Mushroom & Cheese Stuffed Schnitzel and Apricot Jam Crepes – Austrian & German Cuisine at Old Country Inn

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It’s time to take a trip to Vienna, Austria – Main Street Unionville style!  I know nothing beats the real deal.  The sights, sounds, tastes, and aromas of another city, state, or country are like no other.  But when you can’t go on vacation, eating authentic, delicious food in a beautiful setting in your own city really isn’t too shabby, especially when the beautiful setting in question is the Old Country Inn on Main Street Unionville in Markham.  While Main Street Unionville has several casual, fun, low-key spots (Jake’s on Main Pub & Grille, Unionville Arms, Old Firehall Confectionery, ice cream booths and parlours, and coffee shops), I’d say that the quaint, picturesque, Victorian village that houses all of these eateries boasts more fine dining options than it does hole-in-the-wall or casual watering holes.  

The Old Country Inn is a spot I have wanted to visit for years and years.  It is so beautiful and full of character and given how the house has been around for over 100 years since the beginnings of Unionville settlement, it has cemented its reputation within the community and beyond as a restaurant with delicious, authentic Austrian and German food.  I know I explore the city a lot, but I can’t think of one place with the exception of  Wvrst on King Street West that does German and authentic central European food.  Yes, Roncesvalles is known for its Polish eateries and bakeries and Bloor West Village hosts the annual Ukrainian festival, but we’re talking Austrian food and I don’t know of any other spot aside from Old Country Inn that serves Viennese cuisine and this makes them extra special in my book.

    

Old Country Inn is known for their authentic Austrian and German food and drink – with a beautiful vintage outdoor wine cellar to boot!  Their menu is chock full of classics and dishes known to Viennese and German cuisine: herring in rahm (a special type of cream sauce), schinkenrolle (ham wrapped around asparagus), kartoffelsuppe (potato soup), goulash, liver dumpling soup, six different types of schnitzel (breaded cutlet), bratwurst and sausages, pork dishes including schweinsbrten (roast pork with sauerkraut and dumplings), a host of beef dishes including sauerbraten (German pot roast/roast beef with sweet and sour sauce with red cabbage and dumplings), rump roast, and plenty of fish and seafood options.  Even their dessert menu gives you a sweet, healthy dose of Austrian and German flavour with sweet  endings such as eiskafee (a German coffee drink with ice cream), sacher torte (Austrian chocolate cake), palatschinen (Austrian dessert crepes filled with fruit jam), and of course, the ever popular strudel!

Phew, that is a LOT of food!  But I guarantee you that even if you don’t live around Markham, it is worth the trip to Main Street Unionville just for this.  Even before my first visit, I heard rave reviews from one of my best friends (whose standards are high!) who said Old Country Inn was one of his favourite spots in general, and from one of my best friend’s coworkers who said it was her favourite place on Main Street Unionville.  And after my gut-busting meal, I completely understood why. 

It’s definitely more of a special occasion type of place in terms of price ($15-$25 for most mains),but the food is great and the inn and outdoor patio and terrace is lovely.  Since I enjoyed my meal out on the patio, I don’t have photos of the house’s inside but I promise to snap some for the next time.  I figured since it was summer I’d dine al fresco.  That and because the sun was setting so I knew I wouldn’t have enough decent lighting streaming in through the windows to take good photos.  I plan these things!

First things first: bread and butter basket.  Based on the texture, taste, and appearance, I’m almost positive the sliced bread was a sourdough medium rye.  What intrigued me the most though were the crispy crackers!  There were these beautiful, long and thin, jagged-edge crispy crackers covered in light and black sesame seeds and they tasted toasty and all sorts of lovely.  Even though I like baguette and butter, having these crackers in addition to the bread was such a nice change from the regular baguette slices.  

