Mount Julian: Pasta in Photos

by Alyssa Joynt

One of the things Mount Julian prides itself on is the freshness of our food. Our philosophy is all about making food from scratch, foraging for freshness, and scouring farmer’s markets. As I learned one evening, this stretches from our wine to our pasta dough. Chef Alexander makes the smoked trout tortellini in our pasta dish from start to finish, and as part of our Mount Julian blog series, I got to help! It all starts with the smoker.

The smoker is a relatively non-descript black box that I had never noticed before, but it makes a world of difference.

To get a nice smoky flavour, you need a lot of smoke, so a bucket of woodchips was soaked in water before being placed into the smoker. Dry wood burns, but wet wood smokes. Above the woodchips, Chef placed a tray of water to help the fish keep some of its moisture during the smoking process. Then, in went the trout!

From this to pasta!

It didn’t take long for the smoker to get nice and smoky, and once it did the fish cooked fairly quickly.

While we waited, I asked Chef more about the process. I learned that you can smoke duck, chicken, and nearly anything else you can think of. Because trout doesn’t take too long to cook – it’s just a question of how much smokey flavour you want – more time spent in the smoker leads to a smokier and drier result. As far as the trout goes, Chef favours a hint of smoke instead of a really intense smokiness, which helps the fish maintain some moisture and also adds a gentle and subtle richness to the overall flavour.

The finished fish was slightly smoky and extremely delicious (the biggest perk of joining the cooking process is the taste-testing!). Chef removed the skins and then we left the fish for a minute to make the pasta dough. As we prepared to make the dough, we both learned that charcoal is a lot harder to remove from skin than one would expect….

As Chef explained, the dough we made was arguably the richest ever, containing 6 egg yolks. To make the dough, the eggs were placed in a well in the flour and Chef stirred them slowly. This allowed the flour to be pulled in slowly but steadily.

Once the dough was mixed, Chef kneaded it with more flour to make the dough “nice and elastic”.

Setting the dough aside, we returned to the trout to make the filling. Using his hands, Chef crumbled the trout until it was nice and fine. Big chunks of trout inside pasta is not nearly as tasty as it sounds.

The next step was to add some flavour. Chef finely chopped green scallions and added them to the trout, along with some salt and pepper.

Once the filling was all mixed together, it was time to roll out the dough and start putting it all together!

After stretching the dough, Chef thinned it out with the pasta maker. He also floured the surface behind the pasta maker so that we could lay the dough out on the counter afterwards.

Once it was suitably skinny, Chef spread some saran wrap on a plate and sprinkled the top with cornmeal. This made no sense to me until he brought out the pasta cutter, which looks a lot like a cookie cutter. He made individual circles out of the dough, and placed each circle on the cornmeal plate. I soon leaned that this contraption existed to make sure the pasta circles didn’t stick to the surface, and I quickly became very grateful for it. Once we had enough circles, the folding process began.

The folding was definitely the coolest part of the process. Chef picked a circle and placed some filling in the middle. He then dipped his fingers and rimmed the circle with water to help the edges stick together.

He began by folding the circle in half and squeezing the edges together to make a little pierogi.

Once the pierogi is shaped, he folded the two ends in front to shape the tortellini.

After demonstrating a few times, Chef surprised me by letting me make a few of my own.
It’s both tricky and easy at the same time, because I really didn’t want to screw up but it also felt like I was working with something remarkably similar to Play-Doh, as the dough was relatively easy to shape and move (just don’t tell Chef I likened his food to Play-Doh).

The whole process from start to finish took a few hours, and we only made enough for a couple of servings. To make enough for a whole meal takes much longer. You can almost taste the care and patience that goes into making the pasta, although don’t take my word for it – come try for yourself!


The Only Honest Fishing Story You’ll Ever Read… Sort Of

by Alyssa Joynt

One of the best parts of working at Viamede is that I am forced to spend my entire summer on the lake.  What a shame, right?  One of the worst parts of working at Viamede is that our GM Ben can turn to me and tell me to meet him on the dock at 6 o’clock in the morning because we are going fishing.  I am not an avid fisherwoman, but I dragged myself out of bed and made my way to “work” for my first real fishing expedition since I was a kid.

