Mount Julian’s Fall Harvest

by Alyssa Joynt

As the leaves turn from green to gold, the numbers on the thermometer start to drop, and we watch summer roll into fall, it is the perfect time to look back at the summer gardens of Mount Julian.  When we say that the food we serve is local, we really aren’t kidding.  For the next installment of the Mount Julian blog series, Chef Alexander took me on a tour of the gardens around Viamede and explained how he uses each plant in various ways to create incredible meals.

One of the first gardens I saw was the one situated right next to Mount Julian. The building has gardens both on the side and facing the lake, and all are filled with delicious greenery!

 

 

This lavender has a very short growing season, but can be used in crème brûlées and infused into almost anything, especially in dishes involving cream and milk.

In the neighbouring garden, a variety of greens take centre stage.  Our goal is to grow all the lettuce used at Mount Julian, and the leaf lettuce seen here can be used in a classic salad or as a burger topper.

 

Right next door is Genovese Basil, which is used in classic pesto.  One of the dishes featured this summer included a homemade pesto that was made with these pretty homegrown leaves.

 

Leaving the Mount Julian side of the property, we explored the gardens by the main building.  These pear tomatoes, which are a kind of cherry tomato, grow right near one of the outbuildings by the main entrance to Viamede.  They aren’t quite ripe in this picture, but once they are, they are delicious!

 

Right beside the cherry tomatoes are string beans and peas, both of which are beautiful and fresh veggies for any dish!

 

While I recognized many of the plants on my tour, dinosaur kale was a new introduction.  Another neighbour of the incredible pear tomato, this is a very large and extremely tough variety of kale that would generally not be eaten raw.  When the leaves are big like this, they are better sautéed or in a stew.

At the front of the building, there is a vibrant flower garden, but those flowers aren’t just for show!  Some of them are nasturtium flowers, which have a bit of a peppery taste and add a fun bunch of flavour and a fun punch of colour to the summer salad they were added to.

 

In between the Mount Julian and main building gardens, there is a very special plant growing.  Viamede doesn’t use any pesticides and we try to preserve the natural landscape of the Kawarthas as much as possible. Because of that effort we are blessed with native plants like this wild grape.  This variety is completely edible, and not only can we munch on these grapes but we also use them in jelly.  Their leaves are especially exciting – Chef used them during the summer to make dolma as a starting course at Mount Julian.

 

Chef harvests the leaves before service and then boil them to make them nice and tender.

 

 

Once boiled, he fills them with wild rice and rolls them up into delcious dolma!

 

Another example of the wild Kawartha landscape incorporating itself into the Mount Julian menu is our sumac and honey butter.

 

Featured earlier on in the summer, this butter is hand-whipped and mixed with honey and sumac, which can be seen growing all over the property.

Our gardens supply our kitchen with as much natural produce as possible, and we are so grateful!  As our gardens transition into the end of the fall harvest, Viamede transitions along with them.  Into our fall season now, these Mount Julian blog posts are near their end.  Thank you for exploring the kitchen with me, and I look forward to sharing the exciting world of preserves with you later on in the winter.  We all need some way to preserve the summer season, right?


Packing For A Viamede Cottage Stay

by Alyssa Joynt

Going on vacation can be stressful.  The packing rush, the multiple turn-arounds for forgotten chargers, favourite stuffed animals, and bathing suits, and the constant chimes of “Are we there yet?” from the back seat make getting on the road difficult.  That’s why we want to make it easier for you with the perfect cottage packing list.  So grab a pen and paper and start taking notes for your need-to-bring list… wait, don’t do that.  We’ve done it for you!

Bedding and Towels

The last thing you want to worry about while on vacation is laundry, so it’s a good thing you don’t have to.  All of our cottages get full housekeeping service, so your beds will be freshly made (yes, we provide sheets and blankets) and your bathroom is fully equipped with full sets of fluffy towels.  It might not be a bad idea to bring your brightest beach towel to decorate your porch railing, though.

The Kitchen Sink

One of the things people like about our cottages is that it gives them the opportunity to cook their own food (and if that isn’t your shtick, you can get all of your food at The Boathouse or even enjoy the comfort of home-made food minus the prep, by ordering from our signature BBQ Menu).  We provide the pots and pans, all of the dishware, coffee and a coffee maker, a fridge, a microwave, a toaster, and even an oven and a stove, depending on the cottage you book.

If you are particularly partial to a specialized coffee, or you can’t live without your morning smoothie, bringing your coffee machine or blender might be a good idea.  We don’t have a lot of specialized cooking ware, but we do give you the counter space for it!

All cottages also have a barbecue, because what is cottage country without a night spent grilling, drinking a beer, and catching up with family and friends out on your front porch?  And don’t worry about packing the kitchen sink – our cottages all have sinks, dish rags, and dish soap to help with the clean up.

So all you need is any food you won’t be eating at our restaurants, and any specialty cookware you can’t live without.

Toiletries

You know what’s also annoying to pack? Hair products.  To this day we are still perplexed about how to conveniently travel with something that isn’t quite solid and isn’t quite liquid.  With our full housekeeping service comes regular refills of shampoo and conditioner, so unless you have a specialized kind we’ve got you covered! We also provide hair dryers, but I personally prefer the beach-hair-don’t-care look. We also provide soap, so the only supplies from your bathroom that you’ll need are sunscreen, toothbrushes and toothpaste (but if you forget those we have some at the Front Desk!). And maybe makeup and hairspray (but we encourage you to go cottage-chic and throw the hair in a pony, and freshen your complexion with nothing more than your fave sunblock).

 

We hope you’re looking forward to your vacation almost as much as we are looking forward to having you, and we hope this has helped answer some of your perplexing packing problems.  Just remember to pack underwear, bathing suits, sunscreen, and your sense of fun, and of course your camera so you can relive it all when you return to real life.


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!