CAA/AAA Four Diamond Accommodation Award for 18 consecutive years. 

*More information on CAA/AAA ratings can be found here

Accommodations and restaurants throughout the United States and Canada are assigned a rating of one to five AAA/CAA Diamonds, ranging from simple to luxurious. Below are the rating descriptions for Langdon Hall:

Restaurant Diamond Ratings: Five Diamond
These establishments are renowned and consistently provide a world-class experience. This is “haute cuisine” at its best. Menus are cutting edge, using only the finest ingredients available. Food is prepared in a manner that is highly imaginative and unique. The combination of technique and ingredients is extraordinary, reflecting the impeccable artistry and awareness of highly-acclaimed chefs. A maître d' leads an expert service staff that exceeds guest expectations by attending to every detail in an effortless and unobtrusive manner

Hotel Diamond Ratings: Four Diamond
These establishments are upscale in all areas. Accommodations are progressively more refined and stylish. The physical attributes reflect an obvious enhanced level of quality throughout. The fundamental hallmarks at this level include an extensive array of amenities combined with a high degree of hospitality, service, and attention to detail.

My view looking into the restaurant. My table was situated at the corner with my back against the windows.

Contrary to what I would normally order (i.e. an alcoholic beverage) I decided to try a couple of mocktails. I have a new-found appreciation for restaurants that offer interesting non-alcholic menus, such as this one at Langdon Hall. I'm especially fond of places that offer non-alcoholic pairings for tasting menus because it shows an added layer of creativity (they are more prevalent in the United States).

MOCKTAILS ($6.50 each)
GINGER BEER PUNCH - Raspberry Juice, Passion Fruit and Ginger Beer
WHITE TEA SMOOTHIE - Harmony Tea infused with Syrup, White Grape Juice & Greek Yogurt. Finished with a Sprig of Mint.

With many ingredients picked fresh from their gardens, Langdon Hall's Tasting Menu items change every few days. The seven-course Chef's Tasting Menu is priced at $125 per person, with optional wine pairings for $95. We skipped the wine pairing and opted for a bottle of Riesling instead.

ROAST KALE (amuse bouche)
Ramp Cream, Chive Blossoms

GUINEA HEN MOUSSE (amuse bouche)
Foraged Morels, Sweet Peas, Hen Skin Chips

Caribou Moss, Clementine, Sea Buckthorn

Humpback Prawns, Watercress, Sauce Tonnato

Rabbit, Carrot, Winter Spice

Apple, Calvados, Gingerbread

Sweetbreads, Celeriac, Truffle

Spiced Huckleberry, Toasted Sour Dough

Champagne, Parsnip Ganache

Sweet Pea Crumb. Strawberry Cardamom Jelly

Chef Bangerter (@chefbangerter) delivered some beautifully-plated dishes that evening. It is evident that his style is one concentrated on beauty; the look and the presentation of his food are all meant to appetize the diner before they experience the clean, refined flavours on each plate. The play on texture, colour and flavour was immediately apparent in the amuse bouches. The roasted kale - dark green and garnished with beautiful chive blossoms - was thin, crispy with an intense, savoury flavour. What immediately followed was a combination of delicate and earthy flavours of fresh morel mushroom, sweet peas and white radish. "Crisp and vivid" followed by "soft and subtle" it. The texture of the Humboldt Squid was an unforgettable one as it was turgid yet tender, with a soft chew to it without being at all rubbery. Again, the plating here is gorgeous. Another standout for me was the marinated Musk Ox. The tartar of this natural and sustainable alternative to beef alongside creamy, tangy tonnato was delicious. The crunchy croutons and the bite-size Humpback Prawns were a nice complement between bites of the meaty ox. Also worth a mention is the immensely flavourful root vegetable broth which was poured table-side on top of rabbit and carrots. My favourite dish of the night is undoubtedly the last savoury course. The whey-poached veal meat was outrageously soft and tender. Garnished with shaved truffles, it was one hell of a dish. Both desserts were excellent as well. The picobello, torched slightly, reminded me of a creme brulee. This was most likely the lightest cheese course I've ever had (a good thing after all that food!) Wild berry bubbles with champagne ended this stellar tasting. Despite being quite full I'm certain I could have had five more plates of it.

Seven courses and three hours later, we were the last diners to leave the restaurant. I was so glad we were staying the night; I cannot imagine how it would feel to drive back to Toronto at 11pm, especially after all that wine and food. It's totally doable but I highly recommend you to splurge a little and stay the night, and more the reason to if it's for a special occasion.

Next post: Sunday brunch at Langdon Hall ;)

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