Then, onto the main attraction.  There were so many things I wanted to try, but I decided to go totally classic for this first go-around: schnitzel!  You all know about my foodie love affair with mushrooms and cheese so I was delighted to see a mushroom and chesse stuffed schnitzel meal (Tiroler Schnitzel, $19.95) on their menu!  All of their meat mains are served with sides, and schnitzels are served with potato home fries and vegetables with creamy cheese sauce; in my case, broccoli.  Traditionally, schnitzel is served with a garnish of lemon and potato salad so this meal was bang on. 

Oh my goodness was this schnitzel ever humongous!  It covered about two-thirds of the plate.  It was beautifully breaded with a smooth and crispy layer of fine bread crumbs with the juiciest, most moist meat on the inside and creamy melted cheese and sauteed mushrooms.  I could not get over how moist the meat was and I was over the moon at how ungreasy it was as well.  It was amazing how they kept the meat so soft and juicy while there wasn’t an ounce of fatty grossness hanging off of it and I loved it.  The thin crispiness of the breading combined with the moist was delicious and I thought to myself, “this is what it feels like to have real schnitzel!”  The potatoes were much like what you would expect during breakfast and brunch and they were super soft and flavourful and not overly salted or mushy, and the creamy sauce over top my broccoli afforded me with a little fun dipping action for my potatoes and schnitzel.       

And then came the sweet finale: palastchinken!  Palastchinken are soft, warm dessert or breakfast crepes filled with fruit jam such as strawberry or apricot and at Old Country Inn they filled theirs with warm, sweet and fruit apricot jam inside.  The two rolled crepes ($5.25) are dusted with icing sugar and served with warm and oh my lord are they ever amazing.  I was too full to finish both so I brought the second one home which my mum took a go at and she was absolutely in love with it.  The crepes are so soft with the most delicate, crisped edges and the apricot jam is so fruity and sweet and delicious and everything just melts in your mouth.

Old Country Inn is such a gem and I feel really lucky to have it up in my neck of the woods.  I’m so looking forward to planning another visit (and another one after that) so that I can snap photos of the restaurant from the inside and to try some of their sauerkraut, dumplings, pork loin, and a whole host of other delicious dishes!

*****

The Old Country Inn is located at 198 Main Street Unionville in Markham.  They serve lunch and dinner 7 days a week and are open from 12pm-9pm Sunday-Thursday and from 12pm-10pm Fridays and Saturdays.  You can visit their site HERE for more info and to view their menus.

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The Summer Patio Dining Series – Baby Potatoes, Bruschetta, & Pancetta…on Pizza! The Pizza Bianca at Vagabondo

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Oh, summer, how I have a love-hate relationship with you.  I get to wear pretty, frilly frocks and sandal flats when you’re around and iced drinks taste all the more delicious with you by my side.  However, you also make me feel absolutely disgusting with your unbearable heat and don’t even get me started on the bugs you unleash in the wake of your fury.  But I can let those things slide – just for a tiny bit – when you hand me nice patios to eat and relax in.  Like Vagabondo on Wellington St. with their fabulous Italian menu and food!

Vagabondo and I actually first met a number of years ago for dinner and dessert one summer night, but I didn’t like the photos I took from that meal, so I sadly never wrote about them on here but still thought about how much I enjoyed the food, the atmosphere, and dining experience.  I finally made my way back for a follow-up summer meal and I can’t stop raving about it.  There are so many things I love about Vagabondo.  First off, I adore the patio and the tumbling water fountain out in the front.  Any patio that has shade and cover has my vote.  Summer evenings and nights are beautiful, but that certainly doesn’t mean I enjoy having the sun shining right in my face or burning the back of my head!  Giant umbrellas dot the spacious patio while pretty patterned couch cushions adorn the red and black booths that hug the patio on two sides. 

And the beautiful water fountain!  It’s the first thing you notice the second you pass by Vagabondo on the street and it’s quite captivating.  I mean, it’s no Greek sculpture, but there aren’t very many – if any – restaurants in the city that can boast and say they have a monstrous sparkling fountain on or outside their property.  It makes sitting on their dining patio so relaxing and soothing and because of the spaciousness of the restaurant property and patio, it’s almost as if Vagabondo inhabits its own little universe, annexed from the rest of the busy, bustling city.

