The first time I visited an Earl’s restaurant was 8 years ago, on a business trip to Winnipeg. Since that first visit, I’ve eaten at Earl’s many many times, but mainly in Western Canada where most of the 59 Canadian locations can be found. Fast forward a couple of years, and I now find myself working up the street from the Earl’s King St location. And maybe, I've eaten at this location a time or two (or ten).
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Earls on King Street for a preview of their fall menu, which will be rolled across most restaurants in October and November. In addition to sampling their fall food and drink menu, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the chef’s who developed the dishes that we sampled. I chatted with Chefs Dawn Doucette, Andrew Hounslow and Hamid Salimian about that they've worked with Earls, plus I will admit I was shamelessly trying to pump them for tips and tricks for recreating those dishes.
Did you know that Earls works with various chefs from all around North America to develop various recipes, which are then refined in their Vancouver test kitchen? Doing this means that Earls can add fresh, interesting and modern versions of ethnic dishes to their core menu. This is how they differ from those “chain” restaurants, where dishes are developed in one location and rolled out across all locations.
All of the chefs talked about what inspired them to make their specific dishes, the way they source local and specialty ingredients from local suppliers, and the process that they go through in developing recipes for Earls. I found this process really quite fascinating.
In addition to sampling the fall menu, we also got a chance to sample a series of speciality cocktails that are on the menu for the fall. Included in the tasting were the Bees Knees cocktail (Gin, cointreau, honey, lemon); the Mad Hatter's Teapot (Smirnoff vodka, pear, black tea, lemon juice + coconut water) and Cabin Fever Cocktail (Crown royal, tawny port, ginger, fresh lemon, spiced bitters) which I've shown below.
Once we were done with the cocktails the food started rolling out, and I didn't stop coming until they rolled me outta there.
The first dish - Lobster and Prawn Rolls
The in-house made brioche was toasted, crunchy, buttery and simply delicious, especially with the lobster and prawn filling overflowing from the top of the brioche. The seafood was dressed with capers, parsley and lemon aioli and disappeared when place in front of the hungry group of food bloggers. If ordering this as a meal, the dish would be served with an order of fries. Gotta try this the next time I'm in!
Next up BBQ Pork Buns
Chef Jeff McInnis of Roots and Bone restaurant in the East Village was the creator of this dish. The secret to the lightness of the buns, is that the dough is triple proofed - Good Lord that requires dedication, but it pays off in spades after just one bite. These buns are a perfect bar snack that would go well with any of the cocktails that I menioned earlier.
Next Up - Spatchcock Style Chicken (Oven roasted half chicken, lemongrass glaze, spicy peanut sauce, daikon cucumber salad)
Hello!!!! I’d like to spend an afternoon cooking with Chef Hamid Salimian so that I can learn some of his tips. Spicy peanut sauce + chicken + lemongrass glaze = Empty plate and quiet food bloggers. I inhaled this dish, in a very ladylike manner of course, but I inhaled this. Do NOT pass up on this dish on the new fall menu.
Then came the Crispy Thai Prawns (Napa cabbage, thai basil, cilantro paint, sweet and sour glaze, roasted peanuts)
Did I just say to get the Spatchcock chicken? Okay get the Spatchcock chicken AND the Crispy Thai Prawns. Around the table, the consensus was this was the perfect appetizer that’s meant for sharing, although I’m not sure how much I would share my order.
Then as if we weren't full yet, then they rolled out a Chorizo + Mushroom Hash
This is a brunch staple, but it was my least favourite dish served during the tasting. The dish was perfectly executed and the potatoes and chorizo were absolutely delicious. I just have a texture problem with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce, but don’t let my neuroses stop you from enjoying this dish.
Then we took a trip to Thailand with an amazing Thai Vegetable Bowl (Quinoa, crispy onions, peanuts, coconut and lemongrass broth)
If you read my blog with any regularity, you’ll know that I struggle with Quinoa. I know it’s good for you but I’m often bored with it – until now. Thank you Chef Andrew Hounslow who told me Earls secret to a making great Quinoa – they toast the Quinoa before cooking it. Who knew!
This dish was so flavourful and incredibly tasty that not only did I finish my serving but I asked for a doggie bag and took an order home. I even mentioned that this dish tasted so good that for a minute I thought of becoming a vegan. For about a minute!
Then last but not least we got to sample an amazing Dessert Trio
The trio included a sticky toffee pudding, a chocolate hazelnut bar and an up market take on a pumpkin pie. I wish that I could have shared all of the dessert pictures with you, but they evaporated the minute they were set down in front of me. Okay, I started eating before doing any picture taking and the only pic I was able to salvage was the pumpkin pie. Sigh!
The entire evening was a success and I only had one regret – that I forgot my DSLR camera at home so I was forced to try and showcase these beautiful meals using my Iphone camera. However, don’t let that stop you from trying these dishes and/or going to Earls you won’t be disappointed.
Copyright © 2014, Olive & Ruby. All rights reserved.