I had the pleasure of having another breathtaking dinner prepared by chef Michael Stadtlander and hosted by his wife Nobuyo, this time at his restaurant Haisai in Singhampton. The first had been a few years ago at the magical Eigensinn Farm, setting the bar for all meals to follow.
The seasonal tasting menu last night included spring lamb, a divine smoked pork, trout from the Eigensinn pond, suckling pig, trout terrine, oysters, and just-picked asparagus. Their flavors were enhanced with masterful control (the lobster sauce caused a hush across the dining room) and were served with baby vegetables, mushrooms and herbs picked just hours beforehand, as well as their own breads and a few delicious Ontario wines. Bliss.
An intriguing component of the Haisai experience is the eccentric dining environment that they have created, with handmade wood furniture, a mad profusion of shells, antlers and illuminated glass bottles embedded in the ceilings and walls, and handmade dishware that no doubt all bear Michael's fingerprints as they frame the ingredients to tell this story about local food and sense of place. It has a childlike innocence that is completely disarming. The rustic building was a charming destination after a winding drive from the cottage through hilly farmland and the town of Creemore - a perfect way to leave the city behind and marvel at how beautiful Ontario really is. We felt as though we were guests at a dinner party conjured up by someone who had somehow found a way to create a complete physical manifestation of a deeply personal inner world, and we were able to share in that wonder.
The meal spoke volumes about how passion can create something truly exceptional and transcendent, through sheer force of will, talent, and personality.