Second, I love how organized their menu is.  Sure, many Italian places organize their menus by appetizers (antipasti, salads, and soups), mains, pastas, pizzas (if they serve them), and desserts, but Vagabondo takes it a step further, making incredibly easy for patrons to navigate the menu and to come to a decision on what they want to stuff their face with.  Case in point: their main meat entrees are clearly divided and organized by type – one section for chicken mains (pollo), one for lamb and beef (carne), one for veal (vitello), one for fish and seafood (pesce), and another for main dish risottos (risotti).  Prices for risottos and meat mains, on average, come in at $20-$28. 

And their pastas?  Divided and organized by sauce: tomato sauce (pomodro), rose (pomodoro cremosa), cream sauce (panna), and olive oil and garlic sauce (aglo’ olio).  I cannot tell you how much this makes me bounce off the walls.  I love this organizational scheme. Instead of sifting through a list of menu items organized with no particular rhyme or reason, you can just zero in on exactly what your tastebuds feel like!  Don’t feel like tomato sauce?  Skip it.  Have a hankering for risotto?  Swoop down to the bottom left of the page.  I LOVE THIS WITH A PASSION.  Prices for pasta range from $17-$21. 

During my first visit to Vagabondo I enjoyed an amazing chicken meal (the pollo porto fino) with fresh steamed vegetables and baby potatoes, and while I desparately wanted to have some pasta, I opted to try one of their pizzas because special Italian pizza is not something I go out for very often.  Aside from my yummy price fixe pizza lunch at Il Fornello, it’s been pretty dry in that department.  So I watered the grass, so to speak. 

   

Vagabondo has 12 different pizzas to choose from (with most priced from $15-$17) and if you’re vegetarian, it’s probably not the best thing for you to go for on the menu as most pizzas have a mix of both vegetables and meat.  Toppings include artichokes, proscuitto, goat cheese, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, baby spinach, chicken strips, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, mascarpone cheese, sausage, portobellos, and so much more.  My pick?  The Pizza Bianca: white pizza brushed with olive oil and topped with mozzarella cheese, bruschetta, pancetta (why, hello, Italian bacon!), Parmigiano Reggiano, and – wait for this – sliced baby potatoes!

I don’t know about you, but I have fallen so deeply in love with potato pizza.  I never had potato pizza until Linda, momma dolce to Le Dolci’s icing sugar queen and head honcho, Lisa, brought some for us for lunch when I was cupcaking it up during my time at the studio.  Before that I had never heard of potato pizza but after that first bite I was hooked.  Vagabondo’s pizza is DELICIOUS.  It’s a nice big pie on a round metal pizza platter, cut into quarters, and served with red chili flakes in a shaker.  

All the flavours and textures worked beautifully together: the bruschetta gave it freshness, juiciness, and a bit of acidity, the pancetta made it smoky and crispy, the olive oil and mozzarella cheese were foodgasmic together, and the baby potatoes were just divine.  They were sliced into big round coins and the potatoes just absorbed all the flavours while at the same time giving the pizza body and starchy texture.  The pizzas are thin crust and so flavourful and the added kick from the red chili flakes made it taste that much more amazing, not to mention there’s plenty of cheese to go around!  I love my pizzas extra cheesy and boy did this pizza ever deliver in all aspects of flavour, ingredients, and yumminess.

Even if you’re not in the mood to splurge a little more on an Italian dinner, Vagabondo has an express lunch menu with panini sandwiches, pizzas, and similar items to the ones on their dinner menu but in lunch-size portions and with less expensive prices, so it’s win-win for everyone.  It’s one of my favourite spots in the downtown core and I can’t wait to come back and try some pasta, risotto, and dessert!

*****

Vagabondo Italin Ristorate and Lounge is located at 32 Wellingto Street East in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood between Yonge and Church Street.  They are open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner, and they offer a lunch express menu as well as take-out.  You can view their website and menus HERE.