The last time I went fishing was when I was maybe ten years old, so it’s been a while.  Cutting through the morning mist hanging on the lake, Ben arrived in his boat to pick up myself and the mother and son joining us.  None of us were very experienced, so as soon as we were out on the lake Ben gave us all a quick version of Fishing 101.  He showed us how to hold the rod properly, familiarized us with some basic fishing terminology, and showed us how to cast.  He taught us that you always have to keep a firm grip on your rod with one hand, and showed us how to hold the line with one finger while opening the bail so that you can tip your rod back and cast.  I was probably the last person to get the hang of it – I just kept dropping an excessive amount of line right in front of the boat, which created quite the mess.  I ended up with clumps of tangled fishing line that Ben had to come and fix, but eventually I figured it out too.

 

I wasn’t the only one who needed help, though.  The little guy with us needed reminders on how to hold his rod properly with one hand, and we all needed to be told from time to time that we just needed to let our lures sink instead of drawing them in constantly.

It took all of us a while to catch any fish, although everyone caught a fair amount of salad, or vegetarian fish as I like to call it.  Finally, just as Ben was getting nervous that we were beginning to doubt the existence of fish, we started feeling some bites.  Ben, of course, caught the first fish, and despite it being rather small he was quite happy to show it off.

 

 

After that, the fish started to come out of hiding.  We caught largemouth bass and rock bass, and Ben taught us the difference between the two.  Rock bass have spiny fins and red eyes, so they’re easy to distinguish if you know what you are looking for.  As a fully trained fish identifier, I can now tell you with a very small percentage of certainty that this is a picture of a rock bass…

 

 

…and that this is a picture of a largemouth bass.

 

Check out the red eyes on this bad boy!

 

While Ben was having all the luck in the world (partially because he kept casting right where my rod was and stealing my fish), the boy with us still hadn’t caught anything.  We moved to a spot where there was a big rock that had a hole in the middle, and he caught the biggest fish of the outing.

 

 

All in all, it was a pretty cool experience.  While I’m still not convinced that Ben can go out and catch 15-16 inch bass on a regular basis, I will admit that fishing is pretty fun.  Between the mist on the lake, the music of the loons, and the excitement of actually catching a fish, it’s worth getting up early.  I’ll have to go out again so that Ben can prove the existence of big fish, and I’ll keep you posted.  Someone has to keep the fishing stories straight, right?

 


Mount Julian: From 1874 to 2018

by Alyssa Joynt

This is the first in a series of blog posts about Mount Julian restaurant at Viamede Resort. We’ll be talking about the food, the history, the ambiance, and more! Check back regularly for the latest!

In 1874, Mount Julian stood alone, serving as both an inn and restaurant.  It has always been a destination for great food and incredible experiences, with lakers boating over for meals and people riding from Lakefield, almost 30 km away, just for dinner and a one night stay.

Mount Julian used to be a stand-alone location, with the restaurant on the main floor and a handful of rooms on the upper floor.  When Viamede Resort opened in 1885, Mount Julian served as the leisure side of the property, while Viamede hosted the labour crowd with miners and loggers filling the rooms.  In 1999, Don Bennet took over the resort and joined the two businesses, making Viamede the resort and turning Mount Julian into an Italian style resto, called MJ Bistro.

When Ben Samann took over Viamede in 2011, he knew he wanted to turn MJ Bistro into something special.  A dinner at Bluehill at Stone Barn served as the inspiration for the locally-sourced menu, and when the groundskeeper at the time suggested that Viamede start it’s own farm, Ben was all over the idea.  Food that went straight from farm to table?  Food foraged from the forest?  It was a menu that wrote itself, and the stories behind the food match the storied history of the building itself.

In a recent interview with Ben, he explained that eating at Mount Julian should be a very natural, comfortable experience.  As he said, “we’re not serving asparagus soup in a shoe”.  The food is not overly surprising, deliberately weird, or alienating in any way.  This isn’t a fine dining experience governed by overly strict rules – it’s a place where you can sit down in shorts and a T-shirt and enjoy historic ambience and local food.  Ingredients sourced from as close as the land the building sits on and as far afield as the Lakefield farmer’s market, it’s a meal that feels like you’re coming home.

Welcome to Mount Julian.  This summer, we are opening our doors to a new, online experience on this blog.  From the way the food is foraged to the hand-selected wine pairings, we invite you to join us as we rediscover the stories behind Mount Julian.