Harbour Street Brasserie, Kincardine, Ontario

One of the Brasserie's farmer-suppliers enjoys a meal out featuring her own organically grown greens. Image by Katie Zdybe

Eating on the road is always an adventure. With my laptop always close by in my backpack, I’ve been fortunate to spend this summer traipsing around Ontario, Michigan, and Nova Scotia, visiting old friends and family —and as a matter of habit, looking for extraordinary food that I can taste and write about. Away from my favourite delis, markets, and cafes in Victoria, I have no choice but to try new foods. Some of my stops thus far —Guelph, Ontario, for example— have been abundant with the locally-minded, seasonal, and organic standards I’ve come to take for granted back in BC. Others, like where I write from now, a tiny lakeside village in central Michigan, are a bit sparser gastronomically speaking. It’s taken a few days of big-chain grocery shopping to finally sniff out a market source for juicy Michigan cherries and fresh fish (that source would be my nephew, who caught a decent-sized bass in the lake). The best local gem I’ve found thus far on my trip has been a small, sophisticated brasserie based in my hometown of Kincardine, Ontario. I hope you’ll enjoy following along on my journey of good eating as I make my way to the maritimes —starting with this first experience, the Harbour Street Brasserie.

Adventures in Good Eating Part I:
Harbour Street Brasserie, Kincardine, Ontario

Even before you take a bite, the Harbour Street Brasserie sweeps you off your feet. A beautiful garden and breezy front porch are the first sights, then upon entering the main room of the revamped 1856 cottage, the simple, elegant design and wide windows looking out over the West porch with a full view of the blood orange sunset could suffice for a perfect evening. But of course, I came for the food, and so we sit down on the porch and order our wine.

I’ve come with an interesting party —my best friend is a server here, but tonight she dines, and two other close friends who are farmers who supply greens and other vegetables to the restaurant. Anyone visiting from BC would feel right at home on this porch. With Lake Huron a deep navy blue against the ruby red sky and a menu that lists local suppliers on its first page, the Brasserie exudes beauty, sophistication, and good ethics.

The connection is partially explained by the owners’ background. Chef Derek Griffiths, a twinkly-eyed, amiable character, completed his culinary training in Ontario, but gives ample credit to his time as Head Chef at the Executive House Hotel in Victoria for shaping his philosophy as chef. I’m told by kitchen staff he is a market and farm hound, a real stickler for sourcing organic or naturally grown produce, and that he chooses only ethically-sourced fish and meat. After dinner, Chef Derek joined me on the porch and his enthusiasm for Victoria’s culinary scene was effervescent —he rattled off his old favourites and asked about any new developments, waxing poetic about the days he spent there before returning to Ontario to open the Brasserie.

His wife and partner, Dianne Chrysler, was the first to greet us at the door. She is responsible for the thoughtfully selected wine list and the ambiance. She too, partially cut her teeth in Victoria with stints at Café Brio and Brasserie L’ecole. My friend, the server, tells me even on hectic nights, Dianne sees to it that the staff pause to enjoy a brilliant sunset, a habit that speaks volumes about her appreciation of mise-en-scene.

Our meal begins with the popular Pommes Frites made with organic Yukon Golds and truffle essence. They’re perfect —a toothsome balance of salt, starch, and the subtle hints of truffle and parsley. For the main course, it’s “Roasted Lake Trout Filet Nicoise.” A fresh trout —caught in the lake we’re looking out over— arrives impeccably prepared with peppery, succulent greens from my farmer friends, tartly pickled asparagus, a garden tarragon and pommery mustard vinaigrette, and a simple, quartered, gently-boiled egg with a deep golden yolk. It’s sublime, beautifully presented, and a true taste of this agriculturally rich area. In other words, exactly what you hope for when you’re eating in a new place. The only thing that could possibly outshine the trout was the Chocolate Bouchon for dessert. “They’ve let the chocolate speak for itself,” one of my dining companions declared, after lingering over a forkful. She’s captured the essence of this little work of art precisely. The deep, hedonistic taste of excellent quality chocolate only needed a velvety, warm, and dense textured cake to complement it, and that is exactly what the Brasserie has achieved.

We finish the meal with sips of rich espresso, following the last fingers of the sunset slink over the edge of the horizon. It has been a truly great meal in many senses —the tastes, the influence of the owners in both design and preparation, and the setting itself. If you happen to find yourself in Southwestern, Ontario, don’t miss the chance to dine at Kincardine’s Harbour Street Brasserie.

Harbour Street Brasserie is located at 217 Harbour St., Kincardine, Ontario, n2z 2×9. Ph: 519.396.6000

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