Written by Lynn Ogryzlo
Each Christmas I struggle making turkey stuffing that the family will enjoy as much as the one Nonna used to make. That is until I took drastic action one year and added a small tin of pate de foie gras to the stuffing. The rich, meaty flavours permeated the stuffing with a luxurious quality and the entire family raved about it being as good as my little Italian grandmother’s. Food and traditions are the greatest part of sharing with family and friends over the holidays and no one understands this better than chefs. I hope you enjoy reading about these chefs and their favourite holiday flavours.
Chef Scott Bailey was raised with a formal English Christmas complete with a table dressed in Royal Daulton, crystal stemware and polished silverware. “We always made Christmas special,” says the chef, who would stuff his Yorkshire pudding with turkey, Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes, cover it in gravy and enjoy. Christmas at Compass is also a special and somewhat formal time but that doesn’t stop Chef Bailey from having fun. His signature stuffing includes deep fried bread for crunch, brown butter for richness, caramelized onions for a bit of luxury and a touch of spirit with traditional sherry vinegar.
Compass Restaurant, 2340 Ontario Street, Oakville
Italian Chef and restaurant partner, Marco D’Angelo of the brand new Harpers Landing likes to brine and slow smoke traditional holiday ingredients like turkey and ham for a richer, more succulent holiday flavour. Either will be accompanied with chef’s favourite flavours of the season simmered into his signature cranberry and apple sauce and plenty of seasonal roasted vegetables like butternut squash, carrots and beets.
Harpers Landing, 481 Cornwall Road, Oakville
For Julia Hanna and Executive Chef Carl Dahl, the holidays are an expression of love through food. Expect to see their Sopa de Cosecha (Harvest Soup) grace on the menu this season. It’s a tantalizing parsnip and rutabaga puree topped with a roasted mixed beet brunoise, spicy Spanish aji criollo and Swiss chard cress.
Julia’s Restaurant, 312 Lakeshore Road, East, Oakville
When it comes to the holidays, Chef Adam MacKay plainly states, “I just don’t like turkey.” So don’t expect to find any on his menu, but after a day of shopping and humming Christmas carols in Downtown Oakville, chef MacKay recommends you sit back and enjoy a wonderful Hot Toddy at the restaurant, with his Andouille Sausage and Chicken Liver Pate laced with bourbon or his Yukon Gold Gnocchi with Wild Boar Ragout.
Paradiso, 125 Lakeshore Road East, Oakville
Photo courtesy of Shareba Abdul from insearchofyummyness.com
Ritorno is about a family table, an Italian heritage and sharing this with modern diners. This holiday season Julia Hanna and Executive Chef Carl Dahl adorn Ritorno’s Christmas offerings with a ricotta, mascarpone & basil ravioli, with roasted root vegetable, spinach, sage and brown butter cream sauce. Their classic Gnocchi a la Vodka, with Hanna’s mother’s own hand rolled gnocchi, is also available.
Ritorno, 261 Oak Walk Drive, Oakville
Chef Andrew McLeod crafts the season’s most alluring pumpkin cheesecake. Inspired by his mother and grandmother’s holiday pumpkin pies, chef McLeod luxuriates the pie filling with a fine cream cheese and adds a contrasting crunchy texture of crumbled cinder (sponge) toffee. Served with a Dulce de Leche caramel sauce.
Spencers at the Waterfront, 1340 Lakeshore Road, Burlington
Chef Mitchel Lamb is a traditionalist when it comes to the holidays. On his menu you’ll find traditional turkey and stuffing with warm winter flavours like a root vegetable ratatouille of turnips, celery root and carrots wrapped together with maple cream. Drop in any Tuesday for a different venison dish accompanied with truffled turnip puree, dried cherry jus and sweet potato hash.
Stone House Restaurant, 3106 South Service Road, Burlington