Norfolk County is a special place and it informs and influences nearly every menu decision that we make at David’s Restaurant. I consider myself lucky to be a chef in such a literally “fruitful” area.
The fact that Norfolk has the most diverse, plentiful, and varied agricultural bounty in the province makes it not only Ontario’s garden but also a chef’s playground and it allows us a freedom that at times may be taken for granted.
For example, rather than coming up with a dish and then figuring out how to source the product I will work in reverse and let the product and producers dictate what the dish will be. I can go to Jessica at Matz’s Fruit Barn or Ryan and Shantel at Bosgoed Farm or Carrie and Brett at Woolley’s Lamb and ask “what do you got?”. Or, as is often the case, they will come to me with an item or ingredient that they are particularily proud of and excited by and ask me “what can you do with this?”
Getting to sample newly smoked and maple cured trout from Sean at Lovell’s Trout Farm or a freshly cold pressed sunflower oil from Jason at Pristine Gourmet or a new vintage straight from the tank at Burning Kiln Winery are definitely perks that come with the job.
The terroir within Norfolk County varies greatly from area to area. The sandy soil near the lakeshore lends itself to vegetables such as asparagus, cucumbers, squash, cabbage and fruits like blueberries and grapes.
Many chefs get excited at the start of spring when asparagus is the first vegetable to be readily available. It signals the start of the growing season and is featured prominently on many restaurant menus for the limited time that it is available. It is even more exciting when you are living in the asparagus capital of Canada and the shoots are being grown by someone down the road that you know on a first name basis.
One example of a dish at David’s that makes the most of our terrior is the rack of lamb with cherry and apple chutney. The producers of Woolley’s Lamb own hundreds of acres of apple and cherry orchards and their lambs are free to wander through the orchards and graze on the grass that grows among the fruit trees. The meat is sweet and mild and extremely tender and, naturally, pairs well with the apples and cherries that have been grown in the exact same terroir.
But we can’t talk about the physical landscape of Norfolk County without mentioning the lake. Lake Erie contains some of the most prized fresh water fish available – most notably the famous Yellow Perch and Pickerel. At David’s a customer can sit in our dining room and gaze out at the lake where George Gibbons, a commercial fisherman and purveyor, has recently caught the fresh fish that sits on their plate.
Norfolk has a long tradition of farming and fishing and we try to reflect that tradition in the food served.
The focus is on local and seasonal and the techniques used such as pickling, smoking, and preserving during the off - season are the same ones that have been used in farming and fishing families for generations.
We also enjoy using the plentiful foraged items that grow wild in the area such as ramps, fiddleheads, sumac, morel mushrooms, and even wild hops.
The goal at our restaurant is to be refined yet still rustic and representative of the area itself.