Famous newspaper columnist, Harriet van Horne, said last century, “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all,” and this is true as the Willistead previews new menu.
Never has this saying been more applicable than it is to Windsor’s Chef James Renaud and business entrepreneur and partner, Mark Boscariol, from The Willistead on Wyandotte Street East and SnackBar-B-Q on Chatham Street in the city core. Don’t be expecting a ham ‘n swiss on rye at either of these trendy eateries.
On Tuesday night the Willistead hosted a tasting session to preview their latest menu. In attendance was a mishmash of 65 local Windsorites including city councilors Bill Marra and Rino Bortolin, retired food critic from the Windsor Star, Ted Whipp, St. Clair College Executive Culinary Chef Steven Meehan, Chef Anthony Dalupan from Central Park Athletics, “Windsor Eats” Adriano Ciotoli, along with political pundits, friends, staff and Biz X’s Deborah Jones, Jenny, Jack Rosenberg – and yours truly, Joe McParland.
Guests were presented a ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of the dinner menu. Food was presented in Chef Renaud’s signature fashion as dishes to be shared around the table. Renaud states, “our approach to sharing dishes where guests can sample from each other’s plates is an exciting approach to dining, and a fairly radical departure from the mounds of food we served at the old Tecumseh Road House.”
So plate after plate of food made its way to our table representing just some of the new selections from either the Farms, Waters or Fields section of the menu.
From the Farms section we tasted the Mini Venison Hotdog, Wagner Farms Fried Pepperettes, Kentucky Fried Quail and Ewe Dell Farms Lamb Chops.
The field section of the menu brought such culinary delights as Bar Olives (a tapenade), Mushroom Bread, Tempura Sea Asparagus, Warm Farmer’s Cheese, Heirloom Carrots, Stuffed Eggplant, Sweet Pea and Potato Pierogi, Fingerling Potatoes Bravas and Crispy Kalettes.
The final section, the Waters included an amazing Scallop Dip, Escargots, Fried Whole Branzino – a mild fish from Europe, and mini Lobster Rolls.
To wash this all down we sampled a few of their newest cocktail creations: Blueberry Smash, Just Keep Swimming, Rhubarb Blush, Chardonnay Cover Up, Trump Card (no, not that Trump!) and my favourite, Ward Four, Lot 40 Canadian Whiskey, lemon and orange juice, simple syrup, egg whites, amarena cherry.
Without providing a review of each food tasted or drink consumed, suffice it to say that the creativity, the fusion of taste and flavors, and the overall presentation of the dishes was nothing short of outstanding. Of course, guests have different tastes and some selections were favoured more than others. In my particular case I’m not a big fan of the whole fish entree (head and tail), yet The Fried Whole Branzino used to create small softshell tacos, complete with guacamole and all the fixings, left me yearning for more. I’m a convert! (just cover the eyes of the fish…lol)
Chef Renaud has been plying his trade in the restaurant business for over 30 years and as a chef for the past 20 years. Together with Boscariol they travel to such places as Texas, New York City, California, and other places unknown in search for new and creative alternatives to satisfy our culinary appetites.
East Wyandotte Street in Walkerville continues its amazing resurgence and renaissance of recent years and is becoming the trendiest area of Windsor. Some are even referring to this area as ‘The Ville’ (from Walker-ville) – just as Joe Louis Arena became known as ‘The Joe”. This is largely the result of creative and forward thinking people like Renaud and Boscariol, and many other entrepreneurial business owners in the area, who have truly transformed this area through hard work, investment and creativity.
After sharing the food and drink we had on Tuesday night at the Willistead, I better understand van Horne’s words, “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
Feature photo: Sweet Pea and Potato Pierogi