Location, location, location — surely one of the best things about living in Hamilton, surrounded by rich, rolling countryside with lots of nearby farms and markets, as well as being just down the road from “the wine country”, a setting which allows us to enjoy local vintages and a wonderful selection of creative chefs and world-class restaurants.
This coming Tuesday (April 14), Go Cooking will be taking advantage of these opportunities with Chef Matt Hemmingsen from The Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery. Chef Matt returned to The Restaurant last year, after working there about eight years ago. The Restaurant, he explains, is also known as The Kitchen House, not because it previously was a kitchen, but because it was owned by the Kitchen family. (Hemmingsen admits that he discovered this historical tidbit after he received a somewhat puzzling note from a restaurant patron that began, “I am a Kitchen …”)
The Estates include 42 acres of vinifera grapes and the property makes the most of a rather breathtaking view of the Niagara Escarpment, Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline. The winery opened in 2000 and bills itself as focusing on making “racy sauvignon blancs, chardonnays (especially unoaked INOX chardonnay) and Bordeaux reds”.
The restaurant itself is perched on the brow of the Beamsville Bench with the winery building and carriage house behind it. The main floor dining room seats about 60 – 80 and there is an outdoor patio which spills over with another 40 or 50 happy people all summer long. It is housed in an old red brick Victorian manor house which was built in 1885 by Grimsby architect Frank Hill. The house was recently declared as an historic site under the Ontario Heritage Act for its historical and architectural significance and its distinctive design includes an eye-catching turret and cedar shingled roof. It has been meticulously restored and has become the most recognizable symbol of the winery.
Chef Matt has worked in restaurants in the Niagara region during his 20 year career, getting his Chef’s papers at Niagara College right after leaving high school. His earliest apprenticeship was at a very well known restaurant in Welland called Rinderlin’s. Rinderlin’s closed a few years ago, but was a landmark location. The proprietors were German and Swiss-trained and Hemmingsen says that he absorbed their European-based culinary skills. His goal is to combine these skills with a serious attempt to use local and seasonal foods from the Niagara area on the menu at Peninsula Ridge.
“We make all of our own breads, desserts, ice cream, ” Hemmingsen states with pride, “and we have a very knowledgeable front of house manager who pairs the wines, as well as two winemakers on the property. The menu changes frequently because it is dependent upon what is currently available.”
Hemmingsen’s menu for our upcoming Go Cooking session is indicative of his innovative and locally-based approach. The main course will feature pickerel from a small fishery on Lake Erie. The Chef notes that he is always careful to buy the whole fish and then fillets it himself because he needs to examine the eyes and gills to make sure that it is very fresh. The first course will be gnocchi made rich and tasty with a symphony of flavors that plays upon a counterpoint of sweet potatoes and lemon. The pancetta is home cured and the ricotta made by the chef. And I am going to leave you with the recipe for the dessert — a tour de force called “Rosewood Mead and Buttermilk Panna Cotta”. A word about the Rosewood Mead: The Chef says that this comes from a winery about a kilometer away from Peninsula Ridge called Rosewood Estates Winery. Rosewood Estates own an aviary and make a honey wine which is not quite as sweet as an ice wine.
“The bottom layer of the dessert will use the mead set with gelatin. The middle is a layer of buttermilk custard. And on top is the honeycomb. It’s not a real beeswax honeycomb, but is a mixture that resembles a honeycomb when you heat sugar with baking soda.”
Try to restrain yourself until Tuesday night, if you are a Go Cooking guest. And for the others, here’s the recipe for the dessert.
Rosewood Mead and Buttermilk Panna Cotta
from Chef Matt Hemmingsen, The Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery
1/4 cup simple syrup
1 cup mead
1 (.45) gelatin sheet
1) Place gelatin sheet in medium bowl and pour cold syrup over. Allow to soften.
2) Bring mead to a simmer and pour over gelatin. Stir until dissolved.
3) Divide into 6 X 5 oz ramekins and refrigerate until set.
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 (.98) sheets gelatin
2 1/2 cups 35% cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1) Place gelatin in a medium bowl and pour buttermilk over. Allow to soften.
2) Bring cream, sugar and vanilla to a simmer and pour over. Stir until gelatin is fully melted.
3) Allow to cool to room temperature, then pour into the ramekins and refrigerate until set (approximately 3 hours)
100 grams caster sugar (icing sugar)
50 grams water
1 tsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1) Place sugar, water and golden syrup in a sauce pot. Slowly bring the mixture to 160 degrees F.
2) Add baking soda, stir in and pour onto parchment paper to cool
3) Once cool, break into smaller pieces.
1) Carefully trace a paring knife around the edge of the ramekin, turn upside down with one hand below the ramekin and shake panna cotta out.
2) Place in centre of the plate.
3) Garnish with honeycomb, wildflower honey, bee pollen and flower petals.