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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If Pudding & Custard Had a Love Child – The Lemon Square Cupcake & Its Friends at Old Firehall Confectionery, Part III

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It’s the last long weekend of summer, it’s scorching out, and I’m happily spending my weekend indoors scrapbooking, reading my apple cookbook, organizing photos and my lip gloss collection, and planning my fall activities.  If the weather didn’t threaten to melt me I’d probably be out and about, but I’m hiding and having indoor fun instead 😀  It’s been fun writing up these dessert posts the past few days and I hope you’ve all liked them.  Today marks the 3rd and last post in the 3-part series showcasing all the sweet goodies at the popular Main Street Unionville hangout, Old Firehall Confectionery.   

Ahh, Old Firehall, home of macarons, truffles, bricks of fudge, different flavours of soft-serve ice cream, and their signature square cupcakes.  Wait…what?  SQUARE cupcakes?!  Yes, cute square cupcakes with beautiful, thick creamy frosting, fillings, and toppings!  These cupcakes are beautiful with their domes of perfectly swirled frosting ribbons and because of their shape, quite unique!  I don’t know if there are other cupcakeries around the city that make square cupcakes, but it’s the first time I’ve seen square ones and I’m very delighted. 

The cupcakes here come in two sizes: small ($2.89) and large ($3.99).  If you plan on having this as a dessert after a meal or an afternoon snack, stick with the small ones because the small sizes are actually the size of a regular at other cupcakeries.  A large is not for the faint of heart.  When I looked at the large ones, I thought, “good lord, that thing eats like a meal!  But it would be good for sharing…hmm”.  There are, however, differences between the small and large and it has to do with the special surprise inside the cupcake.  The large cupcakes have creamy ganache fillings inside whereas the small ones don’t.  I’m uncertain about seasonal flavours, but Old Firehall has 8 flavours of cupcakes on their everyday menu.  These include Choko Chocolate, Lemonicious, Heavenly Vanilla, Peanut Butter, Red Velvet, Cookies & Cream, Sweet Strawberry, and Pina Colada.  Broken down, this is what you can expect from each cupcake:

  • The Choko Chocolate is a chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream and a white and dark chocolate striped topper with chocolate filling in the large. 
  • The Heavenly Vanilla is a vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream, a chocolate topper, and rainbow sprinkles with vanilla cream filling in the large
  • The Peanut Butter one is a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter cream and peanut butter chips with peanut butter filling in the large 
  • The Red Velvet cupcake has red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, a red heart chocolate topper, red velvet cake crumbles, and a cream cheese filling in the large
  • The Cookies & Cream cupcake is a chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream, crushed Oreo cookie pieces, and a vanilla filling in the large
  • The Sweet Strawberry one is a vanilla cupcake with strawberry buttercream, a white chocolate topper, and a strawberry filling in the large
  • The Pina Colada cupcake has vanilla cake with pineapple buttercream, toasted coconut flakes, and a coconut cream filling in the large

Now, did you notice a flavour missing in that list?  Lemonicious!  The lovely sweet citrus dessert is a vanilla cupcake with lemon buttercream and a sweet and sour lemon gummy candy topper.  I chose a small one to go along with the peanut butter and jelly macaron I picked out and you can bet I had a hard time choosing which one I wanted.  I am looking forward to all future visits to Old Firehall, but I am telling you, my indecisive mind is going to be stymied and absolutely fried after all those dessert runs.  It was hard enough deciding on a macaron and a cupcake.  I then had to go through the excruciating task of choosing which macaron and cupcake I wanted.  The sprinkles from the vanilla cupcake was giving me looks and the pina colada was right beside it, silently calling out.  Maybe next time I’ll get them both and call it a day.  Woe is me.

My lemon cupcake was wonderful.  Was it the best of the best of every lemon cupcake I’ve ever eaten?  Well, no, but I enjoyed it very much nevertheless.  The vanilla cake is very standard; soft enough that it isn’t crumbly, but not so soft that it could hold a contest with some of the other pillow soft ones I’ve tried elsewhere.  In a nutshell, tasty with a great vanilla flavour, but not something to write home about because it tastes like what it should taste like and nothing more. 

However, the buttercream on the cupcakes here is really different and for me, this is what makes this cupcake.  It’s incredible how many different styles of frosting and buttercream I’ve come across, and the lemon cupcake I nom nomed on had a buttercream that was noticeably different from the first bite.  It’s light, whippy, creamy, and soft and if custard and pudding had a love child, this would be it.  I have never had a buttercream or frosting that tasted like this.  The texture is just different and it’s like amazing lemon pudding but creamier and thicker.  The lemon flavour is bang on and it has that juicy, zesty lemon flavour that’s indicative of citrusy summer goodness.  Oh, and the lemon candy.  PERFECT touch.  The buttercream and gummy candy complement one another and the candy goes so far as even enhancing the juicy lemon flavour in the buttercream.  Lemon yum-yumness 😀 

When my best friend told me that I would love Old Firehall, she wasn’t lying.  I still feel a bit put off that I didn’t know about this shop earlier, but my feelings have been soothed since.  You know, by the sweet treats.  Really though, I can’t believe what a powerhouse they are when it comes to offering desserts in almost every form you can think of.  It’s just perfect for so many different occasions.  Candies for goody bags, truffles and chocolates for a bit of luxury and indulgence (and also for fancy gifts!), and ice cream for dates, romantic or otherwise.  There’s truly something for everyone here, and in my case, multiple somethings.

