When you’ve had it up to here with “hip” and “trendy” and you don’t really feel the urge to try something improbably “ethnic” or to deal with “offal”, it’s wonderful to know that there is a restaurant in Hamilton where all is calm and tranquil and simply delicious, well-prepared food is the watchword. A few of you may be surprised that I’m talking about a hotel restaurant, the downtown Sheraton, in the heart of the city, where the dining room is just across the hall from the noise and craziness of what may be Hamilton’s busiest bar. The restaurant, however, is an oasis of gracious dining where the chairs are comfortable, the lighting is subdued, the music is pleasant, the wait staff polite and unobtrusive and it is quiet enough to converse with your dining partner without screaming across the table or cupping your ears.
The restaurant is called Chagall’s, and it has been happily feeding Hamiltonians along with our most illustrious visitors, since 1985. It is named after the Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall, 1889-1985 (it opened the year he died) and it underlines its respect for the visual arts by incorporating the works of two local artists in the decor. Local artist Carly Mckaskill works in multimedia crafting layered works that interrogate female identity. Harold Sikkema, also from Hamilton, creates what he calls “digital tapestries”: works that fuse tactile media with the freedom of electronic expression.
Still, the links to Marc Chagall, that sentimental and poetic artist with a penchant for jewel
like colour and a fairytale sense of fantasy, may not be immediately apparent. I believe it is demonstrated largely in a respect for tradition, but tradition that incorporates a modicum of wit and whimsy. You can notice this in the restaurant’s menus: for instance, all of the usual appetizers are available, from bruschetta, to calamari and smoked salmon — but also something called a “vegetarian firecracker” and “jerk chicken quesadilla.” Entrées encompass steak and seafood risotto, but there is also a quirky sounding combination called “fettucine jambalaya” (Cajun/Italian??).
Anyway, the menu will probably be changing in the next few months because Chagall’s has a new chef, Robert Roberge, who will be visiting our Go Cooking kitchen on Monday, September 29th. Chef Robert is a Canadian trained Certified Chef de Cuisine with over 20 years of experience, working all stations of the kitchen. He has been an Executive Chef in various restaurants, resorts and hotels across Ontario. He is also a long time competitor in culinary competitions in Canada and abroad and is the recipient of numerous gold medal awards for culinary excellence.
In 2004, Chef Robert travelled to Erfurt Germany with Team Ontario to enjoy gold medal success and also participated with Culinary Team Canada at the World Culinary Olympics. In 2009 he was awarded the title of “Chef of the Year” by the prestigious Escoffier Society of Toronto. He was also culinary chairman for the 2010 Toronto Culinary Salon and teaches a continuing education class called “Gourmet dining” at Mohawk College.
For our Go Cooking session Chef Robert will be creating a menu that celebrates a local experience. (Chagall’s was the launch pad for this year’s “Localicious” food festival in Hamilton.) There are still couple of seats left if you are craving a relaxing evening with friendly people, flavorful food and insightful education and entertainment.
And fall is here. This is a recipe that uses ingredients that are readily available. It feeds 16 to 20 people, but can be easily made smaller.
from Lucy Waverman “Seasonal Canadian Cookbook”
2 red onions thinly sliced
2 tbsp. balsamic or cider vinegar
2 heads Romaine lettuce
2 heads red leaf lettuce
4 Belgian endive
1 large bunch watercress
8 oz Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
1 cup olive oil
1) Marinate the onion slices in the balsamic vinegar for 1 hour to remove the strong flavor. Discard the vinegar.
2) Wash and tear the Romaine and red leaf lettuce into bite sized pieces. Slice the Belgian endive into 1/2 inch slices. Separate the watercress into leaves. Combine all the greens in a large salad bowl.
3) Cut the Parmesan into crumbly slices. Reserve
4) In a small bowl, whisk together the wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and basil. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly. Reserve.
5) Just before serving, toss the salad with the reserved onion slices, Parmesan and vinaigrette.