*****

Old Firehall Confectionery is located at 170 Main Street in the historic Main Street Unionville neighbourhood between Carlton Rd. and Hwy 7.  The dessert haven is located between Carlton Rd. and Fred Varley Drive.  Main Street is located just east of Kennedy Rd.

Ate by Ate’s First Foodie Calendar of Events! Eating Our Way Through May and June

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I’m so excited to unveil this new feature on the blog: The Foodie Calendar of Events! 😀  I’ve always loved taking advantage of free festivals and events around the city, and of course, shelling out the money for the occasional food fest, bake sale, or charitable cause.  Winterlicious, Summerlicious, and Veggielicious, I’m looking at all of you!  I think it’s so important to feel connected to the community and I always look forward to the different seasonal things that go on as well. 

I’ve done some research and I’ve compiled a bunch of great events that might be of interest to you all.  Most of these events take places in Toronto and the GTA, but I’ve also included some a little further away for those who are interested in having a weekend away or taking a mini road trip.  This is a work in progress, so I’m going to be consistently updating and adding to this.  Please feel free to comment and let me know of anything new that comes up or anything I’ve missed.  After this first installment, I’ll be putting this feature up under the header image so you can click and peruse anytime you want without having to sift through old posts.  I hope you guys like this and hopefully you’ll find some stuff here that you’ll want to bookmark and check out!

Charitable Causes

  • Hunger Awareness Day in Canada, sponsored by Food Banks Canada – Tuesday, May 31st.  For more info on how you can get involved, how and where to donate to the cause, and how to do get involved in the Great Canadian Lunch-In, click here.

Community Events, Seminars, and Speakers

  • The Culinarium Speaker Series: How to Grow an Urban Garden – Wednesday, May 25th from 7:30pm-9pm with speaker Nikki Holwell.  Ticket price: $20 each (you can purchase up to 5 tickets).  Located at 705 Mount Pleasant Rd. at the intersection of Soudan Ave.  Click here for more info.
  • The Culinarium Speaker Series: An Evening with Mario Pinque – Wednesday, June 1st from 7:30pm-9pm.  Learn more cured meats and charcuterie from Mario Pinque, owner and co-founder of Niagara Food Specialties.  Ticket price: $20 each (you can purchase up to 5 tickets).  Located at 705 Mount Pleasant Rd. at the intersection of Soudan Ave.  Click here for more info.
  • The Junction’s 1st Annual Vegetarian & Vegan Potluck!  – Saturday, June 11th at 5pm.  Location: Green Lavender Eco Store & Yoga Studio at 2842 Dundas St. West, just east of Keele St.  Click here for all the details on what you can bring, what everyone else might be bringing, and to RSVP to the event.
  • Toronto Vegan Scavenger Hunt – Saturday, June 25th from 12pm noon-6pm.  Location: Kensington Market.  For more info on what the vegan scavenger hunt is and how to register and play, click here.

Farmers’ Markets

  • Oshawa Centre Farmers’ Market – every Friday from 8am-5pm, starting May 6th to October (419 King St. W., Oshawa)
  • The Distillery District Farmers’ Market – every Sunday from 10am-4pm, starting May 2nd to September 26th (55 Mill St, south of Front St. E and east of Parliament St.)
  • The Stop Farmers’ Market @ Wychwood Barns – every Saturday from 8am-12pm noon (Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie St. at St. Clair Ave. W.)
  • Trinity Bellwoods Farmers’ Market – every Tuesday from 3pm-7pm, starting May 10th to October 25th (the market is located at the northwest corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park at Dundas St. W. and Shaw St.)

Festivals

  • June 3rd-5th: Unionville Village Festival @ Main St. Unionville.  Friday night Street Fest with food.  Located in Markham, ON.  For more info, click here.
  • June 12th: 15th Annual Festival on Bloor.  Located along Bloor St. West from Spadina Ave. to Bathurst St. from 12pm noon-6pm.  The road will be closed off and open to pedastrian traffic for the festival.  Live music, yummy food, and craft vendors.  For more info, click here   
  • June 16th-18th: 6th Annual Niagara Italian Festival.  Located in Thorold, ON.  For more info, click here.
  • June 17th-18th: Markham Village Music Festival (with farmers’ market & food).  Located at Main St. Markham.  For more info, click here.
  • June 17th-19th: 3rd Annual Beach BBQ and Brew Festival.  An event focused on bringing together those who passionate about barbeque!  Located at Woodbine Park.  For more info, click here.
  • June 19th-21st: FrancoFête @ The Harbourfront Centre.  A celebration of francophone culture, with music, dance, and FOOD!  For more info, click here.
  • June 19th-25th: Oshawa Fiesta Week.  A festival celebrating European, Asian, and Caribbean cultures and food.  For more info, click here.
  • June 25th-26th: 9th Annual Taste of Asia Festival @ Pacific Mall.  Located in Markham, ON.  For more info, click here.

Paid Ticket Events

  • May 26th: Recipe for Change @ The St. Lawrence Market.  Located in St. Lawrence Market North.  For more info, click here.